We live in a consumer society.
The drive is to get "stuff". The more you have and the more expensive it is, the more society seems to admire you. The biggest houses, the fanciest cars. Even more exotic things like boats and planes.
What about when the personal computer first came out in the early 1980's? How much money was spent on that old XT or AT computer? Then the 486, pentium and so on... How amazing was it when the first colour screens came out? The floppy disk, the stiffy disc, the CD, the DVD, the USB, and now the "cloud". I remember when RAM was 4 megahertz, and when a hard drive was ten meg! It was impossible to need more storage space, or so we thought.
Then the cell phone, an almost miraculous invention. I remember the one corny joke. "The cell phone rings while the blonde lady is shopping. She answers it and expresses her amazement to the caller by asking, how did you know I was here shopping?" Cell phones are now "smart devices" and the "telephone" function is a minor part.
In the Old Days, I remember seeing the Garmin GPS to help you drive to an unknown destination. Now it is just part of a smart phone. The tremendous development of computers is staggering. The technological developments are mind blowing, aren't they?
Compare the modern motor car of today with the car that I was a child in during the 1960's. The developments are like comparing the spear to the hunting rifle. I remember my Dad's old Prefect battling to get up a hill in East London while all other cars passed us.
Yet everything MUST be bought. More! More! More!
I live in Johannesburg South Africa. The car is an important status symbol to many people. It is almost like a fad; when the Toyota Raider became popular, everybody who can afford it drives one. Now it is the Ford Ranger, I see it everywhere. These trucks or bakkies, are fabulous vehicles of incredible luxury. The cost of these vehicles seems very expensive to me. If your car does not match up, you are regarded with disdain.
It is like an ever speeding up circle, where the house, car, clothes and food must be acquired and used. Yet the unpleasant other side of the equation is trillions of tons of garbage, it is even called "landfill", sounds so much better than rubbish, or waste.
Cycles of society change. In the 1960's vegetables and fruit were bought at the market. Then came frozen vegetables, which improved the lives of women. Then the "fast food market" really took off. Now people "eat out" several times a week. We used to go to "drive inns", then television was allowed into South Africa in the 1970's. Then "bought channels" such as M Net and now DSTV. Now Netflix is taking over as bandwidth and affordability of the internet improves here.
Constant advertising bombards the public and tempts us to buy more and more. The word "want" has been changed to "need". If you buy "this", your family will benefit so much, pictures of joyful children are often associated with products. Pull on those heartstrings of the Moms everywhere. The male market equates masculinity with certain products; " a tough man deserves a tough bakkie (truck)! The female market equates enhanced beauty with certain products. It just goes on and on and on...
the availability of credit proliferates and millions of unwary people are sucked in. In the old days, people were serfs, today the common man is still a slave, trapped by debt. Hopes for young people are to gain a better education, all struggle to go to university and as a consequence subject themselves and their families to mountains of debt. These debts take a lifetime to repay.
The litany just goes on and on.
Are things getting better? Society wants you to think so. Just look at all the "things" you have! What a success you are! I really admire you!
The first time I realized the "emptiness of owning" was when I was a child. My parents taught me how to save and even opened a savings account for me. How I loved looking at the increase in the numbers. I felt wealthy. The greatest toy in the world to me was the Scalextric kit. This consisted of tracks that could be clipped together and cars that could drive down the grooves. There was a throttle which you could control the speed of the cars.
(my ultimate boyhood dream)
When after many months, my savings reached R10, I bought a matchbox car kit. It had a long spring in the track and the car had a spike below it that would fit into the track where the spring was. If the toy functioned effectively for a month, I am probably exaggerating. I remember the empty feeling I had, the disappointment. All my money gone into this! Two years of savings gone in a moment.
(such lovely little cars, I spend many hours playing with them)
Later in my early teens I did get second hand Scalextric set and it worked well. Yet after a time I lost interest in it.
You may wonder if I learned a lesson from all of this? Did this knowledge and understanding serve me well? I am wondering the same thing myself.
Yet we must have stuff!?
There was a stage in my life where I did not have a reliable car. It caused a lot of stress as my work is over twenty kilometers from my residence and there is no public transport system. So we are "locked in" to consuming. Or should I say trapped?
Can we escape? Do we want to escape? Our entire society is built upon it, without buying everything will collapse.
How can we know if we are trapped? Quite easy, how much money do you owe?