Stop the Madness

December 2014, by So-Young Kang
  • Who are we and what do we value?
  • What is our hope for the future?
  • Who do we want to become?

Are we asking these questions enough?

I believe that one of the biggest challenges we are facing globally is the loss of our identities.

Rapid economic development globally has largely been fueled by the spread of capitalism and democracy. While these philosophies are ones I believe in, I also recognize that they have come with some unintended costs to society such as increase in self-centeredness, desire for immediate gratification, and excessive consumerism. A recent New York Times article also pointed out that “the real contradiction of capitalism is that it arouses enormous ambition, but it doesn’t help you define where you should focus it.”

Out of curiosity and fueled by my trip to Japan, I started to reflect on the potential longer-term societal impacts to rapid economic growth, especially as I recalled the original Asian economic tigers – Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore. Now 20-30 years later, I find it curious that two of these countries have the highest suicide rates. This is also set in the context of no shortage of news of fraud, scandal, corruption, global economic crises, and the list goes on.

What’s happening?

Why are we surprised that people are driven by greed when we promote people to be self-seeking and self-serving? We encourage people to go after what they want…and often forget to mention how to get there.

Are we okay with the pursuit of individual happiness at the expense of shared humanity?

If not, what are we going to do about it as we encourage economic development? How can we get our identities back? How can we go from ‘human doing’ to a ‘human being’?

It’s time to start thinking. It’s time to start building channels to redirect the powerful force of consumerism to fuel life-giving, community-oriented economic growth.  We have the opportunity to redefine consumerism and how to grow rapidly.

Why does it have to mean thoughtless consumption and spending beyond our means? Can’t it mean a better livelihood where people take time to define their values and live more fulfilled lives?

It’s time to stop the madness.

  • Who are you and what do you value?
  • What is your hope for the future?
  • Who do you want to become?



  1. “South Korean Executive Imprisoned,” New York Times.
  2. “List of Countries by Suicide Rate,”
  3. “List of OECD countries by suicide rate,” Wikipedia.
  4. “An emerging middle class,” OECD Observer.