If 200,000 years ago until 10,000 years ago can be considered the human era of the hunting and gathering, 100 years ago until present can be considered the era of mass consumerism, or the era of shopping.
The lady with more shopping bags than she could carry
The other day I was visiting my local town and saw a women struggling to walk. The reason for her struggle wasn’t because she had any physical defect, instead the reason was because she was trying to carry her own weight in shopping bags.
Imagine a camel being saddled up and loaded with bags on either side, ready to embark on a month long journey across the desert. It was difficult to discern where the shopping bags ended and the woman started.
My first instinct was to offer to help her. She was really having a hard time with it. Being a younger woman I thought maybe she had a large family and was doing her groceries shopping without a car.
I paused for a second and continued to look on in amazement. As I observed the scene in more detail I realized the bags were from lots of different stores, branded with latest fashion and technology labels .
I realized this woman didn’t need help, well not with her bags at least. She had willing put herself through this torture by buying more than she could carry.
This woman hadn’t been buying food for her entire family. These bags were full of so called leisure items.
To me she was symbol. A word that can permeates the dominant culture at the moment. That word is consumerism.
Consumerism says treat yourself!
As far as the culture of the consumerist shopping era is concerned, the woman I saw was doing a noble deed. She was doing exactly what she had been told, advertised, and marketed to do throughout her entire life. Treat herself.
Every T.V, radio, newspaper advert, every marketing billboard, and friendly referral for the last month had been leading up to this moment. The moment when the lady was able to indulge in all her whims and desires and rampage the shopping centre.
Was this woman greedy? I have no idea! What I do know is she is a clog in the machine of consumerism.
Consumerism is more than a lifestyle. It’s an ingrained belief system. An ideology that tells us that accumulating materials and services in ever increasing quantities is the shit.
Not just on an individual level but on a societal level as well.
By purchasing more than you ever need you are helping the economy grow and we solute you.
Resource consumption of the hunter gatherer vs the modern American
On the surface level it seems there is no downside. People buy shit they don’t need, are temporally satisfied, and repeat the process. This helps the economy to grow. Winner winner chicken dinner right?
Some may look at it that way. However all these materials that we are buying have to come from somewhere right?
Every material item you have bought started it’s life as a raw material. All man-made resources are derived from nature at a fundamental level.
Somewhere a long the line something had to be cleared, grown, cut-down, extracted, or mined. Resources don’t just appear. This means the more we consume the more we have to extract from the environment.
The hunter gatherer consumed very few resources. He consumed them at a rate that could be replenished, up until a certain point in history at least. He even helped in the replenishment process.
Compare the modern American with the hunter gather and you can see there is an astronomical difference in resource consumption.
David and Goliath would be an under comparison.
It has been suggested that if everyone lived and consumed like Americans we would need the equivalent of four planet Earths.
Consumerism – the backbone of the economy
Consumerism fuels economic growth not economic sustainability (if such a thing could exist).
For this reason we have been manipulated into continually buying new stuff and keeping up with the latest models.
Not only through advertising but also by being sold goods that are not built to last.
Industry operates a scheme called built-in obsolescence.
Many of the products we purchase have a predetermined shelf life, meaning they are designed to break or lose their fashion appeal after a certain period of time.
What iPhone are we on now? :s
This helps companies be able to sell us more and more useless shit. It allows the wheels of the industrial economy to turn at a much faster rate.
It may waste your money, time, and degrade the environment but it sure does speed economic growth.
Keeping up with the Joneses or is it the Kardouchians?
The real question is, is all this consumption making us happier or are we just doing as we are told?
We have been told that we need to relentlessly keep up to date with latest products and models but many of us rarely questions why we are doing so.
They may be making us fashionable but are they making us happy?
Just because the masses are doing it doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone.
Be the Shepard not the sheep!
By downsizing our possessions and becoming more conscious consumers we become free. Free from the madness of more.
Free in time and in mind.
Resource consumption is inevitable – Consumerism is a choice
Resource consumption of some kind is inevitable. This is true for every species that inhabits the planet.
In nature this is based on a circular system that finds a natural balance of consume and regenerate.
The human world is different. We take far more than we replenish. Instead of operating a circular system we operate a use it and lose it system.
When we discard the items that we no longer use there is no magician to make them disappear.
The ecosystem has to absorb the brunt of our waste.
Many man-made products take exceedingly longer than products of nature to biodegrade which pollute and disrupt the ecosystems equilibrium.
This does not mean we should not buy anything. It is merely a suggestion that we become more conscious with what we buy. Instead of being sold we should choose.
Instead of buying to discard we should buy to last.
Resource consumption is inevitable but consumerism is a choice. Choose what you believe in and adapt your lifestyle accordingly.