CONSUMER OR CONSUMED

So, you believe that the path you have chosen was of your own volition? You set your goals based on high principles and took into account the needs of others.

What if I told you that the path you chose was actually chosen for you. That the markers of success were instilled in you by outside sources. That the joy you feel is due to your possessions and the activities you partake in.

What I am saying is you, along with all Americans, and most of the world, are controlled by influencers. That the things you do are chosen by corporations that depend on you to partake in earning them the most money possible.

Allow me to digress in order to take you through the steps that have led to creating the world you now live in and are controlled by.

With the advent of the assembly line and other modern innovations, workers found themselves with more free time.

In their spare time, people went to the movies and gathered in stadiums to watch professional sports. In 1926, the first radio networks were established.

Inventions, such as the car, radio and movies opened the doors to a previously unknown world. The optimism of the 1920s was fueled by the emerging mass media empire, the advertising industry and the corporations that marketed illusions of fulfillment.

Workers found themselves with more money, and due to the puritan background, they saved diligently.

Yet, in order for businesses to grow sales and profits, they had to rid workers of traditional values and attitudes toward thrift and prudence and nurture qualities like wastefulness, self-indulgence, and artificial obsolescence.

Advertisers constantly told them that those were the fruits of success, which was what life was all about. By the mid 1920s innovations in industry led to supply outstripping demand, and problems of scarcity were replaced by problems of how to create more demand.

Over-production and lack of consumer demand was blamed for the recession. More goods were being produced than a population with set habits and means could consume.

There were two schools of thought about how this problem should be solved. One was that work hours should be decreased and the economy stabilized so that production met current needs. The opposing view, mainly held by business people and economists, was that overproduction could and should be solved by increasing consumption so that economic growth could continue.

Manufacturers needed to continually expand production so as to increase their profits. Others warned that a five-day week would undermine the work ethic by giving more time for leisure. If work took up less of the day, it would be less important in peoples’ lives.

They also feared that given extra free time, people might become radicals. ‘Common people have to be kept at their desks and machines, lest they rise up against their betters.’

It was important that leisure was not an alternative to work and an opportunity to reflect on life, but rather a time for consumption. At the same time, leisure had to be subordinate to work and importantly, a reason to work.

And so the end result is a culture, not just any culture, but the richest on the planet, that wants nothing more than to buy goods that require the precious resources of the Earth, are built with planned obsolesce in mind, and in turn pollute the environment to an unsustainable degree.

Consumption helps sublimate and redirect urges that might otherwise be expressed politically or aggressively. To those who cannot change their whole lives or occupations, even a new dress is often a relief.

It is only as purchasers, or shoppers that workers are treated with the courtesy worthy of a human being. What mattered in getting ahead and influencing people was the impression a person made on others. Ordinary people could enjoy the same products and goods that the people at the top did.

Even as bankruptcy and financial debt increased, consumers continue marching to the discount stores, trading their wages for things that will be worth less or worthless by the next season. What we know today as conspicuous consumption.

The idea that there were limits on consumer wants began to be eclipsed by the idea that such wants could endlessly be created.

The Barons of industry asked themselves, ‘If such benefit could be derived by 9-5 control, what could be done by 5-9 control.’

And that was when consumerism was taken to the next level: bank loans, purchases on margin, credit cards, constant, redundant TV commercials. Businesses instilled a psychological and physiological need in people for ‘things.’ Workers were told what to make in the day and what to buy in the evenings and on weekends.”

And now you actually think that the car you drive, a car that is more expensive than you can actually afford, signifies your success. You believe that your 5,000 square foot home, of which you use only a small part of, is necessary as a marker of your success. You believe that going out to a one hundred (or more) dollar dinner is something you deserve due to the hard work you put in. You believe that it is necessary to wear expensive clothing, jewelry and watches or else you will be looked down upon.

You are living not “the dream,” but “the nightmare.”

And so the end result is a culture, not just any culture, but the richest on the planet, that wants nothing more than to buy goods that require the precious resources of the Earth, are built with planned obsolesce in mind, and in turn pollute the environment to an unsustainable degree.

Consumption helps sublimate and redirect urges that might otherwise be expressed politically or aggressively. To those who cannot change their whole lives or occupations, even a new dress is often a relief.

It is only as purchasers, or shoppers, that workers are treated with the courtesy worthy of a human being. What mattered in getting ahead and influencing people was the impression a person made on others. Ordinary people could enjoy the same products and goods that the people at the top did.

Even as bankruptcy and financial debt increased, consumers continue marching to the discount stores, trading their wages for things that will be worth less or worthless by the next season. What we know today as conspicuous consumption.

