We are stuck. Stuck in a muddy puddle of blind, excessive and mindless consumerism. And that new top is only going to pull you further down into the mud with your constant, never-ending need to have the best, newest, most on-trend version of everything.
This self-destructive cycle has been born out of hideous competitive capitalist ideals that are driven into our brains day in, day out from the word go. Before we even realise what is happening, subliminal messages are fired at us left right and centre so that by the time we are old enough to buy things for ourselves, our subconscious tells us that the key to happiness lies in the bottom of our purses and the answer is always more.
Advertising makes us believe that buying consumer products will make us happy, and if we are not happy then it is because we need a newer, updated version of something. These sparkling new products possess the power not only to make us happy, but also to prove that we have made it. We are a gleaming success and everybody loves us for it. Just like those smiling faces in the adverts who tell us we need more. Always more. Stuff. But I will let you into a secret – we do not need more stuff to be happy.
Neoliberal, competitive capitalism has diminished the value of human relationships. Contemporary societies now place a greater value on material goods than on human relationships and the land itself. And yet we still constantly discard these material possessions. So if our relationships with these items on which we place so much value are not long-term and mean so little to us that we are able to throw them away, what state does that leave our relationships with each other in?
It seems that, as a society, we have lost our grasp on what is truly important. We must pull ourselves out of this muck and stop trying to find our happiness in material possessions. By basing our self-worth on what we own, or how well we fit into society’s idealised image of what success looks like, we ignore everything valuable that we are actually able to offer and we belittle ourselves beyond repair. We lose our sense of self and turn ourselves, and each other, into commodities – and supposedly “every man has his price”. Everyone then, can be bought and sold and, in the end, discarded if something ‘better’ comes along. Just like that new top. This way of thinking has rid of us of our true value as people, and the worth of true relationships which do not involve any form of capital.
Our true wealth lies in the depth of our relationships with one another and the experiences we share on our globe. And we must take more care of our globe too, and stop treating natural resources as pure commodities as well. Our land is our home, it is our shared home and in an increasingly interconnected world, we need to be more aware of the impact and knock on effect of our actions. We have a responsibility to be less passive and instead make more conscious, deliberate and informed decisions which are mindful of the consequences.
What is the life cycle of that fantastically cheap, and in the end essentially disposable, top that you are about to buy? And why is it so cheap anyway? Could it be that our competitive consumptionist society has driven the prices down of non-essential goods so far that there is a scramble to find labourers who will make these goods at an increasingly low cost? Could it be that factory owners in developing countries overlook health and safety concerns in order to reduce their outgoing costs so that they can charge suppliers less? Why are we allowing people to be paid so little and their lives to be put at risk in order to continue our constant need for more?
There are serious environmental impacts too. It takes some 2,700 litres of water to make a single cotton top, just like that one you are about to buy. That is a whole lot of water considering the amount of people going thirsty in the world today. And the emissions from the fertilisers used are hideously harmful to both the earth and the farmers too. If we want to get society out of this mud and build a healthier world for us all to live in, we must start to live in a more intentional way. We just need to think more. Do we really need that new top? Is it really going to make us happy? And is it really worth it or are we going to discard it for an update next month?