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Is Consumerism the Route to Hell?

This post first appeared on Tweak Your Biz.

Today, consumerism is rife. The more affluent countries partake in the retail experience almost daily. But is the rate of consumerism a route to hell? Is the ‘want mentality’ ruining us as a society? This post takes a look at the power of consumption in contemporary society.

consummerism-retailEver since the first department store (Le Bon Marche, 1850s), the rate of consumerism has seen rapid growth. Prior to this date, there were fewer shops and the ability to consume could only be afforded by the wealthy classes. The reason I state ‘department store’ is due to the relevance – that is, the department store provided a safe shopping experience for wealthy women, minus a chaperone. Whilst I could defend the entire female population, it’s apparent that throughout the ages women have participated in the shopping experience with more vigour. Men would have spent a great deal of their time at work, and so women were a ‘better’ target for retailers. The department store brought shopping to the masses and provided items that were deemed affordable for all classes.

This was a fundamental change for both retailers and shoppers, as it created:

  • Retail to the forefront
  • Increased demand (and supply)
  • Jobs
  • Equality (to a point)

The power of consumption

We may believe that living in contemporary society equals freedom of choice, but if you actually think about what you consume, you would be surprised at how many purchases are:

  • Items relating to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, ie. food, drink, powerretail-new-tv
  • Everyday essentials (given little thought, other than replace)
  • Contemporary items deemed ‘a must’ in modern times, ie. TV, DVD Player

I want never gets

My late Nan was full of phrases and “I want never gets” was one of her favourites. I would often be chided for saying “I want this… I want that” and this phrase was her way of saying that a want mentality is wrong and that simply wanting an item doesn’t necessary mean I should have it. For me however, as an adult, I feel that this phase highlights how society is breeding a predominant “want mentality”. No sooner do we see something or hear of something we like; we buy.

To further add to the list above, I could mention:

  • Desire items – those heavily promoted as ‘must haves’ by the media
  • Trending items, usually prompted by season, technology or innovation

The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Purchases

If ‘want’ is the driver, then we become creatures of ‘desire fulfilment’. Never satisfied until we have what we want. We are then so used to having what we want that the items themselves have little value. The emphasis shifts to a feeling of power and ownership. Although, it is questionable who the power resides with.

To add to this conundrum, the pace of technology further amplifies the decrease in value (psychologically and monetary – depreciation). A ‘new’ TV in 2012 is an ‘old’ TV in 2013. While not obsolete, the owner will look to replace in a shorter time-frame, and with greater frequency – while the TV is functioning perfectly. As the pace ‘new’ becomes quicker, our pace of replacement does too. Environmentally speaking, this means more items being dumped and a higher degree of waste.

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