A conversation with a friend led to the question, “What pisses you off the most about the world?” Many things deserve that title, but in the spirit of the holiday season, I ranked consumerism as the thing that drives me crazy.
It’s not only the fact that after every Christmas, applications for Payday loans, bankruptcies and other financial instruments skyrocket. Or that it wastes tremendous amount of resources on a limited planet which could be used for other wiser purposes. And I could live with, if only for a moment, the twisted logic of economists who measure an increase in GDP every time a disaster happens, natural or man-made.
No, what drives me crazy is how thoroughly the spirit of commercial Christmas trashes the human spirit. Here is a sampling of Christmas commercials I’ve heard:
“Christmas is about feeling rich and luxurious.” – some home decor company
“If you love your wife, buy her a gift this season.” – paraphrasing from a jewelery skit
“Get that ‘oh my gosh’ reaction.” – from something on TV
It’s the kind of thing that makes you realize how thoroughly programmed we are by our culture. So much so that even if we know that Christmas isn’t about the gifts, we act as if it is about the gifts. Our kids expect it. Our peers expect it. Our society expects it. Is there no escape from it?
I’m not against buying things. I am all for bringing into our lives items that enrich our lives or help us to more fully realize ourselves. I draw the line when gift-giving becomes a replacement for caring or the representation of our character.
I’m determined to kick the habit. But how? I’m reminded of a quote:
Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
And if we were to ask, where do our thoughts come from? If you think that your thoughts are your own, you’d be mistaken most of the time. Why do we buy for status? Why do we have an impulsive need to acquire things? Why do we associate happiness with money? The reality is that much of what we think comes from our natural inclinations as well as our socialization. We never question whether those thoughts supplied to us are helpful or not.
So to break free from a consumer habit, we have to feed our thoughts differently. We have to be mindful of the signals sent to us by advertisement, by our peers, by movies and books. It’s a revolutionary act to resist our socialization. We do know better and if we don’t play to our lowest common denominator, maybe others won’t either.