Why is it that are our lives revolve around things? Some writers have been thinking and asking this question. Why? As humans in this day in age we are all distracted by things. More specifically, the wanting, hunting, and getting of things – whether they be tangible (a new computer) or intangible (information) (Glei). Consumerism is a social and economic order that encourages the purchase of goods and services in ever-greater amounts. We live in a throw away culture. “Thirty- seven percent of species could become extinct due to climate change, which is very directly related to consumption” (Mayell). It is time to take a step back and realize that excessive consumption is not delivering on its promise to provide happiness and fulfillment. As Becker said “Consumption is necessary, but excessive consumption is not. And life can be better lived (and more enjoyed) by intentionally rejecting it”.
Alyson Quinn is engaged in the project Prison Fellowship Ministries. Alyson is trying to show that the brokenness in people can also be there beauty. She says we wind up at the cocktail parties where people ask each other with deadly earnestness, what is it that you do? Because somehow that is going to unlock your soul. When she used to tell people she worked for an organization that helps fight against sex trafficking the response she got from was “wow… that is amazing”. But when she starting working for Prison Fellowship Ministries and people asked what she did, the response she got from people was “wow… that is interesting”. She is trying to say that yes, people mess up and make mistakes, but what if from that mistake that started something great and help other people. She made an analogy about the society we live in. She claims we need to fix the way we look at things. We live in a society where it is often cheaper to go buy something new then fixing the old one. “When we apply this philosophy to material goods we wind up with a lot of landfills, but when you apply it to people, we overcrowd our prisons and then we build more” (Quinn). In the last few decades we have been building them pretty darn fast. Between 1970 and 2010 the prison population in the Unites States has increased 800%. We are the world’s largest jailer. We have 2.3 million men and women behind bars. When people get released from jail or prison they find the sentence is not over, every time they apply for a job or every time they look for a second chance they find they still have this giant red C for convict on their forehead. She explains that she is a writer and that she has a problem writing off 2.3 million people. Her problem is saying that broken is the same as worthless. When we do that we are missing out on the opportunity for great stories to be told. She persuasive because she compares the big picture to a small picture about her 20 month old son and cookies. He thinks a whole cookie is better than a broken cookie. He thinks that whole cookies should be saved and broken cookies should be thrown upon the ground and smashed until mommy wises up and brings out a whole cookie. Her son only knows one story that he eats the whole cookie and it makes him happy, but he doesn’t know that a broken cookie could lead to a second better story where he shares and makes new friends. And where there is joy multiplied. And that is the beauty of brokenness in it’s simple form. That broken beauty multiplies. Now this is familiar behavior in a toddler, but we all share this prejudice inside of us that is in favor of things that are not broken. We live in an industrial age that encourages that prejudice. Alyson wants to teach her son that a broken cookie is better because you can share the pieces (Quinn).
Jocelyn K. Glei is the Editor-in-Chief and Director of 99U, Jocelyn K. Glei leads the 99U in its mission to provide the “missing curriculum” on making ideas happen. She oversees the Webby Award-winning 99u.com website, curates the popular 99U conference, and is the editor of the 99U books, manage your day-to-day and maximize your potential. As Annie Leonard says in The Story of Stuff, “Our primary identity has become that of being consumers – not mothers, teachers, or farmers, but of consumers. We shop and shop and shop.” We love our stuff. Yet more than the stuff itself, we love the act of finding it. Neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp calls this highly addictive emotional state “seeking.” In a slate article on seeking, writer Emily Yoffe sums up his research: For humans, this desire to search is not just about fulfilling our physical needs. Panksepp says that humans can get just as excited about abstract rewards as tangible ones. He says that when we get thrilled about the world of ideas, about making intellectual connections, about divining meaning, it is the seeking circuits that are firing. It turns out that our consumerist impulse stimulates the same part of the brain that fires when we’re on the trail of a great idea. As we go through the trial and error of executing an idea – What if I tried this? Ah! Now what about this? – we’re using those same wanting, hunting, getting instincts but in a nobler pursuit. A recent Newsweek article on America’s declining creativity reported: Highly creative adults frequently grew up with hardship. Hardship by itself doesn’t lead to creativity, but it does force kids to become more flexible—and flexibility helps with creativity (Glei).
