Consumption controls our well-being and shapes our genetics. We are powerless in the face of the promotion and branding systems that direct our collective shopping and eating habits. The human face of global affluence of vast development and invention is no longer a cohesive culture, but rather isolated individual customers chasing a plethora of insatiable preferences among limitless options. The best way to address the dilemma is to do justice to ourselves, to examine a vital feature of our consumption habits; how they have overtaken us at the human and personal levels rather than the community or society level. The matter is that society is non-existent as famously pronounced by former British Premier, Margret Thatcher. The real nature of the epidemic is that we have deprived psychic capabilities and the only way to make sense of the reality around us to consume more. Materialism is the only way to define ourselves and it is the only escape from a broken down sense of worth and sense of being that we have derived through media exposition and the expansive mechanism of public livelihoods. Diminishing community is unavoidable because all the institutional arrangements that advance consumerism first defeat our natural communal affiliations based on family ties and the common regard of all as collaborators by substituting them with commercially driven models that only advance competition.
The authors point out that the marketing media target the children contribute to a large extend to the formation of the detached personality and individual when they grow up. Childhood is time to develop personal attachments with siblings and parents as well as relatives, however, the values promoted by the school, church, and all other institutions break up this primordial mechanism of human relationships and supplant an artificial prototype based on market exchange. As they assimilate the contents of the media both in movies and diverse marketing channels, people learn about individualism in the wrong sense of isolation and only communing to consume. The only collective identities that children study is that collective consumption enshrined in the behaviours of visiting shopping malls, meeting strangers whom we have completely have no attachment and since the shopping malls provide the spaces for brief socialization, the kids feel attached to the stranger more than they are willing to facilitate emotional attachment with the parents and other siblings because they are adversarial and competing for the limited spaces and resources of the household.
Since the marketplace avails false emotional attachment by providing everything everyone needs, everyone feels alienated from the real people they live with and find solace in the place that provides everything. As an illustration, the authors quote T. S. Eliot, We are the hollow men. We are the stuffed men (De Graaf, Wann & Naylor 72). The language modelled for public relations used by the shopping malls is consoling and courteous which affirms the consumer that the institution is friendly and compassionate. The crisis is that the marketplace provides everything at a price and one has to meet the prices to take the goods or services. Fortunately, in most of the developed world, there are high levels of employment and people have disposable incomes which enables consumption behaviours to become even more protracted. The authors lament that Shopping malls have really become the centres of many communities (De Graaf, Wann & Naylor 7). Children need compassion and guidance as well as they have to learn progressively to understand the world. Instead, they go to school and learn all the sorts of society values that lead them to abandon community values and relationships. Unfortunately, the marketplace treats them as fully grown and mature in judgement which crates the crisis of identity formation and the proper development of proper relationships with the external material world.
Everything associated with the marketing campaigns and branding of diverse marketplace institutions is the fact that they dangle the false promise of perfect happiness in the consumption behaviours that they promote. On the contrary, in the end, each individual often realizes that the exact tastes promoted are non-existent and the consequences of consumption sometime turn out in the opposite of what is promised (De Graaf, Wann & Naylor 78). In the real sense, if one consumes alcohol, they get drunk and often end up with the sheriff for exceeding the limits of consumption while driving and a lot of negative social consequences. As James Kunstler puts it, we have mutated over the past 60 years from citizens to consumers. We can yet salvage ourselves by supporting progressive politics, sustainable development, charity and concern for the human cause rather than blindly following the escapades of consumerism.
The authors refer to the epidemic of Affluenza as a painful, contagious, socially-transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more. (De Graaf, Wann & Naylor 2). In reality, the world is awash with all the forms of consumption promoting advertisements and campaigns which help us consume more and since the world of progress has availed more, we end up trapped in the quest for more and unfortunately never derive the promise of perfect happiness that is traded. As people advance progressively through diverse institutions of learning and religious affiliations, they become isolated from their very primary social networks that can support their advancement on the basis of altruism. As the fictitious associations and annexation with classmates and colleagues at the workplace develop, the individual is fully isolated and these relationships that emerge are not entirely compact because they merely uproot the individual from their primary society. Community surely diminishes because we embed ourselves in commercially forged relationships and abandon the socially and communally enshrined prototype of social development.
In conclusion, there is a reason to scorn the world of consumption but the reality is that we cannot escape form it even if we try because it grips us right from childhood. It grew mature before we were born and its mission is to keep us wishing and hoping for an elusive peace and happiness deal which is non-existent. As it turns out, that elusive happiness is a preserve of the few embedded elites whose knowledge, inventions and entrepreneurship controls everything in the marketplace. Fortunately, everyone has the chance to be an active player in the grand scheme by being inventors, investors and knowledgeable to promote the economic-social model of livelihoods because it is more favoured to the natural dynamics of the human condition. The culprit of consumerism is the consuming type that earns a salary and begins the endless quest for happiness in the world through spending in diverse commodities and services without the regard for sustainability, thrift, charity and the other useful values of the progressive world.
De Graaf, John, David Wann, and Thomas H. Naylor. Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2005.
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