There you are. On the verge of two paths. Which one to choose? Which one is right, and which is wrong?
Why do we even talk about it when the answer is so obvious for most people? You have already chosen a path. Or the path has chosen you. Whichever happened first. Consumerism has chosen you. But don’t be sad or mad or nervous about it. You didn’t have a chance to choose. You didn’t stand a chance because you didn’t know that there was another way. A better way. In 2020, the average person is being targeted with 6,000 to 10,000 ads every single day. Of course, you want to spend, to buy, to consume. The lure of a new is enticing. You need it, and you need it now.
All advertisers promise something if you buy their product. Our bag will increase your value. People will like you more if you have a new smartphone. They will admire you if you use our cosmetics. They will want to be like you if you travel to this exact destination. Or drive a car from a German manufacturer. You can’t drive a car from X company, or God forbid, a used car. What are you, a beggar?
When you don’t fit into the social framework, people will say many bad things just to hurt you or make you feel less than them. But let’s think. Is that really it? Does this give us happiness? Or is the cause of stress and discontent in our lives? Do people really care what you wear, what you do, which car you drive, or where you live?
Some of them do. But most of them don’t. They are preoccupied with their own lives, their own problems, and their own pursuit of happiness. Even the people who do care about it scan you in a few milliseconds, and their mind has already made a mental note of you. Judgment happened in less time than it takes to blink. And there’s nothing you can do about it.
Our brain is a strange, old piece of hardware and it’s hard to change – hard, but not impossible. We, as a species, are too preoccupied with ourselves to think about other people. Our own problems are the worst.
I once read somewhere that if you have a toothache and a major catastrophe has occurred in the world that has resulted in the death of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people; your own toothache will be more important information for your brain and you than the realization that many have lost their lives. Isn’t that scary? I repeat; your pain is more important than the pain of thousands or millions of people.
How selfish we are, and we don’t even realize it. You can be the most caring person in the entire world, but for your brain, you’re still more important than anybody else. And that is not as bad as it sounds. We all need to take care of ourselves first, in order to be better versions of ourselves, and better human beings to others. And our brain tries to protect us at all times. For instance, shielding us from scary-looking people, sick people, dirty people, etc. Even when we know that the person across us is our partner, family member, or friend, and is sick or dirty because he came home after doing some manual labor, we will still try to distance ourselves a little. We will do this unconsciously. Our brain will do this to protect us from possibly fatal diseases.
The problem is when our brain starts judging people based on their appearance and when you don’t want to spend time with someone just because they differ from you. No matter how intelligent we are, we can still fall victim to our brain and its judgment.
Advertisement and consumerism are trying to manipulate our brains. And they are succeeding in their campaigns. However, not all advertisements and consumerism are inherently bad. We all need some things not just to survive but to thrive and be happy. The problem arises when we give in to advertisements and start spending frantically without rational consideration whether we really need something or simply want it just to convey our value to others.
But we can stop being victims to our 50,000-year-old hardware and equip ourselves to tackle the challenges of a modern world. We can search for a better way. A way where we all consume only what we really need. A way where we take care of the planet and its finite resources, and a way where our own consumption won’t hurt people around us.
I once heard about a term called ‘Seven generation stewardship’. It is a concept that urges the current generation of humans to live and work for the benefit of the seventh generation into the future. It is believed that when Native Americans (Iroquois) needed to make some big changes, they needed to think seven generations ahead (about 140 years into the future) and decide whether the decisions they make today would benefit their children seven generations into the future.
We need to incorporate long-term thinking into our decision-making process. This is vital for the survival of humans as a species. If we don’t stop spending foolishly, eventually we will destroy everything around us.
If you haven’t already, today stop and think. Is there a better way? Can you do it better?
Even if you choose to consume, try to consume by asking some hard questions like:
It’s not too late to change. We are still young as a species. Changing ourselves, asking hard questions, and trying to be better every single day, we can change the world.
Change happens one baby step at a time.
Mahatma Gandhi put it best:
And you can be, I believe in you. And you must believe in yourself.
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