The fact we have become an extremely consumeristic society is often swept under the rug in general conventional discussions about where our community life has gone wrong.
The conversation usually leans more towards the concept of ‘political consumerism’, which denotes that as a critical mass we can collectively change the way the world operates collectively by making ethical choices on what we buy and use (Health, 2001, Wiktionary, 2018). As a side note it is also interesting to consider how studies show this is more likely women who participate in the ‘call to action’ to ethical consumption (Lorenzini & Bassoli, 2016). But there is a sense of futility to political consumerism when looking through the lens of personal development, as it is focused entirely on the external world.
When we think of the culture of ‘consumerism’ we automatically think of plastics straws, two-dollar shops, constant upgrades to keep up and the incessant need to collect more and more; always trying to be better – and always from the outside in.
But does consuming more make you a better person from the inside out?
Rarely do we consider the more sinister side of the culture of consumerism, and that is the subsequent increase and consumption of ideas, values, concepts, opinions and the way we identify, communicate and present ourselves in our community.
For example, often in business these days is just as much about social media and how ideas are ‘sold’, rather than the heart of the service itself being able to ‘speak louder than words’. Where have the values around buying a product or service based on the quality of the job, rather than how well we market ourselves? Now there is so much demand around marketing personalities (take reality-tv as an example), that the quality of wellbeing and development ideas and services has plummeted. Particularly when unqualified people are highly successful based more on popularity contests, rather than qualifications, experience, connection to the right way and correct intentions.
The more sinister consumption that happens when we over-consume ‘stuff’; like social media platforms, watching unlimited supplies of movies, talks shows, advertisements, reality tv shows, newspapers, billboards or listening to an old-fashioned story; is essentially ingesting ideas which ripple into subsequent feelings and emotions. The same thing happens in some toxic workplaces, where you are told directly or covertly, to drink the ‘Kool Aid’ to fit in or keep your job.
Whether or not we subscribe, believe, or adopt some of the unhealthy ideas, concepts, values and opinions that they attempt to force down our throats – at this stage of the discussion is irrelevant. The reality is, what goes in must come out.
All the ideas we are flooded with are regurgitated constantly between ourselves in the community. Is it all good? And if it doesn’t come back out our mouths, it is probably defragmented by the wonderful neurological processes in your brain while you sleep…. Or worse yet, stored as an unresolved emotion or confused idea somewhere in your body.
Children in the modern day are immersed with this sense of instantaneous ‘buy and consume’ modality in all the blurred spaces between public and private, with a constant barrage of materialistic messages (Hill, 2011). Consumerism is having an enormous impact therefore on the formation of young people’s development and identity, and there is mounting evidence to suggest that the structure of childhood is eroding, and children are suffering from serious physical, emotional and social deficits directly related to consumerism (Hill, 2011).
On the other hand, of course stories, sharing and consuming the delight of entertainment is a wonderful part of experiencing the best of life and creative expression, and it’s been this way in our communities since ancient times. However, with rapid fire communication technologies now at our fingertips, the extreme over-consumption of these things are pathways to sickness.
Sickness from over-consumption of things is especially true for the highly sensitive, empathic souls in our community who are like sponges in their environments. Sometimes we may even soak up certain misguided standpoints on things as a ‘feeling’ that can almost be tasted, and yet because we are constantly bombarded we may forget how to articulate where the perception came from. These create more and more layers of ‘stuff’ we don’t need, and take away from who we really are; including a true understanding of our deeper selves.
When there is more going in then coming out, of course the result will be sicknesses? Consider this example: if you have a job and there is constantly more work coming in than you are physically capable of attending to, things evidently start to back-up, become blocked and the stressful pressure builds exponentially. Other over-intake related illnesses include anxiety (too much stress stimulation for too long), obesity (over consumption of food and drink), or from a lack of energy expenditure (outgoing) which creates excess acidity in the body, leading to a whole host of illnesses and cancers. And in some cases, these kinds of diseases might occur concurrently and compound each other.
When listening to our wise Elders past and present; Indigenous or non-Indigenous; we remember who we really are through the right values, principles and archetypes. The Hero’s journey is one such archetype that never seems to get old throughout time, even if set in the past, the current, dystopic fantasies or futuristic tales. The Hero’s journey is easier understood in fantastic blockbuster movies of the epic fight between good and evil, because it is simply black and white.
But in real life, often the hero’s journey is mounting and overcoming great cultural confusion and barriers to connecting to our deeper selves and greater potential; as spirit or soul and distinguished from physical nature (Dictionary.com, 2019). This is because the Hero’s journey resonates with a deep sense of ourselves, our fight and resilience against insidious oppressive forces whatever they are, and a visceral drive to protect the most beautiful creation… life itself.
Remember what goes in, must come out.
What are you consuming? What doesn’t sit right? Who do you want to be, and what legacy do you want to leave behind?
In a world where we are saturated with consumer culture; and in trying to overcome suffering; we can sometimes feel trapped in sometimes over-consuming things, including the wrong ideas or maybe stray temporarily from the path. It is the better parts of our community and supports, and ultimately teachings that inspire accessing a deeper sense of self, that brings us back on track.
In an overly consumeristic world, we must as individuals must learn to be discerning and choose what we swallow wisely; including figuratively; and this will then be reflected in the external world as positive cultural shifts towards a healthier community now, and for those to come.
By Madden, S. 2019
Dictionary.com. (2019). The Dictionary Definition of Spiritual. Retrieved from https://www.dictionary.com/browse/spiritual?s=t
Health, J. (2001). The Structure of Hip Consumerism. https://doi.org/10.1177/019145370102700601
Hill, J. A. (2011). Endangered Childhoods: How Consumerism is Impacting Child and Youth Identity. https://doi.org/10.1177/0163443710393387
Lorenzini, J. & Bassoli M. (2016). Gender Ideology: The Last Barrier to Women’s Participation in Political Consumerism? https://doi.org/10.1177/0020715215625726
Wiktionary. (2018). Political Consumerism. Retrieved from https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/political_consumerism