Saturday, June 14, 2014

Consumer Culture


Americans have bought into the belief for far too long that consumption is popular, consumption is good, consumption is what improves our standard of living today. High consumption has become a hard core ingrained belief that this is what we work so hard for. Using phantom reserves of tomorrow for our gains of today has become a standard way of life. We have become a super size it nation for sure but not only on our orders with fast food. Everything seems to be in excessive quantities, yet the more excessive and addicted it becomes, for certainly consumer culture is an addiction, the more disillusioned, depressed and filled with anxiety one becomes. As a culture that is addicted to high consumption in a nation of super size it please, we are now collectors of gadgets, increased our sugar consumption by almost 30% since the 1980's, raised our fuel and energy consumption, and pretty much added "MORE" to everything. More hours of schooling, more years of schooling, more cars per family, more house, more work hours, more years of working before retirement...........more, more, more.

Public Schools, Financial Experts, Media Bombarding and even neighbors and places of employment are all contributing to consumption in excess mentality. Yet by purchasing in addictive quantities, is coming at high costs on the other side of more and excess. Many are still struggling from the collapse and bubble bursts of 2008, angry and feeling or more accurately waking up to the fact they had been lied to. All in the name of obtaining the American Dream. Clinical depression is at epidemic levels (adults) and at scary high rates among a group you never would think of....privileged middle class adolescents with involved parents. It seems that the vortex of having more, more money, stuff, opportunities, activities is not giving this age group a better life, but rather spinning them into the world of being clinically depressed. You can read how Consumer Culture Harms Children and Teens HERE.

By forming a society of slaves by possessions, creating a life sentence of paying for today's stuff on fabricated future incomes we have created an emotional attachment to stuff. As we become a more impersonal culture by the day, isolating the individual, "things" become the attachment to the emptiness of community and personal relationships fall by the way side. We have replaced the tribe with a lone wolf syndrome. In a mobile world, who has time to stay still or develop meaningful relationships or even get to know ones neighbor a little bit? Yet it is the very impersonal world we are creating that is in part leading to epidemic levels of depression, anxiety, stress, illness and in general unhappy lives and families.

A good read on how this kind of living and consuming is not only excessive, and an addiction but simply is not sustainable is HERE. Give it a read, it is a great explanation of our over consumption. Consumption has been so indoctrinated into us that many can not see how it would be possible to live any other way. They may be overwhelmed by the hours they must put in to barely keep up with their debt, but they can not see the forest through trees. There just is no other way, it is just how life is and with no time to give any thought keep plugging away hoping to see the light at the end of the tunnel someday. Hoping one day they may be able to earn enough to retire. Hoping one day they will have accumulated enough things to be happy. Hoping one day they can leave the rat race. Hoping one day they will have bought their children a better life than what they had as kids. It is an auto pilot way of living, and while frugality is becoming more popular out of necessity, the frugal group is still highly frowned upon and looked at as the freaks in a high consumption economy.

I can not tell you how many times I have heard folk telling me how they have had to pare everything down the the basics to survive. Yet when the list what that means to them, car payments and cable television is almost always in their list of basics. Some even have a home where they may still have payments on, yet if they were to sell could buy something cheaper in full and have no payments any longer to pay. I am not faulting these individuals, for I think it is easy to look at others and think how you would do it differently. I am only bringing it up to show how ingrained it is in typical American households and they have come to believe these are basics and the consumption is what we are suppose to do. For many there is no other way and they hope one day to maybe break out of survival mode into something better. The problem with this, is they have no clue how and never stop to think it is the consumption rates and what is considered basics that needs some thought put into. Further thought then must go into, how to bring in more income without relying on the 9-5 world, especially if one is trapped in a low paying job, where job security is a thing of the long ago past now.

We can not expect change when doing nothing to change,circumstances will remain, how much stuff does one really need? Stuff leads to debt, long work hours to pay for the debt, stress and anxiety, clutter, depression from cluttered messy homes, feelings of inadequacy of not keeping up with the neighbors, heart attacks, other health issues, poor diets, obesity. Stuff leads to impersonal relationships, isolation, burn out, incurable undefinable emptiness, friction in the household, and even living life in a bubble by coming home and hiding in stuff ( such as electronic gadgets or video gaming) rather than living out in the real world and physically active within our communities.

Now I am not saying all consumption is bad and certainly I am no expert so everything I blog about is my opinion and only my opinion. The things we purchase can be wonderful tools, enhance our life, make things more convenient or enrich our lives and bring great joys. It is the addiction and purchasing in excess trying to fill an undefinable emptiness that becomes the problem in a consumer culture.  Knowing what we want to purchase or choose to spend money on takes conscience thought, reflection, defining our "Enough" which will be different for everyone. Looking into alternative sub-cultures to bring in new ways of thinking, fresh perspectives and ideas can do wonders for starting to change. For when we grow and expand our  minds to change our core thoughts and beliefs, we can then create the changes in our personal lives for a more rewarding one, a simpler one, chaos free and beautiful. Putting more emphasis on building community, building deep connections in our relationships, having gratitude for all things great and small in our lives and doing things to bring new experiences can fulfill us far more than a house bursting at it's seams ever could.

Our consumer culture wants you to shop, it creates bubbles that eventually burst devastating the common folk, the hard working folk  that bought into the line of thinking they needed to pay for it. When the bubbles burst, it gets ugly for way too many. What bubble is escalating now that may soon burst?

There is another way , I am sure there are several alternative ways. I am not talking about one of deprivation either, but one of liberation....... the Consumer Culture in which we live has escalated to shocking levels that can not be sustained, but rather leaches everything dry.