Reuters has an article about “Affluenza“; how rampant consumerism appears to be increasing the incidence of depression and mental illness all over the globe… Does consumerism cause “depression, anxiety, addictions and personality disorders”? Controversial British psychologist Oliver James thinks so. The article describes how James toured several countries in the world and interviewed a number of relatively affluent people about their lives.
From the article:
An epidemic of mindless consumerism is sweeping the world with the compulsive pursuit of money and possessions making people richer but sadder… We have become addicted to having rather than being and confusing our needs with our wants.
Several questions came to mind as I read this article. How do we separate “legitimate” consumerism from “mindless” consumerism? We all need to purchase things to satisfy our needs for food, transportation, shelter and clothing. I don’t dispute mindless consumerism exists. But where do we draw the line between the two without infringing on individual rights? And who is qualified to draw it?
If we think of human social structure as following a pack mentality like that of other mammals, it’s easy to see that people are always aware of how their status compares with others in their peer group. It’s unconscious, human nature to want to “keep up with the Joneses”. The rise of global communication and media means that everyone’s peer group is a lot larger than ever before.
People’s rates of satisfaction relate directly to the comparisons they draw against their peers. In other words, if you see that everyone on your block, or in your group of friends, or with the same job as you, is driving a Lexus, then the Chevrolet that you were perfectly happy with last week may no longer be satisfactory.
Do you have any thoughts about the questions raised here? Let us know!