Monday, 30 June 2008

The Revered Consumer Class

Check out the Story of Stuff video at

It managed to articulate pretty clearly what many have been feeling about the whole 'bad business' behind US capitalism, exploitation and pollution and pinpoints it right down to placing consumerism on a pedestal. Indeed, consumerism is the engine of the US economy that pervades into the rest of the globalising world in the sentiment of the Americanisation of the world.

In the 1950s when the general global economy peaked, happiness started to plummet because we began to value life by the material things we own. Along came advertising and seasonal fashion to constantly remind you that you suck bad enough, and the solution is to shop. This has been so deeply etched in the material virtue of retail therapy. We work more so that we can buy more to achieve a form of very temporal plastic happiness, we go home tired and plonk down in front of our primary agents of advertising - the TV and computer - to be reminded that we suck, and the vicious cycle of consumerism repeats. There is hence less time and desire to engage in activities that truly make us happy.

The externalities that come with this are mind-boggling, and indeed quite earth-shattering. Exploitation of cheap labour and natural resources has been rising exponentially, and won't stop because these are the means to a life out of poverty for many. And the wasteful cycle of production won't slow down because our products aren't only not made to last, they're slapped with very short expiry dates to be thrown away as soon as possible so that we'd resort to buying more stuff. On average, we retain as low as 1% of the things we buy within 6 months of purchase.

There are intricate links between the government and the huge capitalist corporations that establish the means and networks for consumerism to move, and the revered consumer class - the many people who feed off this consumerism - provide the engine and fuel.

I've never quite been a fan of shopping myself. I've always said that as a consumer, I'm any marketer's nightmare; it's easy to see through the bull they try to pull. To me, capitalism in its ideal sense is a decent concept. I don't think we should have a restraint on things such as entrepreneurial motivations. But when it goes unchecked, it can become extremely exploitive and uncaring.

Political science in Singapore is like medical students who don't touch bodies.

Audio Candy:
Bowling For Soup - Last Call Casualty

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