Consume carefully, please | Pakistan Today

Consume carefully, please

  • How consumer culture goes deeper into our Psyche than we previously thought

We buy and consume, therefore we are. We consume calories to live. We consume heat to survive. We consume water to exist. We consume love to feel alive and die. We consume information to make sense of the world, or nonsense of sense we once made of. We consume all we can lay our hands on, our minds consume sights. We acquire to consume. We consume to sense life. We consume more, acquire more, and wolf down more, phase out more. We, dear folks, are through and through consumers from the day we enter the world to the day we bid farewell and dwell in our heavenly-infernal abodes.

Answer the Number of why’s below.

Why do we buy something we neither need but want?

Why do we buy on impulse, like compulsive apes?

Why do we indulge in that pure hellish, woohoo ideal called ‘shopping till dropping therapy’?

Why, when you are not paying for something, you are the product?

Why social media feeds get inundated with sales and stuff, you showed interest in? Why do you crave and hanker after contentment of soul and seek, even find it in delicious food?

Why do designer clothes make you whole?

Why do expensive watches make us more confident?

Why are swanky cars; fast, phallic-symbolizing ones that we hanker after?

Why do trips to exotic lands, which we have already seen in our feeds, excite us?

Because we are men, we are sons of women; we are daughters of Adam and are incomplete. The answer to many of these questions lie in our species’ perpetual sense of incompleteness. From cradle to grave, we strive for completeness in relationships, achievements, possessions, and stuff. Be it the modern man with his limitless reservoir of distractions or the ancient hunter-gatherer who had to use his fight or flight instincts at the spur of the moment, the journey to feel whole continues.

The need to acquire more, buy more, possess more, consume more, however, has turned the majority of us into folks who solemnly believe that every ill, every evil, every dilemma has its solution in acquiring more, buying more, possessing more, and consuming more. And that, as most of us are slowly coming to realize, is certainly not the case.

And here enters acquisitiveness along with its various traps. Acquisitiveness is neither evil in itself nor worthy of hatred. The need to acquire more, buy more, possess more, consume more, however, has turned the majority of us into folks who solemnly believe that every ill, every evil, every dilemma has its solution in acquiring more, buying more, possessing more, and consuming more. And that, as most of us are slowly coming to realize, is certainly not the case.

You are what you own is the mantra of our times. Owning more things, owning better things, owning what most don’t or can’t own has reduced us to maniacs whose sole concern is to feel better through acquisition. The cars we drive are messages. The clothes we wear yell our position in life. The houses we live in are banners. The jobs we have decide what social status we possess. The people we know decide where we stand in society’s hierarchy.

There are those who manufacture, produce, create and sell. And there are those who buy, consume and acquire. Then, there are those who facilitate them both through advertisement. They facilitate the manufacturers by advertising their product and buyers by offering them a chance at happiness, contentment and fulfillment.

In short, an advertiser’s job is to sell things, stuff and ideas packed, packaged and ready to be delivered as bundles of joy and contentment to consumers.

The folks in the advertising business invoke passion, manipulate emotions, ask a celebrity to endorse a product as a magic-bullet, inculcate fear of being left-out, promise fame and recognition, and make many believe that happiness is just a purchase away. They know the consumer is not a moron, they also know he just masquerades around donning a rational, logical persona. And deep down, a consumer is as much prone to calls of enticement, excitement and adventure as a kid would be.

If you can’t flaunt it with wanton abandon, it does not matter. If it isn’t better than others, it does not count. If what you possess is not unique enough, it is run of the mill. Our quest for identity has taken us to many places and given us great men who were astronomers, scientists, mathematicians, painters, writers, poets, leaders, prophets and leaders. They sought their identity through their deeds, acts, inventions, preaching and discoveries. The hoi polloi, however, since time immemorial sought prestige, position and identity by acquiring wealth, making profits, grabbing posts and positions of influence and caring for their progeny.

The Prince of Paradox, G.K Chesterton may be of some help here. Chesterton wrote and I quote, ‘there are two ways to get enough: one is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less’.

To acquire more and perpetuate the craving or to desire less and be at peace with ourselves; that choice, dear folks, is ours.

Shah Nawaz Mohal

Shah Nawaz Mohal is a law graduate, feature writer and columnist. At present he is studying world literature at University of Potsdam, Germany. He can be reached at [email protected]



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