U.S. consumed by consumers
We are consumed by consuming. America has been a nation of spenders for as long as people can remember. Consumerism has grown to become a problem in the United States, and the high levels of personal debt, the urban-home search sprawl, and general feelings of worry regarding financial issues can all be attributed to rampant consumerism.
Let’s look at a day we might consider a new holiday: Black Friday. People wake up at the break of dawn and “shop ‘til they drop” for gifts. An abundance of products crowd shoppers’ vision, lines are never-ending and people fight for the last item on the shelf.
We are encouraged to spend, spend, spend so our “economic problems” can be a thing of the past, and everyone can live in harmony with what we buy. But we do not realize we have a dire problem as dangerous as a meth addiction. Sure, the encouragement to consume and spend certainly stimulates this free trade and marketing economy, but the things we as a society are spending money on are diminishing our resources and damaging the environment. Electronics with planned obsolescence are made and then disposed of after their arranged deficiency, left to sit and remain on our planet forever. Running the Numbers — An American Self-Portrait by Chris Jordan has put together astonishing research to conclude 426,000 cell phones are retired in the U.S. every day, and 1.14 million brown paper supermarket bags are used every hour. A little excessive?
This problem is also a social one. We are conspicuously consuming as a collective problem, like an arms race: The more your neighbor spends, the more you must spend just to stay even. The lavish spending by people at the top of the scale sets a standard that affects everyone below. When the rich are wearing a different $20,000 watch every day, the middle class feels they need $1,000 watches.
Again, today’s consumption is also undermining our environmental resource base. It is worsening inequalities. The dynamics of the consumption-poverty-inequality-environment connections are accelerating. If these trends continue without change, today’s problems of consumption and human development will worsen. Statistics aren’t needed to prove we buy things we don’t need; common sense allows us to do that. The only reason Americans don’t own elephants is because they have never been offered an elephant for $1 down with easy weekly payments — or because the social norm has not yet made it popular.
As a society, most Americans have become mentally detached with what it means to be a decent human being. So my advice is to think. Just as we “hear” spending helps us to be content as individuals and a society as a whole, my words should resonate in your ears, and you should “hear” consuming is a definite problem.