Consumerism as Religion
“Religion” defined loosely is: “something or someone that people believe in to define or guide their fate or destiny.” With many “religious” aspects, consumerism is something that is now a major piece of the identity of the human race (Story of Stuff). Consumerism was initially conceived as a logical system, with the concept of an assembly line to make all aspects of it smooth and connected. However, it has now branched out and evolved into a powerful beast that it was not expected to be.
In the last decade, with the growth of corporate America, and the economic decline of national governments, many economic roles have changed. This has left the government less time to focus on its intended purpose, the people, and more time for corporations to have their say in governmental issues. Corporate America and consumerism now “rule” over much of our lives, although we may not be completely aware. Consumerism has now grown and evolved, and this negative version of consumerism is now a “popular religion” because it is affecting us directly, and affecting our destinies. Consumerism has either directly or indirectly affected us all within our lifetimes.
Regardless of where we live, or how old we are, consumerism will always affect us, ranging from the fork we use to eat, the coffee we drink in the morning, to the type of toilet paper we use in the bathroom. For example, the only thing left relatively untouched by consumerism is literally our own flesh, and sometimes not even. Human waste and human flesh are some of the only things that we do not produce and consume in mass quantities. Sometimes consumerism even makes it way to our bodies as well, through the foods we eat, or even the plastic surgery procedures we undergo. For example, we might think that fresh, organic produce is not part of “consumerism”.
But the farmers had to purchase the seeds from somewhere, and in the event of a drought or less rain, the crops had to be watered. And unless the farmer could supply enough saliva or body fluids to sustain all of his crops, he or she will most likely use a hose (which was most likely purchased at a hardware store) to water their crops. This shows that things that we regard as “in the purest form” have also been somehow affected by consumerism. Consumerism has also literally affected the lives of people. For example, people living in third world countries have had their land or resources stripped from them, affected their living conditions. Workers in factories around the world producing products for Wal-Mart have been affected by many of the toxic chemicals used to produce those products, affecting the condition of their health.
Toxins in breast milk have even affected babies, the most vulnerable of us all, affecting their health conditions. This is due to the chemicals that he or she’s mother had consumed before, usually from processed foods bought from a fast food restaurant or from the grocery store. Children in countries such as the Congo have also been affected by consumerism, by having their educations stripped from them so that they can work in these factories, affecting their education levels. All though these issues may not affect the people immediately, in the long run, it may leave those people with cancer, homelessness, a lack of education, or even an earlier death (Story of Stuff). To summarize, consumerism is very much like a “popular religion” due to the way that it affects, guides, and determines our destiny. In today’s society, consumerism is not doing the majority of us any favors however, and is only benefitting a handful of powerful C.
E.Os of large corporations and businesses around the world. Most importantly, these aspects of consumerism are not being hidden, but are rather in our plain sight. Information about the negative aspects of consumerism is constantly being thrown in our faces, but as Americans, we tend not to recognize them because consumerism has yet to impact us devastatingly, like those in third world countries who are dying from toxic chemicals, slaving in factories, or are homeless. But when this happens, it may or may not be too late, and will be a wake-up call for many of us. Hopefully in the years to come, issues such as the “religion” of consumerism will be recognized with more importance, so that we can take the proper steps to realign the original positive concept of consumerism to its everyday negative actions.
“Story of Stuff.” Youtube.com. Youtube.com, n.d. Web. 13 May 13.