If You're Happy, You Hug. If You’re Unhappy, You Shop.
The problem with consumerism is that it carries within it a deceitful promise: if you buy the objects you want, you’ll find happiness. That promise is based on an idea that has been promoted since the Second World War. One that has definitely settled into the foundation of our current society. And that is, happiness is closely related to capacity to buy things. That is to say, to the amount of money you have available to shop with.
It also promotes the idea that happiness is the result of shopping. If you have a more powerful television set, you’ll be happier. Or, if your clothes are expensive, you’ll feel more valuable. And if you buy the latest car, you’ll be more respected. The worst thing of all is that this ends up being true, at least in appearances. It happens, not because it’s true per se. Instead, because those who give those ideas value make them become true.
“He is the type of person who spends his life doing things he hates in order to gain money he doesn’t need and buy things he doesn’t want in order to impress people he doesn’t like.”
-Emile Henry Gauvreay-
In other words, if you think that a suit gives you more dignity, you’ll feel less dignified when you’re wearing simple clothes. If you think that a newer television increases your possibilities of recreation, you’ll suffer until you have one in your living room. And so on and so forth.
In any case, you’ll realize that this way of thinking is false when a month has gone by since you acquired that which you thought was so indispensable. Yet, you still feel bored, unhappy and worthless. So, the cycle starts all over again.
The truth is that objects of consumption liberate us from a great problem. They free us of the need to provide our life with meaning. They help us turn our eyes outwards, instead of exploring within ourselves. It is easier to think about how to buy a watch, than about defining the actions we perform which have value and meaning within our world.
Our current society definitely treats people differently if they wear expensive clothes or drive a luxurious car. It’s common for them to immediately receive special treatment or greater care. And this without even speaking to them or knowing what kind of person we’re dealing with. Many people assume that you have to ingratiate yourself with wealthy people. Simultaneous, money has become a guarantee for respect.
The tricky part of this mechanism is that it is just too fragile. If you take off the expensive clothes, you’ll feel humiliated again. If you put it on, you’ll recover your value. The respect you have for yourself becomes a disguise and will depend entirely on everyone else. When you agree to playing by those terms, you agree to entering into a logic of self-loathing. You admit that you have no self-worth. That is the dangerous part.
One of the most worrisome aspects of compulsive shopping is that it follows a scheme very similar to any addiction. Furthermore, it probably provides a similar sense of well-being to that achieved by any addict when they consume the substance they are hooked on. It provides a level of joy that is progressively lower and lower. Also, every time it requires more and more shopping in order to be produced.
In any case, happiness can’t be found there. Diverse studies have proven that the situations which provide authentic joy have to do more with experiences than with objects and materialism. An experience stirs your inner world and makes you feel alive. Shopping, on the other hand, is also an experience. But it provides you with superficial and fleeting excitement.
You almost never remember the moment you bought a certain object. Instead, you always remember the memory of your first kiss, a funny situation, or the day you were congratulated for doing a good job.