Dec 5, 2008

Consumerism taking its toll on our society

Consumerism taking its toll on our society

Dec 05, 2008 04:30 AM
Re:Battling the cult of consumerism,

Dec. 1

What better timing for this article – in the midst of a deteriorating economic situation.

Stuart Laidlaw points out how the state-of-the-art advertising techniques have created a culture that emphasizes high consumption, compulsive acquisition and instantaneous gratification. The deceptive notion that happiness consists of possessing things, regardless of the price one has to pay, needs to be subverted.

Our insatiable urge to acquire things, whether or not they are necessary, has indeed reached epidemic proportions. It generates severe social and cultural dislocations and warps the basic values of our society. Overspending and overconsumption engineer a variety of problems such as social fragmentation, excessive egocentric mentality and chronic stress, factors that seriously imperil social harmony.

Shopping has become the most preferred activity of North Americans. Impulse shopping, Internet shopping, shopping to amuse oneself, shopping as a form of therapy – these have become the core values of a post-modernist culture. Advertisements are essential for the promotion of a product, but employing unethical means by throwing to the winds decency and moral values is a sad scenario we are witnessing today.

Even children are not immune from this consumption mania. "Children are especially vulnerable," laments Laidlaw. One of the most distressing aspects is how marketers and advertisers have discovered that colonizing the imagination of the child is the most effective way of securing a life-long consumer.

Consumer activist Ralph Nader describes advertisements aimed at children as "corporate child abuse." Advertising-driven consumerism has thus invaded and desecrated the most sacrosanct segments of human relationships.

Another aberration that crass consumerism creates is "chronic self-absorption." The unremitting craving for things leaves people with little time and patience to think about others. Hence most people are unmindful of the maladies of their surroundings. For instance, how many of us know that the child poverty rate in an affluent country like Canada has climbed to 17.4 per cent nationwide.

Alongside cultivating mindful consumption habits, a more fruitful strategy would be to strive for a new social order based on equity and social justice that would minimize if not totally eliminate alienation, one of the root causes of consumerism.

Javed Akbar, Markham

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