Sunday 14 August 2011

Consumer Greed

I want to start this post by saying – I hold my hand up; I’m a consumer just like everyone else. I sometimes buy things I don’t need. The majority of my possessions aren’t necessary for my survival. Without them I would still continue to exist.

But that’s the thing about modern society – merely existing is not enough anymore. We want to thrive. And in today’s world that means owning a lot of ‘stuff’, and having lots of money in the bank. We’ve all become conditioned to see success as financial abundance alone. I fall into the trap – thinking that if I just had that new pair of jeans or that new book or that little bit more money in my account then I’d feel complete and happy. But it never ends – I just keep wanting more and more and more.

I do understand how we got this way. After the First World War and the Depression we wanted to embrace life and create a world where suffering didn’t happen. We wrongly assumed that by increasing our wealth we would in turn increase our power and then no one could hurt us again. Power, it seems, became the driving force.

To this my father would say – humans are animals therefore we will always be competing against one another to secure our place at the top. The fittest survive, that’s the way the animal kingdom works.

And he’s right; we are just animals. But the difference between us and other animals is that somewhere along the line we grew a brain that is capable of awareness. We’re able to view our behaviours and our actions and decide if they work or not. The lion does not consider his behaviour good or bad. He attacks and kills the other animals so he can eat, so he can survive. His motivation is hunger. He has no other choice. He is not able to set up a veggie patch in his backyard and grow his own dinner!

Humans on the other hand have a so called ‘intelligence’ that we’re supposed to use to our advantage. We’re supposed to use it to come together and help one another. We’re supposed to use it to make the world a better place. In many ways, I think we’ve failed. All we seem to care about these days is our own superiority. We’re power–hungry. We’re greedy. We’re selfish. We’re irresponsible. We’re morally corrupt. And we’re a bunch of hypocrites.

I admit when the riots were happening here in London I was angry and scared of the young people running around the streets. I watched them on the news and thought ‘how stupid are these kids. Who do they think they are?’ But slowly I began to realise that I’m part of the problem myself. I’m not helping these kids, trying to make it all better. Instead I’m sitting in my flat judging them, feeling superior to them because I don’t resort to violence to be heard. Don’t get me wrong, I know that violence is never, never the answer. But why is no one addressing why these kids are acting out? Why is no one trying to help them? Why do our governments spend millions on the Olympics (where we once again compete against one another), but very little is spent to help those who really need it? Why is a movie star paid millions more than they need while people are starving in the world? Why do the mega-rich find legal ways to avoid paying taxes? Why are there legal ways to avoid tax in the first place? Why are we so quick to applaud the wealthy and judge the poor? Why have we let money and power become the cornerstone of a successful life?

What has happened to compassion and community?

I don’t know what the answers are, but I know we must start to admit the part we all play in creating this type of world. It is not just someone else’s fault, it’s not just the politicians fault, it’s not just the wealthy person’s fault, it’s not just the uneducated or unemployed person’s fault. It’s my fault and it’s your fault. For as long as we continue to mindlessly consume, to go after more wealth and more power, to ignore the harsh realities of the world we created, then we’re all to blame.

We need to change now, no matter how much it scares us to give up our comforts or our time in an effort to break out of this money-driven mentality. Because you know what is a hell of a lot more frightening than change? - what will happen to our beautiful Earth if we continue like this.

1 comment:

  1. As the most guilty consumer in the family I take this to heart. You can make a difference when you have children. XX