Monday, 6 April 2009

Winning back our souls as consumerism dies

There’s no doubting that the current wave of depression and apathy gripping Britain (and indeed the rest of the world), stems from the bleak financial picture – a picture that has painted worry onto the collective face of the masses – but perhaps this is the perfect time to examine the root cause of our (seeming) dependence on money, capitalism and consumerism.

Unemployment, pay cuts, lay-offs and closures have all had a profound effect upon a huge majority of the British working class, leaving many struggling to cope with spiralling mortgages and increased food / fuel costs on severely dilapidated incomes. People in this unfortunate position face a very real problem – and one not to gloss over – but in terms of consumer ideology and the soulless pursuit of capitalist gain, where does the current situation leave ‘young professionals’ – affected, yet not in the ‘real’ sense as defined above.

Although I loathe the phrase ‘young professional’, I’m forced to use it here in the absence of a more suitable alternative. This group, typically of graduate calibre, have been bombarded with consumerist media messages for years now, and consuming the latest electronic goods, fashion, cars and clothing is an essential part of life that these people have been indoctrinated to undertake. Being able to consume is the cultural currency of life in 2009. But what if we stop to consider, that actually, it isn’t?

We don’t actually need to possess a new plasma TV that’s 2 inches larger than the previous one. Our social lives will not be empty should we fail to wear a particularly overpriced garment that was assembled in an overseas factory. For so long now, we have been conforming to the political machine that determines our very being – the mass media. But now that the wheels have fallen off of the vehicle of capitalist consumerism, a void is opening up where once there was ‘purchasing’ – with what do us apathetic souls now fill it with?

Life is undoubtedly that little bit harder in times of economic shrinkage, but perhaps now is the time in which to enrich our souls with more meaningful pursuits. As the consumerist behemoth slows down as a natural reaction to current affairs, worshippers on the alter of capitalism can now finally break free from their shackles of oppression and venture into a new age.

As people become more economically aware, from their own personal standpoints at least, the perpetuating myth of necessary consumption is slowly, starting to begin to fade. We may be a long way from the socialist ideal that would cure this unnecessary need to purchase beyond our means, but at last there is light at the end of the tunnel and society can choose to leave excessive consumption behind, replacing it slowly instead, with a focus on human relationships rather than materialistic greed.

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