Will Consumerism “Consume” Us?

After September 11th 2001 President George Bush told us to shop.  Made it a patriotic duty of every American to go and buy useless crap they don’t really need, otherwise the terrorists will win.  Now his heart was in the right place, but it had consequences.  We have become a consumer society.  That is our great achievement.  We buy shit.  We didn’t revolutionize society.  We did not fix the environment.  We did not eradicate disease, or hunger.  We did not eliminate wars.  We do not create great art, write great books, make beautiful architecture.  We did not go further into space.  No, none of that.  But we did something no other generation or culture did before us.  We bought a lot of useless, cheap, and unneeded crap.  That is our mark in history.  We won the Cold War and we went to the mall.  And already we see the results.  because not only did we go shopping, we bought everything on credit.  Now not everything is our fault.  The technological revolution of the past decades made our lives easier, but that came at a cost.

Lets look at our bills and compare them to bills our parents or grandparents had.  Just a few decades ago people had to pay rent/mortgage, gas, electric, telephone.  That was it.  Now we pay all those mentioned above and we add, cellphone, cable/satellite, and internet.  Some families have 4 cellphones.  Cell plans vary too, texting, internet, can add up.  That’s about $ 200 to $ 400 per month depending on family size and needs extra on top of what our parent had to pay.

And bill sizes for the traditional stuff have greatly increased too.  Our energy consumption has skyrocketed over the last few decades.  A home 40 years ago probably had a refrigerator, washing machine, radio, television, a toaster, air conditioning.  Now we have more than one radio, most homes have multiple television sets, coffee maker, microwave oven, computer, printer, cable box, dvd player, a video game system, and numerous chargers for all the portable gadgets.  That’s on top of the juicers, espresso machines, humidifiers, air purifiers and a lot of other stuff.  Even if all those things are much more energy efficient, the electric bill is still much more than it was.

30 years ago no one collected movies, or TV shows.  Almost every home these days has a sizable collection.  Music is available in many different formats.  The gadgets we own bring more expenses.  That iPhone needs a case, a bluetooth head set, the printer needs ink and paper, the computer new programs, games, anti virus software.  The XBox, Wii or PS3 has a new game coming out.  The new season of Lost is out on BluRay, the electric toothbrush needs changing.  Plus there is a new good movie available on demand, or an event.  Etc, etc, etc.

We simply have more shit to buy.  And in a society like ours its hard to not to fall into the cycle of constantly buying new things.  Some of them we even need and could use.  Hell some are quite beneficial to our lives.  We are barraged by images and sounds all urging us to buy.  Our neighbours just bought a new tv, our 2 year old plasma is ancient technology, we need the new LCD tv.

And that’s on top of what we eat.  Now we maybe a country that eats badly and wastes money on junk food, which btw, is quite expensive, but even normal food costs a lot these days.  We have more choice now.  No more of 3 types of cheese and two types of ham.  Now we have food from all over the world.  All that costs more than domestic products.  We have beer from all over the world too.  Hell we buy bottled water now.  For generations people got by drinking from the tap.  Now we wont have it.  At the very least we filter our water.  Hell we pay for filtered bottled water (check your brand folks, you’re probably paying a lot of money for tap water in a bottle).

Yep we have choices.  Choices in everything.  We might have stopped buying newspapers and magazines, but we get more information then ever before.  And its not just local information.  In my bookmarks I have 8 different news sources from all over the world, all just a mouse click away.  We have several 24hr news networks (no matter how bad they may be, but still, we have them).  We have hundreds of channels to watch.  We play video games.  We chat, blog (yeah, I see the irony), we go on internet forums, social networking sites, sport websites, hobby websites and on and on and on.

Its not just more money that we are spending.  We are busier than ever.  Again, its not all bad, hell a lot of it is great.  But it does come as a price.  While going broke we are also losing sleep, friendships, family time.  And the worst part is, we do not appreciate what we have.  We work our respective asses off to get the crap we have and we appreciate none of it.  Those older of us can remember how big a deal a new toy was.  It was cheap, quite likely not what we wanted, but hell, we got something new.  And we cherished it.  And cherished it for a long time.  Can a person who has 200 movies really cherish each and every one of them?  How long will the joy of a newly purchased movie last?  Or a new video game?  A new album?  Not very long is my guess.

