I received this from a friend a couple years ago for Thanksgiving. I’ve been wanting to write about consumerism issues for a while and always find myself too spaced out and/or inarticulate whenever I begin to think of them. I guess that considering Friday is to be the biggest shopping day of the year I might try to put down a few thoughts.
First, I feel horribly trapped in this excessively consumerist society. I see people who are barely getting by taking out loans to buy a gas-guzzling ’82 Camero or an unneeded truck or SUV. I see people doing quite well doing the same thing and then alternately 1) feeling sorry for the poor of our society and the world and 2) pointing fingers at those same people for their wastefulness. The whole thing is insane. And yet I’m caught in it: flying around the nation and the world for school, vacation, and the rest; driving around town when I could walk or take the bus. I too am tainted by the ugly consumerism and rat race mentality which surrounds me.
I don’t much care for holding up my good qualities in hope of praise or for pointing fingers myself. The problem is systemic, but in our world we are the system. How many great figures have said, simply, ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’? Oh how TRUE! But also how very difficult. Perhaps I just want too much change, I swim not upstream, but against the current of a whole ocean.
My Philosophy and Religion set such high standards. Yet my society sets the very lowest of standards: happy is a new cologne, intelligence is a new laptop, joy is an iPod, health is a low calorie beer. All of this I can have, easily. But it is all only a grandly orchestrated lie. It is absurd, perhaps funny, yet nonetheless true that the next 35 days will mark America’s greatest surge of free market capitalism, unchecked consumerism and at the VERY SAME TIME our greatest period of abject depression, loneliness, alcoholism, overeating, and family feuds, our highest suicide rate; a boon not only to toy manufacturers and mom-and-pop store owners, but also to the makers of depressant liquors and antidepressant drugs.
What do we do, those of us who see the obvious absurdity of our modern ‘holiday spirit’? To reject it all is to turn our back on mom-and-pops, the very fabric of our society, but haven’t we already abandoned them? Didn’t we bid mom-and-pop adieu with a whisper and a wink when we broke ground on the new Wal-Marts and their box-store brethren? It’s more convenient to buy everything under one roof, where prices are low and staff is underpaid. It’s more convenient to peal off that ‘Made in China’ sticker before wrapping our Christmas gifts than to search for something made in the USA. Being a conscientious consumer is just too tiring. To buy locally, ethically manufactured goods just takes too long, and we can’t buy half as much when all is said and done.
So, as a frustrated philosopher, I ask myself, “why don’t I just join in: shop, drink, fight it out, feel alone, pop some pills and vow, just before the clock strikes midnight, to change for the better in the new year?”