We live in a world of consumerism. Everything is rapidly and constantly changing – always for “the better” and “quicker”. A new iPhone is on the market less than every year or so with so-called “life-changing improvements”. Or a new anti-aging product that promises health and longevity and less wrinkles, more perfection and youthfulness. Or the new Michael Kors bag or latest BMWi series…
We buy things, throw things, buy more things, then need more things, buy, throw, so forth. We don’t like this shirt that’s now out of style after two months, so we throw it away or give it away at the charity shop down the road, no big deal. We buy a car after satisfying an obsession of having something new and impressionable – then few years later, it’s dull, boring, doesn’t give the same “buzz” or gratification. New car it is. And so, the cycle never ends. New car, new clothes, new this and that… we often times need some sort of change. The old is boring, the new is exciting. But for a short while.
Our possessions have become our obsessions and as a society, we constantly are in need but are never getting our real needs satisfied. Our possessions have consumed us without consuming our satisfaction for life and for being content. Something is seriously wrong.
I watched a BBC documentary a few weeks ago (yes I have become more British) on how we have become a consumerist –society. No surprise, it began in the land of ‘milk and honey’ –yes – good ol’ America – the land of consumption, capitalism, and cost (to say the least). The main point of the documentary was showing how consumerism was led by manipulation – an “organised creation of dissatisfaction” by businessmen who simply wanted to sell more of their product whilst creating in people the “need” to buy more and change more often. It all started from the new Ford model –what was once a socialist-mundane product of a black model car (his motto was “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black”) – became all of a sudden the model car with colours! People had options and change and something “better” and “newer”. Adverts focused on being “new” and “unique” and the need to have and be different. It all went down hill from there.
Now one may be wondering why I’m on a capitalist-consumerist rant in a theology blog-platform. This capitalist-consumerist-cost- type of world we’re all living in now has infiltrated in our daily lives – our daily decisions, they way we behave, the way we treat each other – the way we think and believe things. As humans – even more so as Christians, we often times say or believe “all my satisfaction comes from God” but sadly it often times is our own forced mirage of reality. I don’t doubt people do truly believe this and do live it, but more often than not, we even as Christians where “in every state I have learned to be content” people (reference to Phil 4:11) are miserable, not committed, lacking satisfaction, live double-standard lives and then in return blame God why we are so empty, so lonely, dissatisfied and disconnected with life.
Now this may seem a bit mellow-dramatic but if we look past the surface of things in our life that drive our dissatisfaction – we often may find that there stems a big dilemma – lack of commitment.
What does lack of commitment have to do with the capitalist-consumerist society rant from above? Well, as already said, we’ve become led by our possessions – we choose what we want – when we want it (most of the time) – buy what we want (if we can’t, the plastic card does it for us), often times with little limits. Because of this freedom of choice, this ease of life to throw away and get something new as we wish – consumerist-life-style we live, we act like this in our studies, jobs, career goals (if there are any), relationships, friendships, church services, the way we eat and what we eat and so on. I’ll change jobs because so-and-so boss or co-worker drives me crazy; or I’ll change my major or not follow through college because I lack passion to succeed or just don’t like what I do or mom and dad forced me to do medicine. I’ll not bother with that friend because I can just pick up a new one next week and this one is draining. I’ll eat what I want and when I want because I can and I’ll deal with the consequences later. Or I’ll fish around and find that one “true” relationship by having my list of options of possible candidates – deciding which to choose like they’re a menu choice at a fast-food restaurant. We choose what we want, when we want it, buy what we want.
We’ve lost our sense of commitment because we have lost the value of our real possessions – healthy human relationships – be it with family, friends, partners, co-workers, the stranger on the street. We’ve lost the value of work ethics and being faithful to our studies, our health, our jobs, the ministry, our overall well-being.
Many of us are never in that state of contentment and want (not need) more and more. It’s never enough.
I was in New York a few weeks ago and was overhearing a conversation on the train about a young teenage girl speaking to her parents about her need for the latest iPhone. Her parents assured her that her other latest iPhone model was just as good, but she was not convinced – she “had” to have it – it was the new colour that the new iPhone was coming out with – and it was necessary for her survival (well the latter statement is my exaggeration). I was shocked yet saddened how we’ve become so controlled by things that will never satisfy us.
My lack of being content relates to my lack of commitment. I don’t have to commit to this new product or gadget or whatever it may be forever because I can just get a new one or the “better” latest one a few months down the line. I don’t have to commit to this relationship or degree or job long-term because I can throw it away and start afresh new – find something better and new.
While some times in life we do take and need to take turns (new job, new career choice, new car if the other broke down etc) – we need to be in constant awareness of how we are living our life and what decisions I make – on a daily basis – that “satisfies” or “dissatisfies” my whole-being. News flash to many of us: every decision you make – most likely will affect those around you – so make your decisions wisely and prayerfully. That career choice I make today – may affect my children ten years down the line – walking away from a marriage because we have grown “apart” or not dealing with it properly and constantly creating an unhealthy environment for myself, my partner and my kids – affects my household and their lives and in turn the lives of people around them (anyone see the movie “Pay it Forward?” simple concept).
We’ve stunted our growth because of the lack of ability to commit – to realise that not everything in life can be thrown away and bought new. You can’t just walk away from a marriage, or a degree, or a job because you feel like it or because things aren’t always going so smooth. Things need to be dealt with properly – wisely, prayerfully – and with the right guidance (no not just besty or Dr. Phil or even just your parents). I’m not advocating of being a rebel – I’m advocating to be more aware of the decisions and how we’ve become a culture lacking commitment and satisfaction.
We need to slow down our lives in a fast-changing world and see how I can change not which of my things I can change. I can’t throw away my parents because I don’t feel like its working out; I need to evaluate what are the issues and how they can be solved – again – wisely and prayerfully. I don’t make rash career choices because I failed to commit to my previous job and found it dull – I have to commit, be faithful to what is before me, and if the time and opportunity comes for another job opportunity– I make that decision to pursue it– wisely and prayerfully.
The changes we need to make today is within – not the new gadgets or cars or all that nonsense – we need to start revealing to ourselves our dissatisfactions, why we are lacking contentment, and if this also affects our lack of commitment to many parts in our life.
I end with a quote from Tupac (yes Tupac – the only song I do like from him), from his song “Changes” – the change starts and is from us:
“It’s time for us as a people to start making some changes. Let’s change the way we eat, let’s change the way we live and let’s change the way we treat each other.”