In the Weekend Australian Review Magazine this weekend (May 15-16, 2010) there is an article - 'The Hungry Mile' by Christopher Allen - discussing an exhibition of photographs taken during the Great Depression. It diverges from a general discussion of life during the Depression (as related by the photographs) to a general diatribe regarding the ills of consumerism - the relevance of which is a little questionable - but nonetheless it seems to express many of my own feelings on the topic much more elegantly than I ever could. I'm sure Christopher Allen won't mind if I share some of his words with you.
" The lesson drawn [from the exhibition]....is how little we need to survive and even to be happy; the contrast makes the bulimic consumerism all around us look absurd as well as indecent. The trouble is that it is not only individuals but whole societies that end up addicted to this voracious appetite for the superfluous....Advertisements urge us to borrow the money we are told we need to enjoy ourselves; freedom and spontaneity are the promise, but the reality is the servitude of indebtedness....it isn't a conspiracy, just something that is the logical consequence of the way a consumer economy works......the explicit axiom of this ideology is that our level of consumption is an index of our level of wealth, success and happiness. It is a version of the almost instinctive drive to eat as much as we can, with the dim sense that if we eat more we are more, an instinct that may promote survival in the age of cavemen but leads to self-destruction in a world of ice doughnuts....Consumerism, in the same way, gives the illusion of wealth....In reality it destroys wealth"