Consumerism Not Only Can’t Make Us Happy But Is The Leading Cause Of Unhappiness

The Pope continued his campaign of reviving the universal values of spirituality by attacking consumerism which is synonymous with western capitalism and suggesting an alternate life style to consumerism. The Pope said that consumerism generates anxiety. I feel anxiety is the main problem of the modern man. The Pope suggested the universal spiritual values of   Christianity such as patience, tolerance, contentment and sharing as a road to happiness. He made it clear that the western capitalist consumer culture cannot make people happy .The Pope has rightly recognized consumerism as the main cause of unhappiness. It is very encouraging that the largest religion, Christianity has taken a stand against consumerism.

Happiness comes from contentment. However, the basic tenet of consumer culture is to keep you discontented so that you constantly yearn for more. The more consumer things you acquire in the hope of becoming happy only incite you to still get more leaving you unsatisfied and discontented. This is like a mirage: the closer you get to it, the further it moves from you. Your whole life is spent running in this rat race which you can neither win nor get out of. Consumer culture has not only made us unhappy, but it has also led to overexploitation of resources. We are using the planet’s resources at a higher rate than its capacity to regenerate. This is leading to very severe damage to the environment. The Pope has a given a call for protecting the environment.

Consumer culture has lead to disintegration of family. Each member of the family is too busy in pursuing personal goals and no one has any time left to spend with the family. The Pope suggested that we should spend Sundays with the families. He also suggested that we spend less time with our TVs. It is common knowledge that most of us, when at home, spend more time watching TV rather than talk to the other members of the family. I feel that computers also come in the same category. The latest smart TVs have computer processors built into them. The two giant soldiers of the consumer culture have joined their forces in the attack on the integrity of the family as a unit.

Why does consumer culture attack the family? The family taught values that were opposite to those of consumer culture. The family teaches us moderation and sharing, while consumer culture promotes extravagance and possessiveness. The family teaches the child to share his toys with the other children and learn to share things with the family.

However, consumer culture promotes the feeling of possessiveness by telling the child that his personal computer is only his and that it cannot be shared with anyone else. Consumer culture sees family as an impediment to its concept of constantly expanding its market. Concepts like sharing and moderation come in direct conflict with consumer culture’s push for expansion of the market. In the final analysis, all human values are an impediment for consumer culture. Therefore, it wants a man to become only a consumer.

Nature is dependent upon the principle of regeneration and balance. Things are made, utilized and then regenerated. There is a balance between production and utilization. However, consumer culture is based upon the principle of constantly increasing consumption without any regard for the capacity of nature to regenerate that what has been consumed. This breaks the balance in nature. With balance in nature comes harmony. However, consumer culture leads to chaos and anarchy. To understand the difference between nature and consumer culture, we should feel the difference between music and noise. Harmonious vibrations lead to music, which is pleasing to our ears and our soul. However, when there are chaotic vibrations and disharmony, then noise is produced, which is irritating for our ears as well as for our minds.

When we say that Eastern philosophy emphasizes harmony with nature and the western philosophy leads to confrontation with nature, then we have to understand and that by western philosophy, we mean contemporary western philosophy of western capitalism. Prior to this, Western philosophy was based upon Christian values. Therefore, it promoted universal human values and there was no philosophical conflict between East and West. The universal human values promote respect for nature and living in harmony with nature. The Pope brought this out that to be happy, you have to respect nature. In the final analysis, the Pope’s message can be summarized that only a revival of universal human values can lead to happiness. The universal human values are a product of the collective experience of mankind. The western capitalism has negated those values and has tried to impose its consumer culture with disastrous results for mankind and nature.

Dr. Sawraj Singh, MD F.I.C.S. is the Chairman of the Washington State Network for Human Rights and Chairman of the Central Washington Coalition for Social Justice. He can be reached at sawrajsingh@hotmail.com.

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