Materialism: The Root Cause of Crime

By Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda - 30.12 2021

Question: Crime seems to be getting more and more out of control. Can you explain why?

Jagad Guru: A kid steals a candy bar because he wants to enjoy the taste; a dope addict sticks up a grocery store, shooting the owner, in order to get the money he needs to get “high”; a bank executive embezzles a million dollars so he can run off with his girlfriend to enjoy life in the Bahamas. What is the common motive behind these crimes? The desire for sense gratification.

“Violence in modern societies is ... increasingly associated with the commission of property crimes as individuals are willing to resort to whatever means necessary to secure desired goods.”
Louise I. Shelley "Crime and Modernization"

Criminologists and social scientists have almost completely overlooked the fact that materialism is the root cause of crime. False identification of the body as the self leads people to believe that sense enjoyment will satisfy them; and most crimes are directly or indirectly connected to the attempt to find satisfaction in sense enjoyment.

The media saturates us daily with the message that the goal of life is sensual pleasure, and that success in life depends on the acquisition of those objects that make such sensual pleasure possible. From a young age, we learn that we should strive to be the controllers and enjoyers of all we survey. We are promised that such “lordship” is the way to happiness.

The criminal is just responding to this message the best way he knows how. He’s just trying to get the things the TV says he needs to be happy. He’s just trying to be the central enjoying agent—the lord—that he’s been taught he needs to be. So he needs a flashy car, fine clothes, a big house, a color TV, a gold watch, a yacht, etc.

Since no amount of sense gratification is ever enough to satisfy us, we always feel we need “more.” From the poorest person to the richest person, from the homeless to the person who lives in a mansion, everyone wants more sense gratification and thus more material wealth. If you are poor, you feel you need a color TV to be happy; if you’re rich, you feel you need a new yacht. No amount of material wealth is ever enough.