Do you think God would approve of consumerism as an attempt to create happiness in life? Today in this modern day society, consumers have become bombarded and overwhelmed by the media and advertisers who try to push consumers into buying their products. There are so many endless options. Many consumers may think that they need to buy all the things that they would ever want, in order to feel happy, which is not the case. In the essays “The Treadmill of Consumption” by James Roberts and “Everything Now” by Steve McKevitt, they approach the concepts of materialism and our need to consume. “Fight Club” by David Fincher also dives into the problem of consumerism. Material things can only cause emptiness in our lives. It cannot define who we are or create happiness.
According to Roberts’ argument in “Treadmill of Consumption”, having all the material things we could ever want in the world will not make us happy. In the “Treadmill of Consumption”, he describes consumerism as a treadmill that never stops. He defines it as “the process of moving ahead without any real gain in satisfaction.” (119) People today may think that buying things brings them a sense of happiness, which will only be a short lasting, and temporary feeling. People will never be satisfied with the material possessions they already have, because there is always something new and better that comes out. One real life example would be how everyone flocks to the Apple store once a new iPhone comes out. Even if it is not as different from the prior model, people will be so willing to buy it just so they can say that they have the latest and newest phone. According to Roberts, this only “speeds up the treadmill” even more (119). In this consumerist society, people will always chase after the newest products. Once something newer and better comes out, they are going to push their other material possessions aside, because those things no longer bring them happiness. They will think that these new things will make them happy. Roberts states how “acquiring more possessions doesn’t take us any closer to happiness”. (119) Instead, people will be left to be dissatisfied with what they actually have. Roberts also talks about people who buy things for “status consumption”. He defines this as, “the motivational process by which individuals strive to improve their social standing.” (120) People who constantly buy more expensive things will never be happy either. They will keep wanting to buy more and more things as an effort to impress people. People who like to show off what they have will buy the most expensive products and certain popular brands, whether it is clothes, handbags, or phones to show off the fact that they have money. In reality, those expensive material items and money, will not matter, because they will always be temporary. People in this day and age may have this idea that they have to have all the material things that other people have. In reality, we should not focus on the things that others around us might have, but we should focus on ourselves and put our happiness towards something that is not as temporary as material possessions or money. Money and material items that people have will never be permanent things in their lives, because they will always come and go, sometimes very easily and quickly.
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Steve McKevitt argues that, “those of us lucky enough to be living in the developed world today are, on average, healthier, wealthier, longer lived and better educated than at any other point in history”, but, we are not happier (124). Unfortunately, there are still people in this world who struggle to receive their basic needs everyday. But for many people in first world countries such as the United States, they do not have to worry about getting their needs, because for those who are financially stable, their needs are most likely met, and are not worried about as much. Because of this, many people turn to their wants as an attempt to find some kind of happiness. McKevitt describes our wants as “emotional, ephemeral, and ever changing.” (125) And that, “just because you want something today doesn’t mean you will want it tomorrow, always want it, or ever want it again.” (125) This shows how material things only make us happy at a certain moment in time, and how it will not last very long at all. Something that we think may make us happy at this point in time, will likely not be able to bring us happiness in the future. Buying material things will not fulfill us, because they are merely temporary things which try to get people to feel something, only for a brief, short period of time.
The material possessions which people buy over time only give them temporary happiness, which will never last. These material things people tend to wrap themselves up in do not define who they are. This concept of consumerism is present in Fight Club. The narrator of Fight Club, who is not named, is quite obsessed with buying material things. The narrator is obsessed with his condo, and loves buying furniture for it. He is so obsessed with buying furniture, that he works at a job which he does not like, just so that he can make sure he is financially stable enough to still be able to buy his furniture and stuff for his home. The narrator thought that buying everything he wanted would make him happy. He thought that with his money, he would have more power, with the ability to buy more and more things to make his condo look perfect. He lets his material possessions control, or even take over his life as this is apparent in the novel, when Palahniuk writes, “Then you’re trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you own, now they own you”. (44) It is not a bad thing to find happiness in something. but material things are just mere objects that will sooner or later fade away, because they are only temporary things. The fact that people like buying things is perfectly fine, but we should not become so obsessed with buying material things that our lives start to revolve around them. Instead, people should be focusing more on who they are, and what truly makes them happy. When it gets to a certain extent, it becomes too extreme and overwhelming. This extreme consumerism becomes too much, and is distracting people from things that actually bring them happiness in life, which are not as temporary or obsolete as material things are. If people let their lives revolve around material possessions, they will never be satisfied with themselves. They will only be disappointed with what they have, when they should instead be appreciating the things that they do have already. After all, many people do not have the luxury to buy whatever it is that they want. Those who have the ability to buy material things and are able to treat themselves once in a while, should be thankful that they have the things that they have. Chances are, the people who think that they do not have a lot, and that they need to have more material possessions, have a lot more than other people who do not have as much money, and are struggling to live. To solve this problem of consumerism, the narrator tries to find himself through feeling pain, by fighting, and facing fear and pain in an underground fight club, which is very dangerous and aggressive. Later on, the narrator realizes that the fight club is not helping either. He never ends up changing his consumerist ways. People should not have to work at a job they do not like, in order to buy temporary, objects, just because they have money to buy material things.
To conclude, James Roberts argues that buying more things does not make us more happy, and Steve McKevitt argues that our wants, as well as material possessions are only temporary, and will not fulfill people or make them happy. I agree with both authors, as we cannot rely on inanimate, material objects in order to feel an emotion or to fill a void. In Fight Club, the narrator participates in an underground fight club to deal with his consumerist nature, which is very extreme. One solution people can turn to instead of material things, is to turn to their spiritual side. It is possible that this extreme consumerism can be a result of a loss of spirituality in today’s modern culture. Spirituality may just be what many people today need in order to escape from the overwhelming power and influence that consumerism has in our modern, technological culture of society today. Instead of having our lives revolve around material objects, we should try to live our lives focusing on something bigger and higher than us. Doing this, people will find that there is a deeper meaning to life than buying material things, and that happiness comes from within our hearts. Religion is a great outlet for people to figure out who they are, and to find purpose in their lives. Religions, such as Christianity for example, teach people about God, who is not temporary like these obsolete, material things, but He is everlasting. Material possessions will never provide us with a lifetime of happiness, like God can. Material objects will only create happiness for a short period of time before they will eventually fade away after time. Material things cannot create true happiness like God can. God can create happiness for people, which will last forever, and will never fade away or disappear. People should try to improve and better their lives, instead of looking to material goods. God says not to rely on material possessions, but to only rely on Him. Material things, which are only temporary things, could never bring people happiness like God’s love can.
- Palahniuk, Chuck. Fight Club. W.W. Norton and Company. New York. 2018. Print.
- Roberts, James. “The Treadmill of Consumption” Signs of Life in The USA. Bedford/ St. Martin’s, Ninth Edition. 2017. Print.
- McKevitt, Steve. “Everything Now”. Signs of Life in the USA. Bedford/ St. Martin’s, Ninth Edition. 2017. Print.