John Lennon once opined, “If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.”
What a smartass. If money can’t buy happiness, then it certainly can’t buy peace. How do you purchase something intangible like peace on your credit card?
But money can buy televisions. Oh yes. Not just one television anymore. In our modern households, we need a television in every room, plus entertainment access from our computers, our smartphones, our tablets, our watches, our games.
In fact, that is the game: Need. Demand. Desire. Consumerism is alive and well. And Suppliers (probably the Central Government, too) are listening.
Consumerism: What is it?
Webster’s Dictionary defines Consumerism as “the preoccupation of society with the acquisition of consumer goods.”
Let’s unpack that definition to understand the implication(s).
- Preoccupation – a fixation or obsession. Sounds healthy. Jeffrey Dahmer had a preoccupation with preserving severed heads and genitals in acetone, and he wasn’t peculiar at all.
- Society – bogus term. As I have discussed in prior writings, society is an illusion created so the human animal doesn’t resort to rampant cannibalism when the power grid fails.
- Acquisition – obtaining or buying something. According to the Central Government, the average American family is in credit card debt of $5,700. In other words, buying crap you don’t need.
- Consumer Goods – speaking of crap we don’t need?
So, for our purposes, let’s simplify the definition of Consumerism as “a disordered, obsessive, covetous behavior, based in an imaginary reality, that accrues further debt for shit we really don’t need.”
Consumerism: Why do we covet?
Now that we have refined our definition of Consumerism, let’s discuss why we covet in the first place.
Journey back with me six thousand years, when god created the earth and the incest chain started with our two Caucasian progenitors, Adam and Eve. Eve bit the damn apple when tempted by Lucifer, and the whole shit show of freewill began. And menstruation. Most women will attest that “God’s Curse” was a smidge heavy-handed for a little impudence.
God knew from that point forward that his inbred progeny needed some rails to contain their impetuous freewill. Every generation was a little more genetically flawed that the prior one, and god needed to do some thinking for us little beasties. So, he gave Moses the Ten Commandments.
The Tenth Commandment proclaims, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.”
Misogynist tone aside, I occasionally covet my neighbor’s ox. Her name is Oxana. A proud cow with nice teats. But god forgot to mention that thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s iPad nor his Beemer nor his terraced waterfall landscaping. I guess they fall under the “any thing that is thy neighbor’s” catchall clause.
Fast forward six thousand years, and Advertising is our modern Satan in the digital Garden. God knew it was our nature to be covetous, yet he allowed the creation of the Interwebs and commercials and credit cards. Given our nature, our rebellious spirit, and sooooo much temptation, what are we expected to do?
Spend and spend. But to what end? What is the impact of buying all these unnecessary material things?
Consumerism: Pros & Cons
The impact of Consumerism manifests economically, environmentally, medically, even spiritually. Let’s consider the Pros and Cons.
- [PRO] Economic Growth – the gaping, voracious maw of consumer demand drives production, creating more jobs, increasing wages, feeding more spending. Society embraces safety and security with a giant hug for Abraham Maslow.
- [PRO] Increased Innovation – making the latest super-size licorice, mayonnaise, strawberry potato chip takes some knowhow and out of the box creativity. Factor in how to best use GMOs and a petri dish of unregulated preservatives, and you have a winner.
- [CON] Environmental Impact – all that pre-packaged transfatty goodness must puke some noxious byproduct out of a smokestack in Guangdong. To the best of my knowledge, none of the millions and millions of tons of new trash are reducing our carbon footprint further.
- [CON] Personal Debt – who cares about consequences like bankruptcy or homelessness when you get the latest Frappa-Lappa-Strokie-Suckie-Latte at Starbucks today? Bonus points if you can be the first friend on Facebook to Like it.
- [CON] Health Problems – In the history of hunger, no one has ever needed a Big Mac. Never. But want one? Hell, I want seventeen. And I can sit my sedentary ass in my car, command their creation, and then drive myself to the ICU as the stroke starts to hurt real bad in the front of my face.
- [CON] Corrodes the Soul – there is a potential cosmic impact in that god did warn us the Ten Commandments were no joke. That disobeying your heavenly father carries punishment far worse than a bitch slap from your mortal father for defying your teen curfew. Guess we will find out when we go to our eternal dirt nap (while looking fly in the latest designer suit).
The facts seem to point to Consumerism being bad. It has its good points, but the tone so far paints a less than rosy picture. And I don’t want to go to hell.
The underlying concern seems to be with necessity versus desire. Do we really need so much stuff? Let’s explore a few examples to see if there’s more to learn.
