What I Reckon: Consumerism

I stood in the mall the other day on the escalator and got overwhelmed. I had made a special trip with a friend to buy a specific thing and then that was it. I didn’t want anything other than the thing I needed. But as I slowly started to take note of what was happening around me I realised a few things. There were people everywhere loaded up with plastic shopping bags. Many of these people were shopping for the sake of actual shopping. Not because they actually need anything. But because they have nothing to do and some money to burn so why not just go see what is out there to spend money on for the sake of it. For someone who has sat on the side of the road with refugees that have nothing and yet still have a smile on their face, this general attitude towards consuming annoys me more than I can even express. I am from a country of incredibly lucky and yet entitled people. People who moan how tough they have it because they can’t afford rent this week because they had to buy that carton of beer because alcohol is a typical life ‘necessity’. People with 50″ televisions in their living rooms and more clothes than they know what to do with. And then after three months when it’s all “out of fashion” it’s back to the mall to buy more shit that is made by some poor slave for stuff all money in a developing country because we can’t be seen to not have the best or most fashionable things. That would clearly make us unhappy because that is what society tells us. That is what media manipulate us into believing. Things make us happy, and the more of them you have, the more updated everything is, the better the life you have.

I can’t deal with it. I just can’t. Because if there is one thing that I have learned in this life it is that I don’t need any of it. And neither do you. After returning from travel, I came back to so much shit sitting in the cupboard from my old life that taught me that ‘shopping’ was fun and having lots of stuff was required. I donated or threw half of my things away. I kept majority of my old clothes because I figure I will use them until they die, then use them as a rag and then move on to another item that I bought a long time ago that I have barely used. And even as I sit here, preparing to move, the weight of having more than just a backpack feels like it is so heavy that it could bore me a hole to the centre of the earth. But I am torn between my hatred of waste, and my hatred of owning too much.

The saddest thing of all is that we live in a society that is becoming more and more obsessed with demonstrating life successes through material possessions. You need to have the latest model phone. The largest television. The nicest car. The latest fashion in clothes. These things apparently demonstrate your worth to society, but unfortunately, with every new thing that you acquire, you are only going to need something greater, something grander, to get to the next step of being awesome. Everywhere you look, the media continues to propagate this idea to people so that you will go out and spend all your money on these things to keep the pockets of those who head corporations exploding with more money than they know what to do with. And for some of them, it would be enough to wipe out debts of entire countries, or eliminate hunger and poverty. But obviously, these things aren’t a priority compared to a luxury yacht and designer outfit that they can then post on Instagram to make everybody else feel inferior and depressed about the fact that they can’t do the same.

The backwards thing about this is that so many of these consumerist people are depressed and are not happy. Why? Because instead of focusing on being grateful for the things that they have, they focus on all the things that they don’t have and how obtaining these things will somehow make life better. I can tell you now, it doesn’t. Happiness is a choice you make everyday when you decide to be grateful for the things that you have. If there was one thing that I could have told my twelve-year old self, it would be that. None of it matters and you can’t take any of it with you when you die. It doesn’t define whether or not you are a good person. Your actions do. And it is the relationships you have with others that will define you, not all of the shit that you can put on display to others. Having more, does not make you more.

In a world that is already dying because of overpopulation and awful distribution of resources, buying and buying and buying exacerbates the problem. If we stop buying all the shit, then there will be no need to produce it. The destruction of our environment will lessen, and maybe we could live in a world where everybody has enough instead of a world where the large majority have nothing and the minority strive to take it all. The reality is, it is out of hand and snowballing big time. Eventually there will be nothing left and we will be living on top of a giant pile of trash. 

There needs to be a very large shift in the thinking of majority of the world. Shopping needs to be something that occurs out of necessity instead of as a fun hobby. People need to learn to accept who they are and define themselves by how they behave with others instead of how much stuff they have and can flaunt in the face of others. People need to realise that they are spending their entire lives being craftily manipulated by advertisements that very cleverly brainwash you into specific ways of thinking to make a small minority of people very large sums of money. They need to develop a consciousness of our environment and our planet and learn to preserve it for others instead of constantly thinking about instant gratification and comfort. It is killing our planet. And it is killing our self worth and self esteem. And I don’t know about you, but those things are worth more to me than a new Gucci handbag or the latest iPhone.

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