I have the feeling that at some certain point, business was chosen. People were removed from the focus of development, and many human bonds became commercial relations.
What we know today as consumer habits date back to the end of the nineteenth century. For the industrial model to prosper, people had to make purchases continuously so unsold goods did not languish on shelves. Production took place on a large-scale basis, which explained the importance of social conventions: the more standardized things were, the easier it was to meet demand.
From there, other players joined the game: the illusion of easy credit, the seduction of advertising, and sophisticated manufacturing techniques – all able to satisfy your most secret desires that you didn’t even know you had until you were seduced by them in some shop window. Breaking down consumption into segments and affordable customization appeared, causing social conventions to lose strength. Individuality was the new flag of freedom. Or was it advertising?
Following this storyline, what used to be landscape became advertising. Our cities became advertising, culture became advertising, editorials became advertising. Since then, we live immersed in consumerism.
There is nothing wrong with consumption. Since we grew out of hunting and gathering, it has been an everyday activity. What bothers me is overconsumption. Ambition is when we want something we don’t yet have, and achieving this goal can fill us with a certain value. Greed is when we want more of what we already have; it is when desires blur the limits of common sense. When selfishness makes us forget that we are a group, and if one has too much, someone else will definitely not have enough.
Beyond economic and sustainable consequences, one of the darkest aspects of our time may be the fact that overconsumption took people out of the center of their own lives, since life became advertising.
Today, a good life is a “lifestyle.” The rise of the blogosphere is evidence of this trend, with its content touting goods and services that should be aspired to or become a standard for quality of life. We start to believe that if we don’t get the likes that validate us, we do not exist. Under this logic, we are either consuming or offering ourselves to be consumed.
And this is how we live according to the rules of business. As much as we believe that we evolved so much since the beginning of time, and even despite our spasms of ethics and advanced aesthetics, it seems we have grown very little when it comes to consciousness. Now is the time to try.
Before making an impulse buy, think, conjure up the collective spirit, consider nature and the common good. Question every desire, “Do I really need this? Does this product impact the planet? Is this the best option available?”
We must think of others and recover human relations, those relationships that are not precise, and also don’t yield dividends. We must also demand that the market commits to the future. Knowing where we are going is not enough, we need to move forward. If not, we will stay this way: waiting, anxious, lonely, laden with bags, until this new consciousness comes to our rescue.
Article originally published in Made Magazine, in April 2015.