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Friday, December 12, 2008

Consumer Culture

We are really living in the age of consumerism aka modern times. Today consumers have been turned into dustbins for private enterprises to discard their innumerable list of products manufactured more with a view to creating new needs rather than fulfilling needs. It is rather the creation of comfort zone or luxury than needs for few that converts the life of thousands into hell.

Even Images, ads and videos are created and seen more from the point of view of consumerism than as an expression of ideas. The shot of C. Chaplin working frantically in the factory to keep up with the assembly line of production in Modern Times spoke about the basic nature of consumerism and the death of the normal worker. Today, it really speaks volumes about the basic nature of any industry and the effect of consumer culture on our human society.

The sub-prime crisis in America surfaced when defaults were reported in payments for housing mortgages. The 5% population consumes 25% resources of the world. 90% of GDP is consumed in loans (Sources:Business India 5,October 2008). It is the real face of the capitalist economy of America which wants bail out package from the government. Ancient Indian had described consumerism as tendency to "Rinam kritvaa ghritam pibet "/"Take a loan and drink the ghee".

"This consumerism is not the problem with everyone in India, but there are enough such folks to make the issue a cause for concern. This is literally the first generation of young people freely using credit cards - without realizing the consequences. They see it as a necessary self indulgence. Lifestyle is their life. There are worrying stories of call center employees who are clueless about managing their money. By the 15th of the month, they've spent their salaries and continue shopping on credit cards. Then, instead of paying off the monthly balance in full they pay the minimum amount. Not realizing the horrendous 2.5-3% interest a month they're being charged. A few months down the line they are deeply in debt."(Source)

A must read for all of us : The article "Non Efficient Citizen" by Tomas Kavaliauskas on 'consumer culture and capitalism'. It was originally written in Lithuanian but it is transliterated in various languages due to its universal theme and impact. Here is brief paragraph from article -

"The capitalist order implies that the ultimate objective of citizens is to be consumers. Yet consumerism grounded in indebtedness means financial dependence as opposed to democratic freedom, writes Tomas Kavaliauskas. In the consumerist system, the individual who asserts him or herself through authentic freedom is regarded as a non-efficient citizen."

PDF LINK is here.
We often forget that "One should eat to live, not live to eat." - Cicero

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