10 02 04 More than a Consumer

Today we live in a society that seems to be less and less concerned with reality. We drink instant coffee and reconstituted orange juice. We buy our vegetables on cardboard trays covered with plastic. But perhaps the most dehumanizing thing of all is that we have allowed the media to call us consumers – ugly. No! … Anger consumes. Forest fires consume. Cancer consumes (Madeleine L’Engle).

 From my point of view, consumerism lies at the heart of the problem of sustainability we now face in the 21st century. Once we as individuals allow ourselves to be given the primary label of “consumer,” a dynamic has been set in motion that inevitably leads to a situation of unsustainability in our communities and indeed the world.

 Of course we must admit that the human community needs some kind of an economy to exist over time. However, it seems to me that once our basic necessities of life have been taken care of by a well-oiled economy, the whole system begins to cross a line. Before it does you might say that we are all working together to make sure all of our needs are taken care of. But somewhere along the way you get the sense that as a consumer you have become a target. Those producing goods and services now begin to brain-wash you into thinking that you need to ratchet up your consumption.

 If one is at all alert, it doesn’t take much to figure out that advertisers are generally trying to “create a need” so that you will want to consume their products – to buy more things you often don’t need. Glossy catalogues picture all the neat things you never knew you needed - but now do. Billboards and newspapers tell you that you deserve to consume just a little more than the year before. And I won’t even mention television advertisements.

 I believe it was Lenin who once said that the point of propaganda is not to tell the truth, but to tell a lie often enough until people begin to think it is the truth. Perhaps the biggest lie we have begun to believe in our society is that our primary identity on this earth is that of being consumers.

 I a more than a consumer who needs to keep goods and services coming my way. I am a human being, created in God’s image, with heart and soul. I am a husband, a father, a grandfather, a friend. I am a lover of nature, a word-crafter. I am an encourager, a motivator, an example, a confidant. I am an earth-keeper and a brother-keeper. I am a servant of God - indeed a friend of God. I am a listener, a healer, a helper, a volunteer. I am also a consumer, but when I begin to believe the lie that my primary identity is that of a consumer I have been dragged across the line.

 And the process of unsustainability has been set in motion.