Advertisers are merchants of discontent who take advantage of the upgrading urge that people feel. With the help of installment plans and credit, they could purchase the signifiers of success. Advertising was so successful that people began diverting funds from savings into the purchase of a car or home that would enhance their status.

People suffer all over the world while you surf the web for things to buy, or to view funny videos, or go to the mall.

You are like cattle, forced through a narrow path of life.

Still think you control your destiny?

WHAT ABOUT TELEVISION?

Television Simulates Life

Many people are now using television as a substitute for life. The content of television – with its cuts, edits, zooms, pans, and sudden noises – mimics, although poorly, real life interaction. The temptation is to substitute watching programs for participation in life’s events. The brain is easily fooled by this counterfeit simulation of the real thing.

Researchers say that people lose their ability and confidence to interact socially after heavy viewing. Statistically it has been found that television has the following negative effects:

1) The couch potato factor: It takes away the time and incentive to exercise. Individuals watching TV use even fewer calories than when sleeping! Studies have found that heavy viewers are less likely to participate in community activities and sports and are more likely to be obese.

2) Less social interaction: television poorly mimics interpersonal relationships, lessening the need and the ability to interact. Introversion can result.

3) Snack attack: The foods people choose while watching TV have been found to directly correlate with the advertising messages of the sponsors. 41% of the foods portrayed on TV are snack foods. These foods contain high amounts of fats and sugars, which stimulate the appetite center and do not signal the brain that we are full.

4) Vicarious experience: Watching others engage in new experiences drains the motivation of viewers to go out into the real world. The mind becomes used to letting a source outside of itself give it data for conclusions. Curiosity, intellectual questioning, and learning from one’s own experiences are slowed down

when television watching is increased. Watching television does not put one in touch with other people, or even with ourselves. Instead, it bombards the individual with the agenda and values of the TV programmers and advertisers. Spending a lot of time in front of the TV feeds loneliness. It encourages viewers to let someone else decide what’s interesting.

One determination as to whether a substance or a behavior is an addiction lies in whether the individual experiences withdrawal symptoms. Substances that are addictive involve the triggering of a reaction and a subsequent cessation.

In the 1960’s, Gary A. Steiner of the University of Chicago followed families whose TV sets had broken. “The family,” he recounted, “walked around the house like chickens without heads.” He related some of the comments by those involved in the study: “It was terrible. We did nothing – my husband and I screamed constantly. Children bothered me; my nerves were on edge. Tried to interest them in games, but it was impossible.”

In experiments, families have volunteered to stop watching TV. Many of them could not complete the short period of self-restraint. Charles Winick of the City University of New York concluded that, just as with chemical dependence, the first three or four days of withdrawal from TV were the worst. In over half the households, during those first few days, regular routines were disrupted and family members had difficulty adjusting; anxiety and aggression were expressed. People living alone tended to be bored and irritated. People had lost the inner resources to entertain themselves.

Television watching increases passivity in human behavior by developing reliance on vicarious experiences. People interact less with each other and more with the “electronic babysitter.”

TV promotes avoidance of movement and exercise and encourages overeating. Dr. John Foreyt, obesity expert at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston has said that the strongest predictor of obesity, especially childhood obesity, is the number of hours spent in front of a television.

The constant visual and auditory stimulation coming from the TV set is addictive. Knowing that TV is, in fact, a drug, can help us combat its deleterious effects. Like any drug, the first hit, or in the case of TV, the first program, leads to watching more. One sitcom turns into another…until the evening is gone, and with it the opportunity to interact with loved ones, build interpersonal relationships, communicate with children, exercise, take up a new hobby, or take an adult education course at school.

Artificial stimuli, such as those coming at us from television, quickly trigger the release of enkephalins, (short-lived endorphins) but just as quickly spur the need for renewed release. Natural Endorphins, Dopamine, Oxytocin and Serotonin triggers last longer and do not require constant replenishment.

Be a participant in life, not just a viewer. We have the capacity to choose. Knowing what those choices are, brings us that much closer to regaining control of our lives and making good use of our time. Television is insidious. It plays six major roles that used to be reserved for the family – cultural mentor, sexual advisor, hero, family manager, arbitrator, and friend. The TV has now supplanted these positions. It’s not just a half hour that is gone by; it’s your life that’s going by.

Your goal in life should not be to accumulate material items with planned obsolescence built in. Your goal should be to be of benefit to others less fortunate than yourself.

Opportunities are everywhere. All you need is “to be awake.” Look around you; seek those circumstances. Consider it good fortune when you find such opportunities.

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