Consumerism as American Identity

“We gotta have more.” This statement seems to personify American culture.  It seems as if we are always striving to have more stuff; be it money, clothing, or any number of things.  Why do we as a society feel as if the quantity of stuff we have determines are self-worth.

My roommate, who is from Trinidad and Tobago, made the statement that “America has the most creative advertisements of anyone in the world.”  Does this account for our desire to spend?  Are we being manipulated by big business?  Or are we demanding manipulation?  Maybe we as a society demand clever advertisement to excuse our consumerist behaviors.

We consume everything.  We consume mass quantities of food, huge stores of fossil fuels, and of course that all American idea of space.  You see, our consumerist tendencies effect more than the economy.  We dilute the world of precious resources.  We destroy rain-forests, oil supplies, and ultimately people’s lives.  All for our own personal convenience.

How, you might ask, do we destroy people’s lives?  It’s all boils down to an idea that was eloquently summed up by the author Steven Hiatt; he terms this “The Human Cost of Cheap Cell Phones.”  You see, we demand so much in exchange for so little that companies are pressured to outsource labor to impoverished companies where they exploit the population in order to provide you and I cheap cell phones, sneakers, clothing, you name it.

Yes, we condemn outsourcing jobs but we as a society exert so much pressure on business to offer a product for such low prices that, if they wish to survive, businesses have very little choice when it comes to outsourcing.  It almost becomes an outsource or die dilemma.  In turn, our consumerist culture puts ourselves out of a job.

We need to really start teaching our children that their self-worth is not determined by what they own.  A person’s self-worth should, instead, be the content of their character and the ideas that they promote.  Furthermore, it should be measured by the amount of good that a person does for other people and society as a whole.  Instead of striving to gain riches, strive to make a difference.  Attempt to make the world a little better than it was when you found it.

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  1. Consumerism sucks | MetroGypsy - May 17, 2013

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