Conspicuous Consumption

By Christopher Zoukis

According to the psychologists we presently reside in an age of diminishing expectations.  And since all of us are products of this enormous bubble called the ‘social reality,’ we don’t expect much.  We actually believe that the future is “selling less of more.”

In other words, we expect little from life, society and our culture.    

            A syllogism:

            The poor get poorer                               

            The rich get richer

            The poor shop at Wal-Mart.

We become self-fulfilling prophecies.  Because we expect little, we get less.  What we get is:  Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Costco, and other retail behemoths.  These monstrosities are the cancers of an economy based upon mass production.  And mass production demands organized consumption and leisure – “the culture of consumption.”

The media becomes the messenger, and the message is this:  you have needs of which you are unaware, and unless these needs are met you will be unhappy, dissatisfied and unfulfilled.  Advertising informs your ignorance; it “is the method by which the desire is created for better things,” said Calvin Coolidge.

The prevalence of advertising, MTV, reality TV and the cult of celebrity have forged a society dominated by appearance and fame.  Image is everything.  Value as a human being now rests upon the pivot of prestige, the illusion of prosperity, the chimera of fame.  Indeed, advertising no longer peddles products; now it produces its own product:  consumption.  Consumption is presented as a way of life.  ‘Get a life’ means go out and buy some stuff.  Stuff will make you happy.  In fact, stuff – like computers, PDAs, I-pods, big-screen LED/LCD televisions, cars, clothes, etc., will cure your loneliness, sickness, weariness and sexual discontent. 

Do you feel empty?  Stuff will fill the void.  Maybe a trip to Hawaii, where you will be surrounded by pristine beaches and beautiful scenery; or maybe a new car will make you happy.  And if it doesn’t, well at least it will make your friends and neighbors jealous.  And that will make you feel better about yourself.  Right?

Wal-Mart has what you need to change your dull, bland life.  And there’s one right down the road.  Do you envy your neighbors?  Wouldn’t you rather they envy you?  Of course you would!  Wal-Mart can solve your problem.  Go buy some stuff. 

However, what they don’t tell you is that these behemoths aim at the domination of a class, a domination that recognizes no overriding supremacy of personal freedom.  Succumbing to such advertisements is nothing but an inward abdication and resignation, or a craven hope of escaping reality by means of the ‘mysticism of stuff.’

Rich people don’t shop at Wal-Mart.  They’d rather be found dead in a ditch.  Rich people shop at high-priced, exclusive emporiums such as Nieman Marcus, which compared to Wal-Mart is a boutique. 

Jesus was right.  You can gain the world – have tons of stuff – and lose your soul.  There’s a lot more to being a real human being than driving a BMW or wearing Abercrombie & Fitch clothing. 

How about just being nice?