“Shop now! Click here! Celebrate by shopping! Can’t stop won’t stop!” There´s something quite dark about these Black Friday slogans. Maybe it’s the fact that they work. They trigger something deep in us in offering a solution to all our problems.
I want it all and I want it now!
The gruesome truth is that our culture is often based on materialistic values. Consumerism categorises us primarily as consumers, which means our value in society is the sum of our economical resources and profit-producing abilities.
What follows is that consuming becomes our main means of building identity. We are often reduced to components in a system based on ever-growing profit and more tragically we have reduced our fellow-humans and our planet into commodities, into instruments existing only to maintain our lifestyle. Our consumption habits are made possible by the long continuum of colonization and exploitation of natural and human resources.
So how much is enough? John D. Rockefeller once said “just a little bit more”. A little bit more profit, a little bit more stuff, a little bit more. How about we go with English poet Robert Browning’s phrase “less is more”.
Sobering effects of not having it all
Our wants and desires are often the basis for our decision making. What food do I crave for lunch? What colour do I feel like wearing today? Am I in the mood to hang around with this friend or that friend? I constantly ask myself these questions. And there’s nothing profoundly wrong about asking these questions, it means you have it really good and that’s something to be grateful for.
Still I have started to think that this abundance of choice and material is bluffing our minds. What would happen if I surrendered some on my privileges? If didn’t have the treats I crave, if I spent some time with a relative I didn’t feel like seeing, if I cut down on my steak-gorging habits or didn’t buy the cheap cool shirt just because I felt like it…
We often go with our wants because we think that will make us happy and content, at least for and hour or a day. But what I (and many others) have noticed is that the promises and expectations of pleasure set up by ads and pop culture aren´t really met. A new sweater won’t make me feel good about myself, new tech-gear won’t make me feel accepted, any amount of sweets won’t fill a void in my life or spending time only with people that I have a blast with and that always agree with me won’t make me the person I ultimately want to be.
Buying ethically made or recycled clothes, leaving the quadruple-plastic-packaged chocolate in the store or giving our time and money to the needy make a world of difference to our neighbours close and far. But psychologists agree that the never-ending abundance and satisfaction of our consumeristic wants have negative effects on our sanity too. And one might want to add the ‘social shopping’ that drives us to avoid negative feelings of disagreement or boredom. Surrendering is an alternative journey I want to continue searching and consciously choosing. It’s something I have to remind myself of constantly as wanting and then getting is something we are so used to. I truly believe being aware and consciously making our life and consuming decisions will slowly and steadily start to lead us down a new better path.