By C H Smith
When Consumerist Gods Fail
If happiness requires a full-employment, credit-dependent, high-cost, consumption-based economy that is no longer sustainable, then clearly there will be a corresponding increase in unhappiness.
Rather than throw trillions of dollars away in a futile, doomed attempt to rekindle a bubble/credit/crony capitalism which has run its course, perhaps it would be wiser (as well as much cheaper) to unburden ourselves of this equally doomed definition of happiness in favor of a sustainable well-being.
Factors often listed as sources of well-being include: Meaningful work, recreation, love, friendship.
The marketing/advertising complex will still be flooding every nook and cranny of the nation and its media with messages to consume, but if few have surplus money and credit then it follows that few will have the means to buy, regardless of the persuasiveness of the millions of messages.
Thus it is not that the false god of consumerism will be toppled but that it will be abandoned–in many cases, most sorrowfully–by believers and adherents who no longer possess the surplus cash to offer the consumerist god.
The key factor in a consumerist-based identity is that someone profits by selling you an identity, character and sheen of status.
The idea that what you wear, drive, tattoo yourself with, load on your iPod, etc. has zero bearing on anything meaningful about who you are and what you value is sacrilege of the highest order.
If “my stuff” is no longer “me,” then who and what am I? And indeed, what can I sell you if all you really need to be “yourself” and happy is friends, minimal shelter, unprocessed food, homemade music, a library and an Internet connection and spiritual communion/worship? How much profit can I make selling you a used guitar, a DSL connection and a bag of carrots?
It boils down to this: when you run out of money, you switch religions from Consumerism to one of the good old standbys.
The known sources of happiness require little to no consumption:
3. free time to pursue interests
4. spiritual communion/worship
7. meaningful work (unpaid qualifies)
We might even speculate that the experience of genuine happiness and well-being has largely been forgotten, or perhaps is an unknown sensation to media-numbed “consumers.”
Since sustaining the simulacrum of consumerist “happiness” will cause much misery as the consumerist economy slides to oblivion, we might profitably ask if the happier choice wouldn’t be to jettison the entire artifice of consumerist “happiness.” Upon reflection, it was never real happiness after all; it was only a means to reap immense profits.
How people react to the devolution of their lifestyles and financial security depends in large part on their belief in the system (if they truly believed the propaganda, then their response will proceed quickly through disbelief and shock to resentful anger) and their spiritual value system.
If they considered a middle class life of travel, dining out, numerous electronic toys, full healthcare insurance, a university education and a suburban home as their “right,” then the devolution of this lifestyle will strike them particularly hard.
Those with less grandiose expectations will tend to be more adaptive and more amenable to a positive outlook despite the devolution of their wealth and income.
If the core shared values of quality, integrity, good governance (which requires transparency and participation), willingness to defend the State and a common purpose have devolved into sycophancy, narcissism, self-aggrandizement, self-deception, fraud, sloth, torpor, addictions to amusements and self-absorption, then the willingness to rework institutions and enterprises has also been lost.
As failing institutions and conceptual frameworks devolve, new self-organizing structures and positive values are free to emerge,
as are darker forces. That is what life requires: adaptation and evolution. Self-destruction is also always an option, the will to evolve and rebuild may exist but the resistance offered by the remaining Elites will be so fierce that the only possible outcome is collapse of the structures and institutions they defended from change. That terrible possibility is the reason I have spent so much of this analysis focusing on the ways that the State and Plutocracy influence and control the intellectual framework that enables their dominance.