The Downward Spiral of Consumerism

This post shares with you two pieces of text I have come across that truly convey the stupidity of  the materialist society we are now a part of. People are being constantly tricked through advertising and mainstream media into believing that in order to be truly happy they must have this particular product or buy that particular good. This creates a downward spiral of consumerism in which people are purchasing and purchasing in the hope that they will one day become fulfilled. In reality however this is like trying to keep a bucket full of water; not realising there is a hole in the bottom. The first of these pieces is an excerpt from Charles Bukowski’s short story “The Gut-Wringing Macine” which can be found in his The Most Beautiful Woman in Town compilation.

“I would like to work 7 days a week if possible, and 2 jobs if possible.”

“Why?”

“Money Sir. Money for colour TV, new autos, down payment on a home, silk pyjamas, 2 dogs, an electric shave, life insurance, medical insurance, oh and all kinds of insurance and college educations for my children if I have children and automatic doors on the garage and fine clothes and 45 dollar shoes, and cameras, wrist watches, rings, washers, refrigerators, new chairs, new beds, wall-to-wall carpeting, donations to the church, thermostat heating and…”

“All right. Stop. Now when are you going to use all this stuff?”

“I don’t understand, Sir!”

“I mean, when you are working night and day and overtime, when are you going to enjoy these luxuries?”

“Oh, there’ll be a day, there’ll be a day, Sir!”

This highlights the fact that consumerists will always be needing the next thing, in turn never actually getting the chance to truly enjoy what they already have. Everything good will take place at some point in the future. What they don’t realise however is that this ‘end’ is also moving, always remaining slightly out of reach. The second piece of text is a parable taken from Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Work Week. It’s simplicity clearly defined the true value of money. The businessman can only see happiness as a product of accumulated capital wealth – blinded by greed. More is always better on his terms, whereas the wise Fisherman understands that TIME is the only real commodity we should be living by.

An American businessman took a vacation to a small coastal Mexican village on doctor’s orders. Unable to sleep after an urgent phone call from the office the first morning, he walked out to the pier to clear his head. A small boat with just one fisherman had docked, and inside the boat were several large yellow fin tuna.

The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.

“How long did it take you to catch them?” the American asked.

“Only a little while,” the Mexican replied in surprisingly good English.

“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” The American then asked.

“I have enough to support my family and give a few to friends,” the Mexican said as he unloaded them into a basket.

“But…What do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican looked up and smiled. “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Julia, and stroll in the village each evening, where I sip win and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, Señor.”

The American applauded and stood tall. “Sir, I’m a Harvard M.B.A. and can help you. You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. In no time, you could buy several boats with the increased haul. Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats.”

He continued, “Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening up your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village, of course, and move to Mexico City, then to Los Angeles, and eventually New York City, where you could run your expanding enterprise with proper management.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, Señor, how long will all this take?”

To which the American replied, “15-20 years. 25 tops.”

“But what then, Señor?”

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.”

“Millions, Señor? Then what?”

“Then you would retire and move to a small coastal fishing village, where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, and stroll into the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos…”

 

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