The other side of this coin, however, is that people are then responsible for their actions, and the development of their character. A person without these characteristics, i. e., self-possession, self-governance, determines his life and character in a helter-skelter way. The things he chooses are not linked to any particular hierarchy of ends, so his life is confused. When we perform actions, we reveal our inner character, and the world is objectively changed, for good or ill, by what we do. So the person is objectified by each of his actions. So, in economic actions, the person chooses from his subjective valuation of the good in question. Over time, the person reveals his values, and hence his character, in his choices.
The same is true with a society. This is why those who blame the free market system for the materialism of the west miss Wojtyla’s point. The market will not provide what the people generally won’t choose. It provides these things because people are demanding (thus the law of demand) the good or service be available in sufficient numbers that it is worthwhile for someone to provide it. In a materialistic society, the problem is not always what people demand be produced, it is really the amount they want to possess. So much of what we buy does not show self-possession or self-governance, but is controlled by emotion, desire to have and not to be, and a spiritual vacuum in the life of the person who tries to fill it with “stuff.” As so many of us allow our lives to be determined by mere emoting, we determine ourselves away from our higher ends. We replace the important with the necessary, and give the society that character, because the individuals in the society reveal their character in that way—by the choices they make, by the actions they take.
The lowest level to which this sinks is, according to Wojtyla, is when we not only focus on things instead of persons and relations with them, but we actually begin treating people as things. All things are meant for our usage to accomplish higher existential ends. People, however, must be valued for themselves. Now before the reader points out that we legitimately use people all the time, look closer. We do not use the medical doctor when we are sick—we use his services. The actual doctor must be loved and appreciated for himself. In business it is the same. If we call up the supplier of some part we are using to make a machine, we are not using him; we are using his offer to sell us the parts. This is also the same with employees. But it is in our interpersonal relations that the problem occurs. To mistreat the physician or the supplier of parts is different than using their services that they freely supply. We must always remember that all human beings are created in the image of God, and thus are ontologically equal to us, regardless of the difference of skills among us. Hence, there is never a reason for berating anyone, even a criminal, beyond what might be necessary to subdue such criminal, or get his attention.
Examine the so-called sexual revolution. So many men and women are saying to each other, “It’s OK for me to use you for gratification and for you to use me for the same.” If we look at this on a smaller scale, we can see the devastating consequences of such usage of persons. Suppose I had a friend. The friend was very nice to me but all of a sudden he grew cold. Then I found out that he was just pretending to be my friend in order to get introduced to another friend of mine who was rich. Once the introduction was made, this so-called friend no longer needed me and dropped me. The reader would say that that was horrible behavior and would sympathize with the pain I felt when this fellow ripped himself from my heart. Well, the same is true in sexual relations, but to a greater degree. There is nothing greater that one can give to another than the intimacy of the sexual act. This is why the Church and natural law clearly teach that it is for use in a permanent relationship that is marriage. But if I give myself in this way to someone on a date, or to many people on many dates, I am creating a special bond with those folks, due to the special thing that sex is. This bond is immediately broken, and therefore intimacy has no meaning. Thought of in this way, illicit sexual relations are barbaric acts. Is it any wonder that the character of the whole of western society has slipped? Reflect on how this shows up in what we buy, in our politics and in our growing crime rates. We have refused to be self-determining because we no longer have self-possession or self governance. The decisions of so many are based on whim, emotion and pleasure. The economy reflects this as our actions become history.