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A Small Compendium of Materialism

Internet is diverse and it has cavernous depths you don’t want to reach – this is a well-known truth. We all had at least once run across something shocking, disgusting or that we simply wish to unsee. Despite that, we never get used to it, not even after so many years.

For me the last strong shock was an article from Buzzfeed[1]. A 4-years old girl from Arkansas turned out to be in love with a pharmacy store CVS. The little one was fascinated with it to the extent that she wished for a CVS-themed birthday party. There were placards with names the way shop assistants have, mini counter-desk, gift-bags full of CVS themed trinkets with personalized receipts as greeting cards and much more. Ok, wait, what can be so special in a pharmacy, especially for a child, you ask? As her mother puts it: ‘Ultimately she loves CVS because she knows it to be a dreamland of snacks, chocolate milk, and toys.’ But the girl is not fascinated with toys, snacks or chocolate milk itself, like children are thought to do. She is fascinated with the idea of buying them and the place where you can do that. She is fascinated with shopping and department store. And even though you may say that I do exaggerate, I believe that this is a good point to stop and look back at what our society has become and where we are heading next.

To start with, I am a spender and a lover of pretty things myself. Therefore, I’m not in a position to judge others from a pedestal. It would not be fair. And even though I feel comfy at my little, nicely furnished comfort zone, incidents like this one make me reconsider: am I a materialist or has this old, good term already gained a brand new, more extreme meaning nowadays? After a small research I have reached a conclusion. Materialism still means the same. But there is a growing number of terms to describe its varieties and derivations. I called what I found:

‘A small compendium of materialistic diseases invented by capitalism’:

Consumptionism – consumption of material goods and services unfounded with real needs.

Materialistic Hedonism – doctrine assigning the highest and sole value of life to collecting and consuming material goods.

Materialism – concept that monetary relations are the basis of all social interactions and relationships.

Shopaholism – addiction to shopping.

Disposophobia – excessive acquisition and a persistent difficulty discarding  possessions because of a perceived need to save them.

And trust me, the list seems to never end and all those syndromes have one thing in common – they are all essentially concerned with unhealthy dosage of need for compulsive buying and possession of things.

Is it in the human nature or was it artificially invented or induced for the need of capitalist economy? The answer could be the evidence of existing differences between poor and rich countries, with, respectively, low and high degree of capitalist development, and, again respectively, under and overconsumption problems. Capitalist countries like USA are struggling year after year with unceasing growth of tendency to buy, buy even more and even bigger. And then to waste. On the contrary, the third-world countries are trying to induce consumption in highly frugal societies in order for the economy to develop. On the other hand, there are facts that seem to be in favour of the opinion that consumptionist attitude is an enemy of capitalism. For example, the very simple idea that the consumption cult seems to take away the power from the relative democracy of competition, the figurative supply-demand law, and transfer it absolutely into the hands of giant corporations.

The extreme cases of either life attitudes, like materialistic hedonism, or mental disorders, like, so popular and even to some extent sanctified nowadays in pop culture, shopaholism are depriving people of rationality. Not only rationality during Sunday groceries shopping, but also in life prioritizing. At the point when a small girl’s dream is not going to a playground or having a dog, but a trip to the nearby market, I believe that we should make a stop and reconsider. Whether the girl’s mother is right and we should exploit the fact that gaining happiness from shopping is so simple or maybe, just maybe, reach deeper to the question ‘why is it so simple?’. Because we may find it to be the same as with a pair of jeans at a seasonal sale in the shop around the corner. Both are catchy, but may turn out to be of low quality and short-lived.


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