This is the fourth 5 pager that I’ve written in the last two weeks. I guarantee that I’ll get a shit grade on it, citing yourself is never a good idea. Either way, I figured some of you may enjoy reading it. Sorry if it’s a bit tough to read. I didn’t write it in a blog format.
December 6, 2007
Consumerism, American Values, and the Vision of Success
So… what comes to mind when you hear the word consumerism? Money, wealth, power, to overindulge, advertising… these words all define consumerism pretty good, but when I hear the word I always think “copious”, or an overabundance. You see, the dream that has made America so prosperous has also caused us to get a bit spoiled. You could say that we’re simply absorbing the gifts that we have, or you could say we’ve lost touch with the humbling simplicity of the finer things. Has the allure of the image of wealth overshadowed what truly matters in life or are we simply grasping the meal that has been served to us?
Either way there is no denying it. America has a spending problem, probably brought on by a great deal of factors. And ordained minister reverend Billy agrees full heartedly as he calls the Play station 3 and the Nintendo Wii “products of the devil!” “Leave them on the shelf this year, he proclaims.” When Glenn Beck of CNN primetime asked why, Billy stated that it has nothing to do with religion, but rather he stated, “To save money! Halleluiah! Credit card debts are too high these days, Brother Glenn. We need to back away for the Wallmarts; the Targets; the Bestbuys and focus on what we already have” [Rev. Billy].
Billy and his organization, the Church of Stop Shopping, which ironically enough performs funerals, baptisms, and weddings, have their own distinct message. They believe that the major corporations want their customers to have experiences only through their products. They believe that our neighborhoods, “commons” places like stoops and parks and streets and libraries, are disappearing into the corporatized world of big boxes and chain stores. Billy and his group want us to back away from the product, if even just a little, so that we can reclaim the lost simplicities of life. “The supermodels fly away and we’re left with our original sensuality, so we are singing and preaching for local economies and real – not mediated through products — experience. We like independent shops where you know the person behind the counter or at least – you like them enough to share a story. We ask that local activists who are defending themselves against supermalls, nuke plants, gentrification — call us and we’ll come and put on our “Fabulous Worship!” Remember children… Love is a Gift Economy! [Rev. Billy].
As I stated before, there are a number of things that probably led to our current consumerist values. But one stands out the most. Fueled by corporate America, it resides between the intricacies of glass, liquid crystals, and gas of your new HD television. It subliminally thrusts itself into your mind with an ever constant slew of warped ideals. Yes, dear reader, please meet Mr. mainstream media. For he’s been painting a picture of your ideal lifestyle for years and you’ve hardly noticed, or at least so you thought. It is a picture expressing wealth, money, and power; the things that every American family wants and strives to achieve. And this is what induces our consumption: The drive to be successful, or at least in most cases, to simply appear successful.
It happened to be about 10 minutes ago, as my ADHD ridden mind caught hold of something. It was an advertisement on a popular technology website: A group of college students sitting around a medium sized HD television, playing Halo in their apartment; all laughing and drinking cold beer. The TV is the center of attention. It is the cause of the students fun and without it, they’d probably be bored sitting around a small standard definition TV doing…. Maybe homework as the local news drones on, encompassing the ambient space. Which situation would you pick: The shining luminescence of the HDTV as you party with your good friends, or the stagnant and benign atmosphere that surrounds the old TV that your parents didn’t want when you moved out?
The advertisers, fueled by corporate America, want you to believe that the excitement is impossible without their new, high tech TV. But what they don’t allow you to consider is that you can still have just as much fun without it. The videogames are the same, the Friends are the same, and the beer is the same. Is spending over a thousand dollars really worth it?
It makes me analyze myself. I mean, guess what I asked my mom for Christmas. An HDTV [an Olivia 32 in. 1080i HDTV to be exact]. My roommates and I have had countless hours of fun playing on our humble 23 incher and the new technology will cost me $300 cash [my mom is making me pay half]. For an incredibly broke college student, is spending three hundred bucks on an extra 9 inches and a few more details really worth it? Will it make the videogames and the television better than they already are? Apparently I, and millions of other American’s believe so. But why..?
I wrote professionally about video games and technology for a year and plan to return to it soon. And as your average everyday consumer and tech blogger, maybe I find it almost embarrassing that I don’t already have a TV. I mean, all of my cohorts have them and they don’t know half as much as me about HDTV’s. Hell, I’d even wrote a feature article called “HDTV’s and the Format Wars: All you need to know”, which discussed, well… everything you could ever want to know about HDTV’s, disc formats, and the players that played them. How could such a “self proclaimed” expert as myself fail to even own a piece of technology that I had marveled upon to such extent? Well, the time is now and now sounds like the perfect time to blow a whole bunch of hard earned cash. My techy ideals tell me that if I buy this TV it will heighten my viewing experience. Now, even more than that I can brag to all of by buddies that I now an HDTV [even though most of them have already beaten me to it]. Now I can be part of that group, the pioneers of technology, the forefathers of heightened entertainment, and the best group of all, the compulsive man who should probably just go fly fishing with his dad instead of playing videogames all day. I desire this product not only for a higher experience of entertainment, but so that I can another one to join the club; the club of technological success. [Hertler]
Everyday you see it. The rich swimming in their pools of materialism and the families uniting over a new Mercedes. These are now standards for America, set for you conveniently by the media. “There is no escape! The big companies have you by the balls”, claims the popular comedian and free speech advocate, George Carlin. In a primetime HBO special, the comedian criticizes the American public for abandoning their previous pastimes and instead replacing them with consumption. “Consumption, It’s the new national pastime. Eff baseball – it’s consumption! The only national pastime we have left is buying things with money they don’t have [Carlin]. He blames these ideals on corporate America, stating that the game is rigged and we know it, but we do nothing to stop it. Were just going to keep on buying, because it is the only thing left that we know how to do. He says that it’s only about money any more and that if you don’t have it, then you have to try and look like you do. The big companies have brainwashed us so much, that we don’t know anything else to do. “They don’t give a crap about you [as in corporate America] and nobody seems to notice and nobody seems to care. That’s what the big business owners count on – That the customers remain willfully ignorant of the big red, white and blue, dick that has been jamming them up their asses every day. [Carlin].
As I said, these standards are why we buy. The American people see wealth everyday and they desire it more than anything else, enough to put their families in jeopardy by accumulating billions of dollars of debt every nationally. You can simply say that we are taking advantage of what we have and that is very true, at least, for the most part. We are privileged enough to live in this great country, so why don’t we use what our founding fathers built for us? Well, you see, dear reader, our founding fathers never intended for us to forget our roots. You know, the feeling of long blades of grass dancing at your feet as you walk through a field on a crisp autumn morning. Or the excited clatter of a family sitting down for dinner. Maybe the comfort of your ancient white tennis shoes that you found in the bargain bin 5 years ago. The fine things are being less and less appreciated, because they simply aren’t being experienced anymore. They are being replaced with the overwhelming urge to buy what we don’t need.
We are all Hippocrates. He is, she is, they are, and especially the brain behind this paper. It’s not wrong to buy and it’s not wrong to desire what you don’t have. Enjoy your prosperity and grasp what you have been given. But when it comes down to it, you have to sit back and enjoy the simple things in life. You know, the things you can’t buy – like happiness.