Consumerism- an economic order dictated by the will of the people. It sounds very promising until the heavy curtains open wide, and we are met with what lies beyond. A system laced with greed, malpractice and misuse. In the mid 1900s, what was born as a sign of hope, has now become clouded in hues of darkness.
Although “consumerism” has a myriad of definitions, the most modern explanation is the idea that a person’s wellbeing fundamentally depends on obtaining material possessions. It is the presupposition that increased production is always the desired goal.
At first coined by John Bugas, the term was used to decorate capitalism, adorn overproduction in flowers. It was made to seem like the global market was welcoming the general populace with open arms- A universal economy of the people, by the people and for the people.
However, soon its true colours began to unveil as more and more people hoarded goods and services, their sole objective being luxury.
Despite the term being coined hundreds of years after, a wide look into the colonial era can help us understand the history of this ancient culture.
With the advent of a gentry-merchant class in the British social hierarchy of the 17th century, the world saw a sudden surge in consumption. A large but select group of people prioritised luxury, status and comfort. They began spending for the sake of spending. With the increase of economic disparity, the poor were denied their basic rights while the rich spent with eyes closed and palms full of cash.
This culture of overconsumption has seeped into modern day life - some examples being the Black Friday sale before Christmas and a monthlong shopping spree before Eid- which threatens human lives in more ways than one. Even now, the middle to higher class of people binge buy, succumbing to the evils of their own greed and systemic corruption.
This results in unplanned development, rifts in standard of living and the steady decay of human integrity as dollar bills gradually become the sole essence of human life.
Moreover, consumerist culture affects our world climate on a much grander scale than we can ever comprehend. In simple terms, as demand increases, so does production. And ofcourse, with the increase of production, we see a surge in industrial and chemical waste.
Furthermore, in this neverending race of consumption, corporate giants look for more cost-effective ways to supply goods faster than before. And in order to reduce their cost for resources, they turn a blind eye towards responsible "green" manufacturing. As a result, harmful chemicals find their way into open waters and gases, into the atmosphere.
This irresponsible waste management causes the endangerment of ecosystems, extinction of organisms, higher sea levels, acid rain, etcetera.
At the end of the day, money cannot buy happiness. In our attempt to measure life monetarily, consumerism is hurtling humanity towards an inevitable climate collapse. Behind a facade of momentary contentment, it is signing our collective death sentence.
Waziha Aziz is an eleventh grader from Chattogram, Bangladesh with a passion for literature. When not writing, she spends her time crossing books out of her teetering TBR and listening to boring playlists. You can find her on instagram @useless_depressing_poetry.