Western society is one of consumerism – we consume unnecessary resources for our own pleasure, and this is often
at the expense of the environment and other community values. Consumerism is real, but as a means to happiness is a fallacy.
Many sociologists have predicted that our consumption focused behaviour will be the downfall of western society
and that this is already being evidenced by social trends over the last 25 years where:
- Incomes have risen rapidly,
but our expectations have risen even faster.
- Advertising via the media is creating an artificial level of expectation
and propagating the culture of consumerism.
- Because our expectations are artificially high, we are unhappy if we
can’t afford all the material items we think we should have.
- As a society we are generally becoming more unhappy
with our lot in life as we keep trying to get more money, so we can spend more money on more things [that we really don’t
- Material possessions are becoming more valued than human values such as respect, honour and integrity.
- Moral standards are lowering, and self-centred crime driven by personal greed and lack of respect for others is increasing.
If consumerism is the bullet in our demise, then undoubtedly the media is the weapon.
The media is a
very powerful thing – it features heavily in our lives and is literally everywhere we go. It is therefore a large influence
on what we think and do.
I know what you’re thinking – just because it’s on TV or in the
latest fashion magazine doesn’t mean we are forced to go and buy it. We all know that we can choose what we buy but
because we are being constantly bombarded with images of wealth, material possessions and body image, we are slowly being
brain-washed and our expectations are changing to one of ‘well everyone else has one of those, maybe I need one too!’.
And Bingo! The driving force of consumerism in a nutshell.
And this is also why so many people fall
into those ‘get-rich-quick’ scams – they think they need to earn more money so they can buy more material
Don’t get me wrong – media also has a valuable role in education, information, news and advertising
of ‘important’ services such as health insurance. But these high value services are intermingled with advertisements
for stuff we really don’t need [do you REALLY need another ring tone for your mobile] and it is hard to distinguish
the difference, so we think it’s ALL important and in fact ‘normal’.
And don’t forget
that 25 years ago we didn’t have mobile phones, iPods or home theatres – and we were quite happy! You don’t
need material possessions to survive or even to be happy.
What’s really important?
So this all begs the question
– what’s really important?
Think back through your life and identify some happy events and memories.
Most probably these events involve family, friends or self achievement – and not when you bought your new luxury car
or replaced your 1 year old [dated] mobile.
Similarly with sad events in your life – a death of a family
member, divorce or similar, and not when you lost your Louis Voutton luggage.
What does this mean? It means that
despite our consumer behaviour, what really matters in life are human values. Human values recognise that:
- The simple
pleasures of spending quality time with your kids, family and friends can bring far more happiness than any amount of money
or material possession.
- Respect for others, personal honour and integrity are measures of a real person - not weight,
dress size and girth.
- Success is measured in the feeling of ‘satisfaction’ and happiness, not dollars
or job title.
- A ‘home’ is more important than a house.
- ‘Communicating’ is more important
than your phone’s ‘style’ or ring tone.
- Being able to drive safely from A to B is more important
than the 12-decker CD player and engine power.
- Looking good for self-confidence and being healthy is more important
- Wearing comfortable clothes and accessories that you like and need, is more important than who designed
And it is important that we don’t lose sight of this. Don’t get sucked in by all the media hype
and fall into the culture of consumerism – you will only end up being unhappy with your meaningless life.
The one thing we all have in common is that one day, we’ll die. And when you are on you death bed, I can guarantee
you that your final thoughts will be with your closest family and friends and you won’t give a damn about any wealth
you’ve accumulated or how big your house was.
So make your life count so that when you look back on it from
your deathbed, you don’t regret what you’ve done but can be proud of it instead because you’ve done what
Think about what you want on your tombstone
and in your obituary – and live THIS life.