|The beginning of the end. Television offered an injection of consumerism directly into the home,|
whether we realized it or not.
For those of us who have spent most of our lives in a shopping-based culture, it is hard to conceive of an entire population whose main focus in life was something other than buying more stuff. What did people do before shopping became the favourite recreational activity?
While consumerism was well under way by the time I came into the world (the year Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space), "consumers" (we called them citizens back then) were not yet as well trained as they are today.
In fact, my parents were such terrible consumers that for most of my childhood we didn't even have a TV, colour or black and white. When we did have a TV in the house, we never, ever had cable. We called it "peasant vision", showing that we were making an important transition that no one even knew was taking place.
What I remember of shopping as a kid is going out only when things were needed - really needed. Like shopping for groceries. Or for new clothes before the start of a school year. Or for a car once every decade or more. Other than that, and a few trips to the hardware store or pharmacy, we didn't go shopping.
By the time I was a teenager "going to the mall" had become something to do. From the crowds there it seems like other people also found something they were looking for in the mall. It might even have been something they needed. Or maybe malls were becoming like a public square, a meeting place, except they were on private property.
Now consumer culture is all-pervasive, as if there is nothing else to do but shop and spend money. But while we are doing that, we are missing out on all the things people did instead in pre-shopping times. Things that made us happier than we are today.
Things like visiting with neighbours. Like playing board games at home with the whole family. Like playing in nature. Like volunteering in our communities. Like walking to the corner store for milk or bread (a store that was owned by a local family). Like meeting in the laundromat. Like joining a club or organization.
Advertisers and the makers of crap want us to believe that we were all unhappy for the tens of thousands of years while waiting for an expensive, soulless way to fill our time. Life in their version of history was nasty, brutish, short and boring right up until the 1950s consumer revolution brought us unlimited shopping fun.
It's fun buying as many material goods as you can, and it doesn't matter that most of it actually makes our lives worse. Fun, fun, fun to work and spend. Borrow and shop. Repeat and repeat over and over and over till you go bankrupt or die.
But fewer and fewer are being fooled here at the end of this little dream of fulfillment by shopping. We are beginning to see that we left the good life behind after we bought in to consumer culture. We are unlearning all the training via advertising over the past decades, and returning to better, more sensible and sustainable ways of living.
It is time to become better at living, and not as adept at mindlessly consuming. Like my parents, we have to become bad consumers. We shop when we NEED to, and enjoy life the rest of the time.