September 19th, 2006 by I.C.
Consumerism is slavery. Modern life, which is based exclusively on the constant acquisition of consumer goods, is the main cause of those feelings of depression, anxiety, and loneliness that accrue in so many people’s lives today. Unlike past forms of slavery, however, there is no specific delineation between human masters and servants; rather, it is an enslavement to ideas and beliefs. We chain ourselves willingly to things we simply do not need.
This slavery is better appreciated when we deconstruct it. First, modern consumer life enslaves the labour of individuals, tying everyone to a model of social organization that seeks to extract natural resources from the earth and convert them into consumer products. Thus, every morning, millions upon millions of people wake up, commute to work on overcrowded transportation systems so that they can go to an office building where they sit and work with other people, many of them relative strangers, using their brains to accomplish a task that was given to them by a higher up.
Going to work is represented as a choice: since there is no taskmaster or man with a whip forcing people to do things, there is a facade that no one is forced to do anything. But coercion is inherent, because if you don’t go to work, you can’t earn a wage, and without a wage it is impossible to secure the basic necessities of life (food, water, shelter). There is no opt-out provision, no way to exit the long hours of work and go somewhere else where people might choose to live as they please.
This constriction of human potential leads to misery. How many people today fear the ringing of their alarm at some ungodly hour, awakening them to yet another day of some mind-numbing task which bears no relation to their own true wants and desires! How common is the desire to find the “perfect job,” even when such a job cannot exist — for all jobs are tied to the machinery of consumption and possession. Over time, there is an existential sense of boredom, discontent and loneliness attached to everyday life, which becomes compounded with the realization that there is no end in sight.
In response to these feelings, people enslave their minds to various coping strategies that help them get through the day. Living out one’s life in an 8 x 10 cubicle is not natural; the boredom and suffering attached to the workday, like any other pain, is a warning signal given by the brain, telling its occupant that things are not right. Some individuals take psychoactive drugs like antidepressants or alcohol as a way of getting through the day, while others cling to fundamentalist beliefs that help interpret a world without meaning. But perhaps the most widespread coping strategy is a simple conformance to consumer life, and it is here that we witness the true genius of the consumer model. Even as it creates the social conditions that produce feelings of stress, anxiety, and loneliness, it also suggests that the answer is to literally buy into the system, to seek some purpose in the unfettered acquisition of consumer items. Find fulfilment through shopping, it says; meanwhile, ignore the lack of choice and genuine human connectivity in your life. Dismiss the importance of family, friends, and free time, of your precious liberty and freedom, because you have money to earn and things to purchase.
The enslavement of labour and mind results in a third form of bondage: the enslavement of the spirit. The direction of human labour towards resource extraction and consumption, and the use of the psychological energy in justifying a life spent on continual consumer acquisition, leaves little time to spend with oneself or with others. This is perhaps the most tragic aspect of modern life: as animals endowed with tremendous amounts of imagination and also a deep capacity to create and cultivate interpersonal connections, it is in our nature to want to relax, do nothing, to sit around and converse with others, and yet these are the activities that we have the least amount of time to do. Over time, and through years of indoctrination through the school system, people become culturally programmed to forget that life can be much more than what TV says.
Yet even in the midst of this oppression and slavery there is still the potential for genuine freedom and human expression. No amount of material wealth can hide the deep ache for liberty that resides in every person’s heart. A better way of life is possible, but to get there requires a thorough examination of modern society. It requires that every individual who finds herself asking if the Tower of Babel that has been constructed on the foundation of so much misery, toil, and oppression is inevitable — or whether there is a path back to Zion. Unlike any other form of slavery, the chains of consumerism can be dispensed with whenever a person decides for herself that it simply isn’t worth it anymore. Freedom, in other words, is a choice — and the more people who realize that life can change for the better, at any moment, the more hope there is for the unleashing of the dormant potential of the human race.
This article taken from: http://www.demandmore.org/2006/09/19/consumerism-is-slavery/