Essay on The Myth Of Consumerism
- The goal of a capitalist society is to make money by every possible means
- In the developed world consumer ideology serves as the golden rule
- Consumerism is simulating our imaginations ‘
- Consumerism has its own ideology like other “religions”
- Advertising is the medium for consumerism by which our emotions to be catered
Every society has mythology. In some societies, it’s religion. Our religion is consumerism.
Ellen Weis, San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Mythology
consumerism fuels the capitalist ﬁre. ln a capitalist society, the goal is to make money, by whatever means possible, exploiting whichever potential weakness that might exist. The human race is one with a wild imagination, and this wild imagination, though a great strength, can, like all great strengths, serve as a potential weakness.
It is our imaginations that advertising exploits, and it is our imaginations that religion and myth traditionally played the role of satiating, telling stories that have morals to them, lessons to be learned. Now consumerism fulfils this role. ln the developed world the consumer ideology serves as the golden rule, advertising serves as sermons, products serve as our idolatry, and just as religion instills faith at an early age, so too does consumerism.
Ellen Weis speaks from the perspective of one who is an authority on mythology. Her analogy between religion (in developed world) and consumerism is an accurate one. Undoubtedly, she’s referring to this role that consumerism is playing in stimulating our imaginations. It does this by telling us a story, with us playing the lead role, painting a picture of life as being better with the products being sold to us. Our imaginations are carried away by these stories. We want to believe them because they make sense of the world. We want to believe that all it takes to be happy is a trip to the store. This making sense of the world and simplifying to such a triviality is exactly the reason why myths are created.
For example, nearly every cigarette ad features a picture of an ideal person smoking their brand, ideal at least by the standards of most people who long to be accepted. For women, the smoker typically has
long blonde hair, a beautiful smile, and perfect, white teeth. For men you have Marlboro with the infamous “Marlboro man,” who is a rugged, handsome loner out in the countryside with his horse and campﬁre. The ads seem to say, “this could be you.” All it takes is a trip to the store and a couple of bucks for a pack.
Like all myths, the stories these ads tell have a moral to them. The lesson they teach is: your life can be better with these products or, put another way, you can be a better person with these products. This is the consumer ideology and, just like every religion has some “golden rule” that pervades all of its lessons, consumerism too has its own golden rule, the consumer ideology. All of its lessons seem to be based upon this underlying assumption that more is better, that we need the things we’re being sold, and that somehow buying them will make us happier and better people.
Of course the medium for these lessons are the ads themselves. Advertising nearly always has some emotional appeal to them. Instead of catering to our intellect and giving us rational reasons why we should consume the products they ﬂaunt, rather they cater to our emotions. What better way to stimulate our imaginations?
One heavy emotion that we’re susceptible to is fear. Fear tactics are used in advertising. For example, the A soap ads use the slogan, “aren’t you glad you use A soap? Don’t you wish everyone did?” This slogan seems to assume that the consumer already uses their product which can’t possibly be the case because if it were, why would they need to advertise? Thus they seem to be implying that if you aren’t using A soap, you’d sure better redeem yourself quickly before they ﬁnd out! Just as advertising appeals to the emotion of fear, it also appeals to the emotion of hope. Tries can be seen in many of the commercials. They show deeds of great philanthropy and conclude, “do people really care this much? People do. They ensure vs. that there is still hope that things aren’t as bad as they seen, although they also seem to imply that they’re somehow partly the cause of it all. Why else would they show the ads?
There are hundreds of stimuli which elicit reactions that are induced by advertising. From before we can speak, we experience constant, repeated, product-oriented stimulation coming in from all ﬁve senses. Many companies base their entire existence on the temptation of children. Some of the first words many children speak are from advertising jingles. it’s no wonder that we’re all obsessed with consumerism. It’s almost surprising that anyone is capable of breaking this trance. All of the toy companies and most of the fast food restaurants have multi-million rupees campaigns aimed at children. lt’s not even children that do the purchasing, it’s the parents, and these companies are cashing in on the parents’ love for their children, as well as the susceptible minds of the children.
The perfect marriage between consumerism and religion in the developed world can be found in the myth of Santa Claus. As if the
celebration of the birth of Christ wasn’t quite enough, a new character had to. be born, one specifically oriented toward children,. one that is more expendable and mysterious. This is religion for children, replacing toys for Heaven, Santa Claus for God, reindeer for angels, and a naughty and nice list for punishing sin. It’s difficult to sell Heaven to children because they live much more in the present than do adults, but toys they want, and toys provide instant gratiﬁcation: they can see the results of their behavior on Christmas morning. But most of all, the increased need for toys to supply for this myth provides a tenfold increase in proﬁts. The effect doesn’t stop there but trickles down into the economy for the entire lives of those children, for once a child learns the love for toys, they will always love toys, more expensive and exotic though they may be. Whereas a child might have miniature-sized cars for toys, when they get older they have full-sized cars for toys.
lt seems consumerism shares with religion many more of the bad characteristics than the good. Like the example above shows, consumerism takes advantage of innocent minds much more than religion does. Also, religion serves many good purposes, such as teaching charity and love, whereas consumerism tends to only teach greed and fear. Even good ads are tainted with the greedy intentions of the company. Finally, although religion does tend to portray sex as taboo, consumerism tends to cash in on this attitude by portraying it as something scary. While some religions (not Islam) and cults have bad effects on people’s minds, consumerism seems to have worse effects. Still, they both share all of their main characteristics: morals, stories, idolatry, and faith, but consumerism seems to be coming out ahead in the race for the minds of developed world. Ellen Weis seems correct in calling consumerism the religion of Americans.