That is a problem with choice.  Its great to have choice, but when we let things consume us we become like modern children.  Every year, with a very few rare exceptions, kids fall in love with something.  And before their parents or uncles and aunts figure out what it is, they call it lame and move onto the next thing.  We have toys and tv shows that pander to specific age.  Not age groups like 5-10 year olds.  But a single  age.  The following year the thing they loved so much is now lame, and they watch new shows and need new toys.  And kids are not the only ones.  Adults are just as bad, worse actually.

Adults work hard to get their stuff.  But they need that new iPhone, or the new iPod.  But next year Apple will come out with a new model, the one they must have, so that old will go into rubbish and the new version of the iPhone will be bought.  We simply must have it, it has more memory, looks nicer, it can record videos, or we can watch tv on it.  Great.  Just the thing that we need.  We definitely do not spend enough time watching television, we need to be able to do it while we are out of the house.  Because what is the alternative here.  God forbid we would be forced to look at our surroundings, or worse, talk to another human being in person.  Can’t have that.  We buy a new television.  We spent a lot of money for it.  Now we need a new HD box, and new surround sound system.  A BluRay player.  Our film collection needs to be replaced.  And when we finally set it up some asshole comes out on tv or internet and tells us that there is a newer and better television out.

Yes folks, as soon as we bring something home its pretty much obsolete.  So we watch our television, and soon we will be tired of it.  And soon we will be working hard to get a new one, a better one.  Till we buy it.  Cause by then an even newer one will be made, and that’s the one we will need to have.  We actually obsess over these stupid things.  And no, I am not some preachy superior asshole who thinks he is better.  I am a part of this society, I am part of the problem.  Not as extreme as many, but no saint either.  But where does it end?  It ends with us very briefly adoring inanimate objects for a very high price.  We bought (literally) into this notion that we must, to have any sense of self worth, own a lot of stuff, and not just any kind of stuff, it has to be the newest and the best.

Is a new video game or a toy worth spending precious hours that we waste standing in line for it?  Really?  We must have it the day it comes out otherwise our lives will become meaningless?  Will our kids stop loving us if we do not buy the hundreds of dollars worth of crap they wont touch six months from now?  Will our friends stop talking to us if we call them on an old model phone?  We have become what the advertisers wanted us to become.  We have become addicted to their products.  Will my old 4 blade razor not shave as well as it did a year ago now that the 5 blade razor is available?  Did no one think of making a 5 blade razor when only 2 blade razors were available?  Was our skin not prepared for such luxury?  Was there no technology to attach more than 3 razors at one time?  Did it need to be 3 and then 4 and then 5?  Could we not just have gone from 2 to 5?  Or from 3 to 5?

No, of course not.  Think of all the money we spent on those stupid razors.  And each model gets more expensive, and the cartridges now are more than double of what they cost just a few years back.  Question is though, does it shave twice as good as the old one?  No of course not.  It shaves maybe a bit better, but definitely nowhere near the cost.  We gained marginal improvement at over twice the cost.  Yep.  We are slaves to our products.  And when they will make a 6 blade razor we will gladly discard that very expensive 5 blade one and buy the newest model as if our lives depended on it.

We shop to make ourselves feel good.  Then we realize we just wasted a perfectly good day on buying shit.  We will find out at home that some of the stuff we bought does not suit us, or that we don’t really like it or need it.  And we will find that we have spent a shitload of money on that crap.  So we will go back to work, miserable and poor.  Until we see the next thing we definitely must have and we just know it will make us feel better.  And so on.  The new circle of life, brought to you by your local mall.  We had the Greatest Generation.  We had the Baby Boomers.  We now have the Mall Generation.

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. the capitalist world will eat us as well


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