Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Bizarre World of Consumerism

In many ways humans have made remarkable progress in the realms of the intellect and in understanding the inner workings of the natural world through the collective and collaborative efforts afforded by the disciplines of science and technology.  However, regarding the emotional aspect of existence - that occupies a considerable space in the conscious life of the individual - little has changed since Homo sapiens first beginnings.  This disparity my help account for the current state of human existence – circa the 21st century.

In a significant part of the modern world of humans, the ordinary and mundane aspects of existence are inextricably tied to consumerism – the purchase of goods and services to satisfy every conceivable need or desire far beyond what used to be considered the necessities of life.  The market place has been inundated by such an overwhelming plethora of products that the relatively simple act of purchasing can be fraught with anxiety.

This relentless commercialism has become so endemic to modern existence that is nearly impossible to envision a society based on different principles.  For example, if one could take the ordinary life of most cities or towns and strip away all evidence of commerce outside of the fundamental procurement of the basic necessities, what would community life actually consist of?  Would there be anything left of meaning or value?

From the cradle to the grave, modern humans suffer from the continuous onslaught of messages designed to convince us that our lives are somehow incomplete unless we purchase a wide variety of products and services that will, we are assured, bring us fulfillment.  These commodities and services cover a remarkably wide range of items from cell phones to robot vacuum cleaners and personal drones  to erection-enhancing pharmaceuticals to highly priced events including eco-tourism and eagerly anticipated suborbital passenger flights of short duration in commercially available spacecraft.

Furthermore, our earthly environment has been deluged by the massive quantity of waste produced by the vast array of discarded plastic – oil-based – products that are the ineluctable remains of all of these purchases.  The level of environmental pollution has become so extreme that remedies on a global scale have become of vital importance.  Sadly, the gravity of this situation has escalated to the inescapable reality of climate change – a prospect that has of yet failed to be fully appreciated.

The driving force behind this unfettered and ever-expanding increase in commercial production is the apparently ceaseless necessity to absorb excess capital in a capitalist-based economy.  It is the demands of this capitalist system that determines the nature of the social and economic relationships that establish the very structure of what we perceive as human reality.

This reality has become far removed from the natural environment and earthly setting in and through which our species successfully evolved on planet earth.  In this regard, this climate of relentless consumerism through which we experience our individual lives is patently bizarre.  The extent of this departure from the direct experience of the real world can be seen in the extent to which individuals now consume so much of their conscious life in entirely human-crafted virtual environments.  Human behavior is not far removed from sleepwalking.

In this setting humans are no longer fully awake, but are subdued, constrained and deluded by a system that demands our full attention to shallow and self-serving principles.  In this setting, we have collectively lost our understanding of our real relationship with our environment and with an appreciation of meaningful work.  In this setting we have lost sight of our own nature and our deep-seated creative impulse,  In this setting, we have lost connection with real community and our natural capacity to extract joy from the very act of breathing.

Humans have become subservient to forces entirely out of their immediate control and have become adjuncts to machines both real and virtual.  We have been effectively taught to define ourselves within the limited scope of a wholly unnatural and manufactured world.  This “evolution” has taken hundreds of years to develop.  Where it may lead us in the future is impossible to say with absolute clarity; however, the trend is readily apparent.

Thankfully, there are indications of a growing awareness of the need to reevaluate the current paradigms for human social organization.  It is my sincere hope that the current  trend can be successfully altered to bring future generations into a human world more in line with their true natures.

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