Hillary Mayell is involved with National Geographics New. She has been getting evidence on consumerism and how it affects our world. Approximately 1.7 billion people worldwide now belong to the “consumer class”—the group of people characterized by diets of highly processed food, desire for bigger houses, more and bigger cars, higher levels of debt, and lifestyles devoted to the accumulation of non-essential goods. People are incurring debt and working longer hours to pay for the high-consumption lifestyle, consequently spending less time with family, friends, and community organizations. The increase in prosperity is not making humans happier or healthier, according to several studies. Findings from a survey of life satisfaction in more than 65 countries indicate that income and happiness tend to track well until about $13,000 of annual income per person. After that, additional income appears to produce only modest increments in self-reported happiness. “The goal is to focus not so much on sacrifice, but on how to provide a higher quality of life using the lowest amount of raw materials,” he said. “We need to change the way we produce goods and the way we consume them.” The goal is to focus not so much on sacrifice, but on how to provide a higher quality of life using the lowest amount of raw materials (Mayell).
Joshua Becker is an everyday guy that wants to live a better and meaningful life. He talks about 10 reasons to escape excessive consumerism, because excessive consumption leads to bigger houses, faster cars, trendier clothes, fancier technology, and overfilled drawers. It promises happiness, but never delivers. Instead, it results in a desire for more a desire which is promoted by the world around us. And it slowly begins robbing us of life. As Becker says “it redirects our God-given passions to things that can never fulfill”. It consumes our limited resources. The 10 reasons are less debt, less life caring for possessions, less desire to upscale lifestyle norms, less environmental impact, less need to keep up with evolving trends, less pressure to impress with material possessions, more generosity, more contentment, greater ability to see through empty claims, and greater realization that this world is not just material. True life must be found somewhere else. The average American owns 3.5 credit cards and $15,799 in credit card debt, totaling consumer debt of $2.43 trillion in the USA alone. This debt causes stress in our lives and forces us to work jobs that we don’t enjoy. The never-ending need to care for the things we own is draining our time and energy. Whether we are maintaining property, fixing vehicles, replacing goods, or cleaning things made of plastic, metal, or glass, our life is being emotionally and physically drained by the care of things that we don’t need. Our earth produces enough resources to meet all of our needs, but it does not produce enough resources to meet all of our wants. And whether you consider yourself an environmentalist or not, it is tough to argue with the fact that consuming more resources than the earth can replenish is not a healthy trend. Henry David Thoreau once said, “Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but religiously follows the new.” True life is found in the invisible things of life: love, hope, and faith. Again, we all know there are things in this world that are far more important than what we own. But if one were to research our actions, intentions, and receipts, would they reach the same conclusion? Or have we been too busy seeking happiness in all the wrong places? Escaping excessive consumption is not an easy battle. If it were, it would be done more often, myself included. But it is a battle worth fighting because it robs us of life far more than we realize (Becker).
In conclusion writers and scholars are saying that we need to change the world we live in. We have people who focus more on things then people and love. We people that strive for the hunt of things. We have a plant that physically can’t take it anymore. We have an economy that keeps getting worse. Writers and scholars are passionate about this subject and want to make a difference. They want to let the world know what is going on and how we can fix this horrible problem. The United States is the worlds biggest jailer. They are asking, “How can we change that?” They think we would have a better society if we love the broken and focus more on that love, then on physical things.
Glei, Jocelyn, ed. “Is Consumerism Killing Our Creativity?.”99u. N.p.. Web. 14 Oct 2013.
Mayell, Hillary . “National Geographic News.” National Geographic News. National Geographic, 12 Jan 2004. Web. 14 Oct 2013.
BECKER, JOSHUA . “Becoming Minimalist .” 10 Reasons to Escape Excessive Consumerism. N.p.. Web. 14 Oct 2013.
Quinn, Alyson . “The Beauty of Brokenness.” IGNITE LOUDOUN/FAIRFAX. 26 Jul 2013. Address.