Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Consumerism: Good or Evil?

After a weekend devoted to shopping, I’ve been pondering whether consumerism is a good or bad thing. My instinct is that it’s a bad thing. But is this justified? Should I stop worrying and learn to love consumerism?

What do other middle class people think?
The general consensus among the Guardian-reading classes is that it is very bad. The interesting thing is that the Telegraph-reading classes agree.

Of course, their objections are different. The leftish middle classes deride consumerism because they see it as the crass crescendo of modern capitalism, feeding unreasonable materialistic desires that bury the poor in more debt. The rightwing middle classes see it as the garish apotheosis of outré Chav culture, leading the lower classes into crime and getting above their station.

Cameron noise
The noises David Cameron is making probably prove that both left and right worry that rampant consumerism is bad for the environment, as the Earth’s resources are stripped to make a squillion Coke cans a minute, or whatever the latest mind-bending figures are.

By George!
Meanwhile, the lower classes are enjoying the fact that George of ASDA can kit their kids out in a year’s worth of school uniforms for £3.50. They’re not bothered about the third world sweatshop labour that enables prices to get so low.

Fucking hypocrites
And, as they disapprove of consumerism, lefties are off buying eco-friendly furniture carved by Fairtrade indigenous tribes from sustainable wood in Belize. Tories are eyeing up the latest Aga oven.

And EVERYONE is off down IKEA on a Sunday.

What do I think?
I know I’m a fucking hypocrite too. I love shopping, I like the new things that I can buy. I work as a copywriter, finding new ways to sell shit to people. At the same time, I know that capitalism is a bonkers system with which to manage the world’s resources. We are fucking over the planet in order to own more…things.

I also think that the need for material things should be balanced by a yearning for spirituality.

I feel guilty when I shop, because I know that it’s wasteful and pointless. I get pleasure from the things I buy, although it’s often short-lived. But, hang about - what about all the books and music I’ve bought over the years? Some of that will always stay with me and inspire me.

In short, I feel conflicted.

Crusty Heaven
If I’m honest with myself, would I live in yurt in a Welsh valley, do away with my LCD TV, PSP, DS and Powerbook, live off the land, wear hemp? Would I still be allowed to buy books and new music – isn’t that consumerism too? In order to buy my books and music would I sign on for benefits, living off the system I’ve supposedly rejected?

We’re all doomed
I also recognise that there won’t be an international revolution that will bring down capitalism. The system is just too monolithic to dent with protests or even terrorism. Capitalism won’t be pushed and the only way it will fall is when it’s fucked everything over and we’re all living in the ruins of our shopping centres, fighting giant super-intelligent rats for tinned food.

Bugger me, there are no easy solutions are there?

1 comment:

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