Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions, in consumption. The measure of social status, of social acceptance, of prestige, is now to be found in our consumptive patterns. The very meaning and significance of our lives today expressed in consumptive terms. The greater the pressures upon the individual to conform to safe and accepted social standards, the more does he tend to express his aspirations and his individuality in terms of what he wears, drives, eats - his home, his car, his pattern of food serving, his hobbies.
These commodities and services must be offered to the consumer with a special urgency. We require not only “forced draft” consumption, but “expensive” consumption as well. We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever increasing pace. We need to have people eat, drink, dress, ride, live, with ever more complicated and, therefore, constantly more expensive consumption. The home power tools and the whole “do-it-yourself” movement are excellent examples of “expensive” consumption.
-Victor Lebow, 1955
Disgusting, isn’t it? And this quote wasn’t even hidden away in some secret manifesto.
Some people have claimed that there is some secret conspiracy to “merge” all religions. In reality, all that needs to be done is to capitalize on them, and if possible, tie consumerism to religion in some way. Here’s one clever way this has been done already: today, consumerism is understood by many to be the “American way.” American currency has “In God We Trust” on every note and coin and we have the words “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. Thus we understand that America is God’s country, and therefore, consumerism is God’s way. This makes the system above criticism and reproach by default.
Buying massive amounts of consumer goods has become all but a sacrament in the US, especially for Christmas. When a store uses the words “Merry Christmas,” they are subtly putting Jesus’s endorsement on their products, whether they intend to or not. You would think it would be sacrilegious to sell sweatshop products in Jesus’s name (he hardly seems the type to support the abuse sweatshop workers are put through), but if the outcry on the “war on Christmas” is any indication, people are more offended when they don’t. It’s a self-sustaining cycle now.
On the non-Christian side of the coin, Christmas as we know it has become so ubiquitous that almost everyone celebrates it, Christian or not, and have thus inherited this dark legacy despite their religious affiliation. Then we have New Age groups that focus on accumulating wealth (under the euphemism of “manifesting abundance”) and publications like The Secret that terrify people out of facing the ugly truths about the way things work because doing so would cause the bad things to manifest in their lives. Thus people have been mentally hobbled, prevented from acting in any meaningful way.
This system has proven to be unsustainable and destructive. Waste from producing these goods is polluting and killing our planet and us. Carbon emissions produced by creating and shipping these products are creating catastrophic climate changes.
Many Christian groups loudly proclaim that the damages we’re causing are all a hoax (or greatly exaggerated), and even if they’re not, God wouldn’t let mankind do something catastrophic to the planet, and even if he did, Jesus is going to return soon to take everyone to Heaven anyway so it doesn’t matter. Meanwhile, many New Age-types claim that we don’t have to do anything because everything is already perfect the way it is and when the new age dawns (the date of choice right now is December 21st, 2012), Earth will renew itself and all that bad stuff will go away.
As an aside, the government would often send double-agents to infiltrate civil rights movements and break them up by creating dissension due to their fear that these movements were really part of the communist agenda. Not enough time has yet passed for our country to un-learn our irrational fear of communism (which many people wrongly understand to be the only alternative to the corporatist-capitalist system we currently have), which makes me wonder how many of these groups have government and/or corporate agents trying to steer them toward apathetic consumerism. In the 60’s, New Agers were very pro-environment, anti-government - you know, the hippies. Now we have New Age leaders telling people to sit on their hands and wait, and here, buy this book that reveals the mystical secrets of some culture white people nearly wiped out for the low price of $35. (Funny how nobody ever asks how, if these people were so spiritually powerful, they were nearly wiped to extinction in the first place.)
Many people look at the toxic products on the shelves and conclude that They are deliberately trying to kill us. However, that’s not exactly the case - the fact of the matter is that making these products safer and less toxic would cost them a little more money and mean a lower profit margin. They simply don’t care if people get cancer or have children with developmental disorders as long as their profits are going up. The corporations are not about to kill off their consumer base. Indeed, they must tread a very fine line between maintaining consumer confidence (people wouldn’t buy their products if they were too toxic) and making them as cheaply as possible.
Basically, the big plan is and has been all along to turn everyone into mindless consumer drones. So far, it’s worked out pretty well.
Also, a thought occurred to me while writing this: is the government afraid of Islam because of its tenets, or because it doesn’t have any easily-commercialized holidays?