Consumer Culture

Living in the new apartment has been amazing and I can’t believe I used to think my old apartment was awesome. Ever. The new apartment is cheaper and smaller and newer, go figs. I like being forced to have less. I should probably qualify that statement because I’ve never been one to WANT MORE. Rather, my mother keeps filling up my living space with the cast offs from her overly crowded and horribly decorated farm house. Cool. It goes like this: Mom decides she needs new curtains or new Tupperware or new living room decor. She bags up the slightly used, two-months-old stuff and brings it over. I pick through it, usually not finding much I want to keep unless there happens to be some bitchin‘ belongings from the 70s milling among the Christmas sweaters and mini blinds (not likely). Then I take the bag to the Salvation Army. But now that I’ve moved into a more compact living space she’s taken to cutting out the middle man and driving her dejected goods to the depot herself.

The process of moving made me hate myself just a little bit. I had so much stuff. Useless crap that I’d somehow accumulated and never used. Items that I probably felt I HAD to buy and therefore worked very hard to spend money I didn’t have on things I didn’t need.

I took over a dozen garbage bags to the Salvation Army.

We live in a world of excess. Advertising dominates our lives and it’s no wonder so many people are over extended on their mortgages and their credit cards and their lives. More. Bigger. When you are taught that your life is measured in horsepower and square footage I suppose it is only a matter of time before you cry yourself to sleep in your California King bed after they repossess the Porsche.

The economic crisis has turned lives inside out and upside down, but I have to guess that the people impacted the greatest have one common denominator; they were living beyond their means. Middle class, lower class, the richest of the rich. Many of us live on credit. And when you accumulate massive amounts of debt and the monthly payments steadily increase you start to feel the pinch so you think I should probably stop buying some shit. But then the new iPhone is released and after that comes the latest hybrid SUV. Okay, just this one last thing and THEN I’ll stop spending.

Then you get fired because the factory or corporation or Starbucks is down sizing.

The bill collector calls you every evening to tuck you in with nightmares of foreclosure and homelessness.

Brace yourself, because this is going to hurt. You did it to yourself.

In the back of our minds, we know when we’re balancing on a house of cards and we still take the risk because we will always want MORE.

There is a chance that I will be taking a huge pay cut in the immediate future. My roommate asked me with panic in her eyes, “What will you do if that happens?”

I shrugged. “I guess I won’t be putting as much in a savings account as I’d like”, I replied.

I went down the road of bankruptcy when I was twenty years old. I was crying over my financial douchebaggery behavior when I was eighteen. I was dodging bill collectors at the age of nineteen. I learned my lesson. I’m just so grateful that I didn’t have to gain the knowledge when I had a home and a spouse and children.

This economic situation is a big kick in the teeth for many people. And for that I’m sorry. But I wonder if it’s really impacting them the way it should be because the other day I was flipping through some channels and was subject to this. I could have turned to something else. Something on the History Channel or Discovery Health. But people, this was like watching plane crash footage. I knew it was going to be awful but I couldn’t tear myself away. Damn you, Bravo network! And then there are shows like Platinum Weddings and movies like Shopaholic. Pop culture that makes me throw up in my mouth because it stinks of irresponsibility and fucked up priorities and flagrant consumerism.

All I can do is live simply. Simply live. Stop buying new things for which I don’t have a hunter-gatherer sense of need.* Scavenge garage sales if I’m feeling like I need a ‘new’ piece of furniture or wall hanging or knick knack. Buy locally if I must buy new. The world is full of enough products and money that I’m sure if people like the egotistical bastards on Million Dollar Listing would settle for 1,500 square feet instead of demanding 4,000 square feet in which to throw college parties and then donate the difference to a worthy cause then we would ALL be living better. And maybe that last sentence didn’t make a lot of sense but I know that not every single child in every family needs their very own television and a walk-in closet. And maybe THAT sentence didn’t make sense either but I’m pretty sure you get my drift.

*Except books. I need my books. Nerds need the printed word.

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