The Negative Side Of Consumerism

A large home with a swimming pool in an upmarket suburb may make friends envious.     Image:Pixabay

I read the following instruction in a magazine, ‘Be the envy of your friends. Don’t settle for anything less’. I object to this instruction. Envy is a negative emotion which can be very destructive. I actually want my friends to be happy and being jealous or envious won't lead to happiness.
My Heinemann Australian Dictionary defines envy as, ‘A feeling of discontent or resentment aroused by seeing another person’s good fortune, superiority etc, usually accompanied by a desire to possess the advantages of the other person.’
Bertrand Russell, the British philosopher and social critic said, ‘Envy undermines happiness - it generates pain from what others possess, instead of pleasure from one’s own possessions…’ 
Consumerism encourages people to spend money on glitzy houses, the latest gadgets, trendy furniture, cars and such. Clever advertising often manipulates people into buying stuff they don't need.
Sometimes people get into debt for the latest 'thing'. This causes stress especially if the person then has their hours reduced or they lose their job. It may even be that a new expensive purchase isn’t so great and causes tension in a relationship. 
Years ago I had a friend whose husband had bought the family a brand new top of the range car. He insisted she park it in the most remote part of the car park when she went to do her shopping. He felt it was less likely to be backed into or damaged by a runaway trolley if it was parked away from other cars. She had two small children to take shopping with her. My friend said she would rather have had their old car and the convenience of parking closer.

There is nothing wrong with buying nice things and having a lifestyle which includes comfort and convenience. It is a good feeling to come home to a dwelling that is welcoming and expresses your personality.

I appreciate the things in my home which are special to me. However, I feel it is psychologically unhealthy to encourage people to compete against each other in an effort to have a ‘better’ house or more trendy appliances or other ‘stuff’. Surely friends and good relationships are more important than fancy possessions. 
The latest car won’t give you a shoulder to cry on when life gets tough.


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