Years ago someone painted graffiti on a tunnel wall near the University of Washington, “The Urge to Buy Terrorizes You.” I drove past that message frequently over a period of months, enough times that it etched into my memory and sensibility.
Of course, back then I was in my twenties and held to the notion that grander justice and social reform were possible. I thought that people were capable of noble change and that the world was evolving steadily forward towards something better. I embraced that the less you bought, the less you had and the less you defined your life by material things, the better off you and all would be. If I don’t hold so closely the optimistic view of the first set of convictions, I still hold to the second.
I don’t like the current human climate of the world. I especially dislike the constant barrage of materialism and shaping the culture around consumption. Though it may be somewhat instinctual for human’s to fortify themselves with stuff, I think that tendency is exploited by a corrupt and predatory culture that calls itself an economy acting to funnel wealth from the bottom to the top. Sadly, I also believe that this is an eternal force of human nature and that it will never change. Since I have injected the word belief into this small expression of opinion, I feel obliged to share another opinion about what I believe…
Over the past few years I have been weaning myself from the whole notion of belief. Every time I would hear myself say, “What I believe,” it would give me pause, because what I believe is of no consequence in the world, only how I act. And, what I’ve noticed as I’ve aged and perhaps magnified by the expanded role of media, information, and “communication,” is that we spend far too much energy examining, judging and confronting each other over matters of belief much to the detriment of civility and compassion.
Good, with that out-of-the-way I can return to my point.
It disappoints me that humans are so frail and easily manipulated. It pains me that buying and selling become the main thrust of a culture. It is eating us alive.
It reminds me of the play The Rhinoceros by Eugene Ionesco. A man awakens one day into a world where he sees a rhinoceros. Steadily, the rhinos increase their numbers until one day, all there are is a civilization of rhinoceri.
We are so much more than consumers.