Black Friday! Cyber Monday! And then it’s only 23 more shopping days until the ‘Big Day’ itself.
Of course the Big Day is characterised by that rarest of features, namely the closing of most shops … unless they’re online of course. Perhaps we should be grateful for such small mercies, what with Christmas shopping adverts appearing on TV anywhere from late August onwards. But then 24 hours later it’s off we go again with the Boxing Day Sales, the New Year Sales and beyond.
How have so many people allowed themselves to become caught up in such a meat-grinding system? How have so many people allowed their identity to reduce down into that of habitual consumer?
Has their potential identity as active citizens – rather than mere passive consumers – simply melted away under the relentless heat of the mass-media adverts that assault us 24/7 from every conceivable location and direction? Have they been rendered mindless by the transformation, decade by decade, of pretty much everything – including dreams and even (in some places ) fresh air – into saleable commodities? Are they simply brainwashed by the clever marketing psychology that stokes up peer pressures, preys upon guilt, plays upon the sense of prestige and fuels envious fears of ‘losing out’?
All this of course is part of the absurd, impossible fantasy that we’ve allowed ourselves to buy into, namely the never-ending expansion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), year after year from now until doomsday (see Goldilocks as Buddha).
Never mind that 4% (say) annual growth amounts to doubling the production of goods and services every 17 years. Never mind that for the vast population of China to reach even the current GDP-per-capita levels of the USA (for example) would require the already huge Chinese economy to more than quadruple in size. Never mind that there are finite resources of fossil fuels, metallic ores and other raw materials, or that the planet’s eco-systems have limits to their carrying capacity. And never mind that, much beyond the meeting of basic physical needs, increases in GDP do not bring corresponding increases in Gross Personal Happiness.
No, never mind all that, just continue like good little passive consumers, grazing along your allotted, herd-like path. Carry on buying things that often you don’t really need, or buying things for other people that usually they don’t really need either. Persist with consuming what is often little more than plastic crap. Continue in the delusion that happiness can be bought and sold. Hold fast to the feeling that your intrinsic worth as a person is reflected by the car that you drive or the brand of trainers on your feet. Stick to the notion that the ephemeral flash of pleasure – or the relief of ad-induced, peer-pressure guilt – brought on by the latest purchase is worth that soul-destroying job to pay for (or produce) it. And never let go of the craving for instant gratification, nor the financial enslavement to which it leads for some via the eye-watering interest rates of ‘pay-day loans’.
Or else, you never know, perhaps one day all the passive consumers will awaken from their plastic zombie world and become active citizens working to ditch mass-scale consumer society in favour of something rather more lasting, fulfilling and interesting …
 Some adverts actually do use this label, by which they really mean the Big Day – the sacred zenith and orgy – of Consumption.