Thursday, June 30, 2005

Consumerism defined - and it ain't pretty

My friend Greg Gillam recently traveled the Illinois length of historic Route 66, and wrote a blog entry detailing the experience. The essay itself is its usual fascinating stuff, just what I would expect from Greg, but he also has a line in it that really made me stop and think:

"...[T]he heart of consumerism is a fixed state of potential pleasure which never arrives."

Jeez, Greg, did you knick this from somewhere or come up with it yourself? In either case it's brilliant, and suddenly made me realize exacty why I'm so uncomfortable anymore when I visit the St. Louis suburb where I grew up - because millions of people there are doing exactly what Greg just described, sitting around and buying more and more useless crap, waiting for the pleasure they were promised which never arrives, falling for the promise again every time a new piece of crap goes on sale.

Don't get me wrong - I believe in capitalism, and I believe in a free-market society, and I believe in both not only as economic theories but as actual lifestyles. But there's a difference between capitalism and consumerism: in the former it's the customer in charge, and the person with cash in their wallet who is dictating the business practices of the company in question; while in the latter the customer is a voluntary slave, unwilling to use their intelligence to question the company with whom they're interacting, instead simply buying the things the company tells them to buy and hoping that it'll somehow make a difference in their lives. My advice to you - be a capitalist, not a consumerist. Believe me, you'll be a much happier person as a result.