John Berger, in his documentary, “Ways of seeing” talks about the publicity image. How an advertisement and the items and models depicted in it create a sense of envy in us that tugs at us and makes us feel incomplete without that particular item. How owning that one piece of item will make life so much better and every problem will be solved.
I am a victim of this.
As I sit around making a shopping list for myself, I suddenly realised how many unnecessary items I have on the list and how each one has its own reason for being that one infallible object that I absolutely NEED to buy. I am plagued by a need that all of us can identify with; I want to buy that perfect shade of gloss and get a facial done because I feel that is the only think to looking absolutely gorgeous. A new season means I want to buy new shoes and clothes because they will make me happy and feel better. If I don’t feel like going to work or to exercise, buy new accessories and you are good to go. For me, new things and items and shopping in general is associated with a whole change in life. I feel new, I might look the same to the other person yet I love it. I am motivated to work more and somehow, these materialistic things make much more sense than anything else.
I don’t know if this is right or wrong. Am I complete victim of a consumer society or the things that I buy are actually what I need. I try to think of the million beauty products that are marketed every day and then of the home remedies that my mother lists for me. In an ideal environment home remedies would work wonders, but now we live in a world where you have an uncontrolled amount of pollution, you are stressed, hardly have time for anything and hardly anything is pure and unpolluted. You can try using a neem leaf to clear your skin but as I have been hopping from one city to another in India, you won’t really find neem leaves in abundance and even if you do, they are so badly damaged with pesticides and pollution that their natural essence has already been ruined. Imagine rubbing neem leaf on your skin and suffering from a bad rash. Been there, done that. As with Aloe Vera, a plant every herbal skin expert swears by and yet when I applied it to my skin, I was itchy all over. And natural haldi and natural sandal paste, tried all and been hurt very badly. BB cream and bit of highlighter and bronzer and I have the perfect skin to go.
I am not propagating the use of chemicals on the face but on a personal level and with really horrible experiences somehow, I feel that with the damage that has been done to the environment and as work increases and one person is forced to do the work of ten, we are suddenly in need of many things that in the past would have been a luxury or a sheer stupidity.
There are many people who say that a phone is just to make calls and yet imagine yourself without your smart phones; they are your own personal computers within your reach. I have access to the internet all the time, I can troubleshoot work problems or a make changes on my project, indulge my hobby of photography, read a book, stay in touch with my overseas friends, check and reply to email, make a shopping list shop online, be within deadlines and in general be a lot more useful to everyone around me. So, yes, I feel they are pretty useful, we travel a lot and there are times when we have an emergency to attend to or a sudden submission has to be made and to be honest these emergencies and sudden submissions happen a lot with everyone, we are after all juggling work which was done by ten people in the past.
I am not passing a judgment on consumerism. There are many items which I feel are not really useful, packaged fruit juices for instance or fried chips. But then again, these are all our personal choices and here a conundrum lies, where exactly do our personal choices come in? Are we capable enough of thinking for ourselves or do we have our peer group, our parents and now advertisements telling us what to buy? This is an aspect of consumerism which I detest. If a person makes an informed decision to buy something on their own, there is no harm to it, he might actually be in need of the thing but with the world being as manipulative as it is, we hardly have anyone thinking for himself. Music is sold because the popular person in the college likes it and I need to buy it to seem cool enough, that dress looked good on her and it will on me too, I absolutely NEED to have that GUCCI bag, well because it is GUCCI and so on and so forth.
We are in this constant battle between our actual mind and the thoughts that are put in us. We might not even know it and we are controlled. Consumerism on its own is not dangerous but consumerism of our thoughts is.