Left Hand Path Blog

Corporate Zombie Consumers

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The  AdBuster’s Buy Nothing Day campaign was like spotting a bright, colorful flower in the middle of a sewage dump. I still need to wear the gas mask but things are looking up. Just when I was starting to get anxiety and nausea from the mere thought of the impending holiday season, I see a glimmer of hope for our society of undead consumers.

Americans consume more than any other country in the world while 2.8 billion people struggle to live on less than $2 per day and one billion don’t even have access to safe drinking water (World Watch).

Most of us know that we are better off than the average person living in most countries in Africa, South America, and even China and Russia.  We have more access to health care, cheap food and clothing, housing and education.  But are we really better off?  While most of us would balk at the idea of living in a mud hut and scrounging for food and water every day just to survive, we don’t seem to mind that nearly 3 billion of the people we share the planet with face hunger, disease, and apathy every single day of their lives.

We pride ourselves as one of the most charitable countries in the world, giving billions each year in relief, yet we don’t see the impact that our runaway consumerism is making on ourselves and the rest of the world.  We smugly think of ourselves as having a superior standard of living with better health care and education, yet we fail miserably at both.  With an infant mortality rate of 6.22 per 1000 live births, we beat out most of the African nations, but countries with socialized medicine like the United Kingdom, Canada and even Cuba have a lower infant death rate than the great United States of America (CIA).

What does this have to do with consumerism?  Everything.  Our addiction to material ‘things’ has turned us into soulless, gluttonous vampires sucking the life out of the rest of the planet.  Unable to delay gratification or gain control over our impulses, we buy ourselves into debt and eat ourselves into obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, then wonder why we are depressed and miserable. 

Feeling sorry for our pitiful selves, we visit the local drug pusher who calls himself a ‘doctor’ and take some pills.  Then we take more pills for the side effects….except we don’t know if the indigestion and constipation was caused from the pills or the ¾ pound hamburger and large fries we ate with that diet soda.

So, depressed and bloated, we hit that sale at Macy’s and since we are in the mall, lets pick up some more of this and more of that, and let’s stop at Costco and get 20 pounds of animal crackers, a 6 pound bag of potato chips, and a case of diet soda to wash it all down.  And since it is September already, we should be thinking about our Christmas list……

We go from one sugar-loaded, gift-giving, holiday to the next and wonder why our kids are fat and spoiled, and we feel like crap because our credit cards are maxed out and we must work overtime to pay them off, spending even less time with the people who matter to us.  And to top that off the doc says the cholesterol is high and we really should start working out, but who has time for that?

What is even more mind-numbing than shopping?  Shopping when the stores and parking lots are packed with people.  Christmas has become a racket and every year we are manipulated and mind-controlled into buying worthless stuff we don’t need and more worthless stuff for other people who don’t need it either!  We are consumer automatons.

This whole issue is made even more idiotic by the fact that many of us are NOT Christians!!!  Not that Christmas consumerism as anything to do with Christianity!  Many Christians put signs out on their lawn saying “Jesus is the reason for the season”.  What a nice way to say ‘Hey you all need to back off the shopping a bit and get your priorities straight’. What Would Jesus Buy?

Last year I noticed the Christmas junk was accumulating on the store shelves BEFORE Halloween!  It was ironic to see the Precious moments Christmas ornaments next to the vampire blood and the ‘scream’ masks.  And Christmas was barely over before the shelves were stocked with Valentine treats, and those go on sale a week before Valentine’s day in order to make room for the Easter crap.  The list goes on…..

Why I am not surprised by these statistics from World Watch?

The 12 percent of the world’s population that lives in North America and Western Europe accounts for 60 percent of private consumption spending, while the one-third living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa accounts for only 3.2 percent.

According to Global Issues, “… Inequalities in consumption are stark. Globally, the 20% of the world’s people in the highest-income countries account for 86% of total private consumption expenditures — the poorest 20% a minuscule 1.3%. More specifically, the richest fifth:

  • Consume 45% of all meat and fish, the poorest fifth 5%

  • Consume 58% of total energy, the poorest fifth less than 4%

  • Have 74% of all telephone lines, the poorest fifth 1.5%

  • Consume 84% of all paper, the poorest fifth 1.1%

  • Own 87% of the world’s vehicle fleet, the poorest fifth less than 1% (Shah)

What have we got to show for all of this?  Is that fancy car and big house with all the junk in it worth the overtime, stress and loss of family time?  Do we really need 29 pairs of shoes, 4 cars and a motorcycle?

References:

AdBusters Media Foundation. Buy Nothing Day. Retrieved 14 September, 2010 from: http://adbusters.org/metas/eco/bnd/.

Central Intelligence Agency (2010). World Factbook. Infant mortality rate. Retrieved 14 September, 2010 from: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2091rank.html

Shah, Anup (2008) Consumption and Consumerism. Global Issues Retrieved 14 September, 2010 from: http://www.globalissues.org/issue/235/consumption-and-consumerism

White, Micah (2009). Steel Yourself and Act. AdBusters Media Foundation.  14 September, 2010 from: https://www.adbusters.org/blogs/blackspot-blog/steel-yourself-and-act.html

World Watch (2004). The State of Consumption Today.  Retrieved 14 September, 2010 from: http://www.worldwatch.org/node/810

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