Consumerism as Social Religion: Western prospective
[It was my first presentation required for the course date 27.06.2009. Place: London school of Economics LSE]
Consumerism fuels of the capitalist fire. In a capitalist society, the goal is to make money, by whatever means possible. Exploiting whichever potential weakness that might exist. The human race is one with a wild imagination through a great strength, can like all great strength, and serve as a potential weakness.
It is imagination that religion and myth traditionally played the rule of satiating, telling story that have a moral to people. Consumerism fulfils this role. The consumer ideology serves as golden role, advertising service as sermons, products serve as idolatry and just as religion instills faith at an early age, so too does consumerism.
Ellen Weis wrote her book “Advertising character” Consumerism plying in stimulating imagination. It telling lot of story, with plying the lead role, painting a picture of life as being with the produced being sold by us. Our imagination is carried away by these stories. We want to believe them because they make seams of the world. We want to believe that all it takes to be happy is a trip to the store. This making sense of the world and simplifying to such a triviality is exactly the reason why myth are created. Someone said that her analogy between religion and consumerism is an accurate one. For example nearly every cigarette ad futures a picture of an ideal person smoking their brand, ideal at least by the standards of the most people who long to be accepted. For women the smoker typically has long blonde hair, a beautiful smile, and perfect, white teeth. The ads that best demonstrates this are those for Virginia Slims. And man you have Marlboro with the infamous “Marlboro man” who is rugged, handsome loner out in the countryside with his hours and campfire. The ads seem to say “this could be you. All it takes is a trip to store and couple of bucks for a pack. The story of this ads tell us have a moral to them. The lesion they tech us is your life can be batter with this products, or put another way you can be a better person with this products. This is the consumer ideology and, just like every religion has some “golden role” that’s pervades all of lessons, consumerism too has its own golden rule, the consumer ideology. All of its lessons seem to be based upon this underlying assumption that more is batter, that we need the things were being sold, and that somehow buying them will makes us happier and better people.
Advertising nearly has some emotional appeal to them. Instead of catering to our intellect and giving us rational reasons why we should consume the products they flaunt, rather they cater to our emotions. What better way to stimulate our imagination? This is almost directly analogous to the emotional appeal traditionally found in sermons. Especially before our society has become so secure and scientific, sermons were heavily driven by emotion.
Fear one of the important subjects in traditional belief. Its creates heavy emotion in human mind. This tactics are used at advertising. For example: the dial soap ads use the slogan “aren’t you glad you use dial? Don’t you wish everyone did? This slogan seems to assume that the consumer already uses their products which can`t possibly be the case because if it were, why would they need to advertise? Thus they seems to be implying that if you aren’t using Dial, you`d sure better redeem yourself quickly before the find out! Similar fear tactics in religious sermons. Interesting example by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758),like sinners in the Hands of an angry God, in which he says, for example that sinner “deserve to be cast into hell; so that divine justice never tends in the way, its makes no objection against God’s using his power at any moment to destroy them.”Whereas the dial ads try to subtly hint that you will become one of those people cast from society if you do not redeem yourself, the sermons tend to blatantly tell you that you`ll become one of those people cast from Gods kingdom if you do not redeem yourself. One is subtle and other blatant, but both are effective in swaying their audience.
Consumerism creates some emotion of hope like sermon. Examples of Chevron commercial ads few years ago. These ads are almost indistinguishable from religious sermons. They show deeds of great philanthropy and concludes, “do people really care this much? People do”. They ensure us that there is still hope.
Such reassurance almost takes the place of the people actually being good Samaritans themselves. While they themselves seem less than perfect, they can always took to this image of kindness and project onto it their fears of their race being a total abomination of God and be reassured by it. Such projection onto material objects seems almost a religious necessity. Science they cannot have a actual Buddha or Christ, for example sitting in front of them, they instead meditate or pray to a sacred idol which represents their savior. This sort of idolatry is exactly what consumerism offers. People seek happiness, acceptance, nobility, and love and since these attributes seem so hard to come by in America, they instead substitute for them the products that represent them, which seem much easier to come by. In fact, they require nothing more than a trip to the market.
The perfect marriage between consumerism and religion can be found in the myth of Santa Claus. As if the celebration of the birth of Christ wasn`t quite enough, a new character had to born, one specially oriented toward children, one that is more expendable and mysterious. This is religion for children, replacing toys for heaven, Santa Claus for God, reindeer for angels, and a naughty and nice list for punishing sin. It’s difficult to sell Heaven to children because they live much more in the present than do adults, but toys they want, and toys provide instant gratification. They can see the result of their behavior on Christmas morning. But most of all, the increased need for toys to supply for this myth provide a tenfold increase in profits. The effect doesn`t stop there but trickles down into the economy for the entire lives of those children, for ones a child learns the love for toy, they will always love toys, more expensive and exotic though they may be. Whereas a child might have miniature sized cars for toy, when they get older they have full-sized cars for toys. Consumerism as religion Christmas would be religious holiday.
There is another thing. Consumerism shares with religion many more of the bad characteristics than the good. For example Consumerism takes advantage of innocent minds much more than religion does. Also, religion serves many good purposes, such as teaching charity and love, whereas consumerism tends to only teach greed and fear. It trained people with the greedy intention of the company. Religion does tend to portray sex as taboo; consumerism tends to cash in on this attitude by portraying. While some religions has bad effects on people minds, consumerism seems to have worse effects. So we say they both share all of their main characteristics: morals, stories, idolatry, and love and faith emotion except the hereafter concept of traditional religion. So I think consumerism sometime fulfillment the function of religious belief.
(As per Lecture)