Consumerism and Commitment

     In the modern world there is a great tendency toward large scale consumption, and the efforts made by a combination of the media and corporate interests have, I believe, forced us into an unhealthily excessive way of life. The fast-shrinking world in which we live allows for speedy communication and the spread of ideas, a noble endeavor and one of the great positive aspects of the information age. Along with this, however, people have been raised from young ages to pledge allegiance to products and brands, becoming tied to the items they use as deeply as one may be tied to a clan or tribe.

      These ideas are certainly not new, but they have struck me most deeply in recent weeks as I go about my life. Everything I do, everything I see, all the foods I eat, have brands and labels announcing the quality and “wholesomeness” of the product. I have become a voracious consumer, part of the larger consumer society in which we all live. The traditional associations of family, neighborhood, and community have been broken down and replaced with brands, fashions, and addictions. The cotton flags and majestic heraldry of old have been replaced by plastic machines and fluorescent labels, and I am sick of it.

      As I said, none of these ideas are new, but I think to post them here would give me a reminder that they are more important than most. Whether or not outright anti-consumerism makes sense, I certainly think that the rampant and aggressive consumerism of today is harmful to both individuals and the group. The environment is slowly collapsing around us, and people are dying of obesity and various forms of poisoning by legal products (alcohol and cigarettes, I am looking at you), these things cannot be stopped by a single person, nor can they be effectively curbed by state intervention. I think that it must be by individual commitment, in unity with those of like mind, that progress toward a more productive society will be made.

      In summation, I hope to put these ideas into practice for myself. When I see a delicious new option for food, or a “must-have” new electronic device, I must turn around and leave it where it is. When a brand stops being a quality producer, I must leave it behind and find a quality item from a new place. When a politician, philosopher, teacher, or professor steps beyond the bounds of reason in his teaching, I must resist the temptation to follow along with the rest of the crowd and agree with him. To do otherwise would be to mindlessly commit myself in slavery to an idea, an image, or a community, and freedom of body and mind is all one can really have in the world.

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