Consumerism: Tangible Examples
- K-cups® – First, I love coffee. Second, I need coffee. Third, I fiend coffee. And my Keurig, with its myriad assortment of K-cups®, saves me time every morning when I need that first succulent cup to feed my waking addiction. Yeah, it’s more money. Yeah, it’s probably not great for the environment. Meh. This is more akin to a prescription, a medical necessity, not some wanton whimsy.
- The Lottery – Gambling is illegal in my state except for certain Indian reservations. And I love winning money. I am super lucky, so I buy $10 worth of Lottery tickets at the gas station every night after work. I win $100 and spend $4000 every year, but who cares? Is it magical thinking to believe I can win it big someday with just a dollar and a dream? I can stop anytime. Shut up.
- Greeting cards – Who has time to say “Happy Birthday” or “I’m Sorry for Your Loss” anymore? Nothing says you care more than using a stranger’s trite words to tell the most important people in your life something super important. Bonus points if they use a sing-song cadence and can rhyme true and you. Plus, your parents can’t keep up with housework like the old days, and a pile of recyclable paper cards on their coffee table requires far less dusting from them.
- Designer Clothing – When I was younger and poorer, a $35 pair of Husky blue jeans kept my legs warm and dry while preventing my penis from flopping out. Like all aspiring porn stars, I don’t wear underwear. As I got older and more successful in porn, I discovered designer jeans. Sure, they cost $300 per pair, but my man bulge looks super obvious in them. And the softer material helps with chafing.
Consumerism: Intangible Examples
- Travel – We Americans are renowned global travelers… and spenders! So why does the world hate us so much? Is it our boisterous voices overwhelming a 3-star Michelin dining experience? Could it be our loud complaints when the locals don’t speak good English? And what German doesn’t adore us constantly saying how different things are from America when auf Urlaub in Düsseldorf. We won the war. Show some damn respect.
- Pets – My dog, Hairy Kerry, costs us thousands of dollars per year. His life was valued at exactly $600 when we bought him from the puppy mill. From a pure return on investment perspective, that $600 mutt will cost us $45,000 over an estimated 15-year life. We could have owned nearly 80 dogs during that same period and let them roam into traffic. Who cares? Just buy a snuggly new one. Same love, different shell.
- Children – Speaking of bad investments. Children. Ouch. Dirty, smelly, expensive, not to mention the time wasted rearing them. And the attitudes! Yikes, teenagers! Don’t even get me started about the college years and the waste of money in continuing education. I have two daughters, each sinking me for around $200,000 in college-related expenses. Imagine what that combined $400,000 could have bought me in lottery tickets alone? Guaranteed I would be a millionaire by now with a lower likelihood of spending my retirement, shivering in a wet cardboard box under some distant overpass.
- God – God is like the lottery. I’m willing to place a bet god is real. As my father always says, what’s the risk in believing? But formal, institutional religion? Hell no. They are simply large corporations and bureaucracies with god as their pitchman. As a Catholic, although a 10% tithe is no longer mandatory, your canonical duty is to financially contribute into the Magisterium. For what? Bailing out or – worse yet – hiding rapists and pedophiles from justice? Pass! I’ll take hell if that is my option.
In closing, Consumerism appears to be a problem.
We go deeper in debt buying things we covet, which we can’t afford, and we truly don’t need. The negative impact of Consumerism outweighs the positives up to and including risking our eternal souls. The more we examine both tangible and intangible consumption, the malevolent truth seems self-evident.
But, since we now live in a post-Truth reality, why let nettling little facts stand in the way of our good time? I mean, think about it.
Feelings matter, too.
Doesn’t it feel sexy to buy another set of $300 earpods? Those musical micropenises ear-fucking you as you crank up the massive bass of Zeppelin II? Feel it… You’ve got a whole lotta love.
Don’t you relish the time you saved not going to the sink for free water and having that beautiful bottle of water so chilly and willing? Never mind the habitats destroyed. You’re busy…and thirsty now!
Don’t you just purr when that fake soyball chocolate shake from McDonalds glides viscously down your gullet. Shit, they don’t even bother to refer to them as milkshakes anymore. ‘Cuz they are not…and we don’t care!
So, go on! Consume away! While you’re at it, don’t wear your masks during a plague. If it doesn’t feel good to you, don’t do it. Facts are just science’s opinions. And we all know their political agenda. How can we trust it?
Trust in the hard currency in your pockets and the currency of opinion.
What could go wrong?
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