Thursday, August 23, 2012

Consumerism in America

I caught this lecture the other night at the TED x Phoenixville event. Author and social critic James Kunstler goes off on how uninspired architecture and half-assed city and suburban planning have blighted our culture.


Kunstler delivers an impassioned plea here. But he also raises a powerful question about consumerism in America, if only slightly indirectly: Have the words “consumer” and “person” become synonymous in our culture?


When Saturday morning comes and you pour that first cup of coffee and start thinking about “what to do” with your day, are you really wondering “what to buy”? Think beyond just straight-up shopping; consider any activity where spending money is integral (e.g., browsing at Ikea, going to the movies, stopping off at Panera for a bite, etc.). How much of your leisure activity is truly purchase-free? A friend recently half-joked that he probably spends more time shopping in book stores than he does actually reading. But there’s an uncomfortable, expansive truth in that statement.

For many of us, a lot of the time, “doing” and “buying” are one and the same. We exist in a culture where consuming goods is just what we do — an automated behavior that we don’t even question because it comes so naturally. If this is indeed the case, what does it imply about this culture of ours? And, by extension, what does that imply about us as people?

In what do we truly find meaning?

1 comment:

Greg Ippolito said...

One reader, Allison M., passed along a relevant infographic:

Which raises the question (by extension): at what point does our low-level sickness graduate to a disease?