THE DISHONEST FACE OF CONSUMERISM
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A statistic illustrates that in 1950, there is one car for every fifty people but in 2009, there are more than one car for every twelve people in America. This example demonstrates the increasing effect of consumerism by the end of the 20th century. According to Cambridge Dictionary, consumerism is the situation in which too much attention is given to buying andowning things. In the light of this definition, it can be concluded that consumerism usually leads to materialism since materialists claim that happiness can be increased through buying and spending as well . It is inevitable that there exist a dissidence between people about this issue. Authors like Juliet Schor, Annie Leonard and Danielle Todd support consumerism is a foe whereas Peter Saunders and James Twitchell, advocates the idea that consumerism is a friend. Consumerism has many negative outcomes like overspending, overworking, credit card debts, social and economic problems etc. These negative aspects of consumerism are in majority therefore consumerism is a foe. Consumerism is a foe since it causes overworking by triggering the insatiable nature of human. Each person aims to reach a good, qualified life and this ambition causes competition between people. As Annie Leonard mentions, we have become a nation of consumers (9). The reason behind this situation is exactly the competitive life circumstances, each person buys more and more to be the best.
It is acknowledged that human has an insatiable nature by birth and the consumerist system triggers this stimulation substantially since people do not want to stay out of the competition. Todd states that consumers are well aware of the insatiable nature of consumerism, but recognize that in their society it is the only possible way to live (1). The most negative aspect of consumerism emerges at that point; since consumers can never be fulfilled with the goods they consume there occurs a circle which tucks people into a trap. The empty and miserable consumers buy more and more goods with the hope of finding fulfillment and reaching the best. For instance, a young man buys an Iphone 4 and just three months later he sees his friend’s Iphone 5 and decides to buy an Iphone 5 immediately for reaching his friend’s level . To purchase more, this man obliged to work exceedingly so his life passes with heavy working conditions. According to Leonard, this situation creates a crazy work-watch-spend treadmill (13). This circle damages people’s lives since it is almost impossible to get rid of this circle because of the unsatisfied nature of human. With the existence of this circle, people turn into robots, they cannot think anything except money, working and shopping. Eventually, people’s psychological and physical healths are damaged because of stress, they become tired, they do not have individual times, they do not have any hobbies, they drift apart from nature and get stuck into shopping malls etc. Briefly, it can be said that consumerism is a foe since it triggers the unsatisfied nature of people and ensnare their lives with the work-watch-spend circle. Advertisements cause the problem of overspending which is the most mischievous outcome of consumerism.
Advertisements have seven functions like identifiying brands, supplying information, persuasion previewing new trends etc. but persuasion is the best function which is related with consumerism. Advertisements and consumerism definitely have a positive correlation since powerful and visual advertising directs consumers to purchase goods and services. As Juliet Schor states, it can be said that the growing importance of television causes consumerism (1). It demonstrates that people who watch TV are more inclined to purchasing more. Schor also asserts that an avarage level of TV watching of 15 hours a week equals nearly $3,000 per year (1). So it can be concluded that television is very effective on people’s buying decisions, advertisements direct people to spend more money. These tricky advertisements lead people to buy redundant goods. For instance, Twitchell mentions that he bought a Mazda Miata although he did not need this car (1). Moreover, he states that he bought the car because of an advertisement which promotes the idea that if you buy this car, all of your dreams will come true (2). This is a clear example of overspending, an effective advertisement made Twitchell buy a luxury and redundant good which was pretty expensive. Twitchell’s experience is just the tip of the iceberg, the rate of overspending will increase more and more with the growing importance of television.
Due to overspending, people become unable to afford their basic, biological needs since they spend all their money for visible status goods. Shortly, it is verified that advertisements direct people to consume more and more but this huge effect of advertisements are destructive since over-consumption makes people unable to afford their basic needs. Credit card debts is another destructive outcome of consumerism. In Turkey, one million and sixty thousand people have credit card debts by 2014. This statistical data demonstrates that consumerism is not a friend for one million and sixty thousand people in Turkey. As it is mentioned before, human has an insatiable nature therefore people see products as a hero and they purchase more and more. Banks take advantage of people’s fralities and give them lots of credit cards. This situation brings a trouble into society like credit card debts. Juliet Schor argues that one of the most fascinating things about credit card debt is how many people are not conscious of their behaviour (3). While buying goods people cannot be aware of what they spend since they are not aware that these credits are borrowed. They assume that these credits are free and limitless. Credit cards are presented as hero by banks, consumers can buy what they want without making payment by cash but at the end this dream concludes with a disappointing end, hoarded credit card debts.
Victims of credit cards have to sell their houses, cars etc. to pay their credit card debts. So, it can be concluded that although many people believe to the misleading friendly face of consumerism actually it is just an invisible enemy which drags people to debt spiral. Some may say that consumerism is a friend. However, this assertion is not true. It should not be forgotten that the capitalist system leads to the occurrence of consumerism. Saunders defends that capitalism is good for the soul since it gives people a chance to live a good life (6). That assumption can be accepted to an extent since each person aims to reach a good life. This is a common will of all humanity but it should be considered that human being is insatiable and this system exploits people’s weaknesses which is coming from their nature. As it is mentioned in second and third paragraphs, advertisements exploit people’s weaknesses dramatically by giving the message that they are insufficient. People cannot reject the desirable choices that the system provides and they become a part of this system even if they cannot afford the requirements of a good life. Saunders also hypothesizes that no socioeconomic system can guarantee people a good life, they can just provide happy and worthwhile lives and capitalism passes with flying colors on this test (19).
There exist a social stratification in today’s world so these flying colors are just accessable for upper and middle classes but what about the working class? Their labor is exploited all the time by this capitalist system. A good system should provide a happy and worthwhile life to everyone, not just the selected rich ones. To sum up, it is true that capitalism can be seen as desirable and attracts many people’s attention but this does not mean that capitalism is a friend since it just provides tricky and temporary dreams to a minor group of rich people. In conclusion, negative aspects of consumerism like overspending, overworking, credit card debts, social and economic problems etc. outweigh so consumerism is a foe. Although some argue that it is a friend, actually in real life it is impossible to support that argument since consumerism triggers the unfulfilling nature of human and it is not desirable or beneficial in the long run. Consumerism is just a foe which makes you a victim with empty promises. Schor believes that, to avoid this situation people should decrease the time they spend in front of the TV, use no credit cards, stop buying unnecessary products and try to make logical, consciously decisions while purchasing (4). If people take these suggestions into account, they can reach a good life without these tricky systems. It should not be forgotten that spending less makes people feel better.
Leonard, Annie. “The Story of Stuff.” Free Range Studios, 2007. 20 Aug. 2009. Web.
Saunders, Peter. “Why Capitalism Is Good for the Soul.” The Insider 23.4 (2008): 14- 21. Insider Online. The Insider Heritage Foundation, Apr. 2008. Web.
Schor, Juliet. “Juliet Schor on The Overspent American.” TIME.com. N.p., 20 May 1998. Web.
Todd, Danielle. “You Are What You Buy: Postmodern Consumerism and the
Construction of Self.” Fall 2011. Web.
Twitchell, James. “How I Bought My Red Miata.” August/ September 2000. Web.