I have no problem with people using money and property to get what they need; food, clothing, shelter, education, transportation. To some limited degree, I can even appreciate the value of entertainment. What I don’t appreciate, however, is a thirst we have come to know as conspicuous consumption. And I particularly dislike being pressured into participating by being belittled or mocked. The mantra of consumption has become, in recent years, “buy this or you are not good enough.”
The latest incarnation of this, which I cite only as example because it is only a link in the chain, is the iPhone. I read someone’s post the other day – and it wasn’t even an ad – talking about the features of the iPhone and how much better it was than the previous iPhone version. At the end of the review, the author said, “If you don’t like it, I guess you could go back to your Motorola Razr.”
Oh, ha ha ha. We get it. The small, lightweight, smart-looking Motorola Razor, the cellular telephone to lust after and have in 2005, simply was not good enough… or rather, you were not good enough if you still had one.
Of course, throughout the history of consumerism there has been a tendency to let our possessions define us, but it has been my observation recently that it has gotten alarmingly intense and pervasive.
Wait, wait, wait. I know. I know that before the 4G touch-screen multi-purpose and multi-tasking mobile device came along that no one was safe, that no one got any work done, that no one ever talked to their families, that teenagers disappeared without a trace in droves, that businesses were unable to function under mountains of paper and delays, that nations fell to pieces, all because we didn’t, each and every one of us, have a phone/computer/camera/camcorder/game console/office machine in our hip pocket. In fact, if there had been iPhones in the pockets of Leonid Brezhnev and Ronald Reagan in 1982, nuclear war could have been averted.
It was literally impossible to live without an iPhone.
Seriously. How did we do it? It must be a matter of critical importance to have a phone in the possession of every human being on the planet, or people would never put up with $200 a month phone bills in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression.
Or how about this absolutely brilliant fact from the United Nations, as quoted from the London Telegraph last year:
India’s mobile subscribers totalled 563.73 million at the last count, enough to serve nearly half of the country’s 1.2 billion population. But just 366 million people – around a third of the population – had access to proper sanitation in 2008, said the study published by the United Nations University, a UN think-tank.
Okay, consumer. You can mock me all you want. Write cheerful op/ed pieces in the Portland Oregonian or the Denver Post about how “psychologists say” that communication is a vital form of human endeavor. But the next time you see someone talking on an iPhone at the office or a convienience store or the mall or a ball game, sneak up behind them and listen to their conversation for a minute. If what you hear doesn’t hammer home my point in 4G clarity, by all means go back to your Facebook page and please, please never visit this site again.