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consumer culture


A few weeks ago I was at a music festival and I noticed a passerby wearing a shirt that said, “Save me for my wants”! Those five words in many ways describe the underlying issue of our dayas a society we’re driven by what we want. We’re surrounded by a consumer culture focused on immediate gratification and satisfying our immediate needs. We want what we want and we want it now, with the credit card bills to prove it.

There’s nothing wrong with desire or wanting more in its proper place. It’s vital and a good part of humanity. However, our own desires left unchecked leads to lust and this is where we get in trouble. This was the case with Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein and countless politicians, CEO’s, and church leaders. Their legacies and creative genius were tarnished by their inability to simply tell themselves, “No”.

Much of what we pursue are things that can ultimately bankrupt our souls. We live in a culture that’s obsessively telling us that satisfying our wants is what will bring us “happiness”.

Yet, sadly the opposite is true, the more we consume and amass, the less meaning and satisfaction we find in life. If there was ever a definition of hell this would be it.

A few years back, I read a study that found the people of France were less happy than people who lived in Iraq and Afghanistan. “How could this be?”, I thought. As I read the article I found my answer in this quote: “…the country’s citizens are ‘taught’ to be miserable by elements of their own culture.”

What are those elements you say? Well, in many third world countries, people are happy with what they have, and in the western world we’re simply not. We’re trained to be dissatisfied. We want everything now no matter what the cost.  

The simple things that we used to enjoy are no longer enough. We’ve become like the spoiled child that has every toy his little heart could desire, but is screaming at the top of lungs, “I’m bored!”

Empirically and rationally, we all know this to be true, yet we can’t stop ourselves from desiring or lusting after temporary things that we know will eventually kill us. Ellen Goodman describes this beautifully:

“Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car and the house that you leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it.”

I believe all of us have been hardwired to seek out things that aren’t good for us, and the only way to combat this is to admit that we need help from a power that is higher than us.

In many ways, we’re all like addicts who need to be rehabilitated from our wants. Part of the recovery program is to unplug from the matrix; this isn’t easy to do. Going against the normal pattern of society takes tremendous emotional, spiritual and physical energy. The pull toward mediocrity and conformity is very powerful. Defying the pull of gravity isn’t easy, and it requires a tremendous amount of force. It’s said that a rocket uses 80% of its fuel just to take off. 

So, what’s the solution? Well, it’s definitely not will power; will power is good for awhile but it will eventually run out.

We do this by changing our thinking patterns. We have the power to control our thoughts and not be driven by them. We act better by thinking better.