We live in a largely polarised world, with respect to the economy. On one extreme, we have the least developed countries of the world with abysmal GDPs. Many of the Sub-Saharan countries and a few Asian countries would be found at this polar. On the other extreme, we find the highly developed countries with GDP figures envied by those at the other extreme. Most Western and a few Middle-Eastern countries come under this category. Whether consumerism rises up and thrives or rises up only to wither away or doesn’t rise up at all, is thus, polar-specific.

What then is needed for a culture of consumerism?

A high GDP, high levels of purchasing power parity, availability of a fertile market, great advertising strategies, consumers’ desire to attain more, moderate to high levels of competition for acquisition, an I-do-not-care-much-for-others attitude and a collective societal outlook to ascribe success to materialistic prosperity.

Does Consumerism mean well or is it a curse disguised in glam garbs?

The answer to this is not an absolute one.

If we analyse the phenomenon of consumerism from a viewpoint of the economy, it is a wonderful blessing! A consumerist society pushes its country higher up the ladder of economic prosperity. With high purchasing power parity of a given population, a high demand keeps the supply chain rolling with increase in manufacture, increased engagement of the labour force, more employment opportunities, more innovations and inventions leading to more capital investments in diverse ventures and an even bigger boost to the economy in return. The cycle goes on. In fact, this is how the big economies of the world have come to be known as ‘big’. A developed economy signifies a progressive culture.

Coming to the flip side of it, it puts a toll on the environment (think of the millions of trees that lose their lives to give us paper and stationery of various makes and designs or the tons of non-biodegradable waste that are generated due to high consumerism or the huge quantities of chemicals that are churned up in laboratories to come to the aid of the cosmetic industry), depletes traditional values (substituting personal ownership in place of collective ownership thereby increasing unhealthy competition), creates a false sense of need (when you go to a mom-and-pop store you ask for all that you have scribbled in your list, but when you leisurely stroll across a mall trolleying your basket along there is more likelihood of buying items that are not necessarily on your purchase list), creates a false sense of deprivation (a FOMO feeling), an incorrect understanding of life and self (defining self and others in terms of possessions, acquisitions and wealth rather than in terms of character and personality traits), increases animosity, jealousy and envy (owing to cut-throat competition to thrive in a competitive market) and lastly, leads to a spiralling of psychological disorders (starting from commonplace insecurities, insomnia, anxiety to various psychosomatic disorders and so on).

My analysis above brings forth more of the adverse impacts than the boons of economic prosperity and harnessing of creative potential. Consumerism is here to stay. With the world powers delving deep into economic growth, we cannot rub consumerism off our backs any time. Rather, we would see ourselves being sucked into the whirlpool of an even intense cycle of consumerism.

How to deal with it, then? How do you curb it when shopping is just a mouse click or a phone tap away? How do you protect your gullible self from falling prey to luring advertisements? How do you keep yourself from not trying new products? How do you keep yourself away from not availing lucrative discounts and offers which hoodwink you into believing that you sure need/ would need a product? Would you be willing to keep yourself one step behind your counterparts?

The key is self-control. Knowing what you want and going in for only that though other lucrative stuff may catch the eye, is vital.

The world economy is at its crippling worst now, because of Covid restrictions. But then, didn’t we all survive with only basics at our disposal for months together at a stretch? Didn’t we survive without spending endlessly on mindless wants, by only sticking to our needs? Everyone did. Crib, cry, struggle or whimper – all of us lived without the wants that we had so far mistaken to be our needs.

While it is not wrong to indulge occasionally, it is definitely not beneficial to ride on a consumerist spree. In an attempt to boost up the economy, the individual losses need not be miscalculated.

The next time you are tempted to buy that one product simply because you would get another one free, think twice. If you are bitten by the green-eyed monster and get the adrenaline rush to acquire something that has pushed another someone up the societal ladder of prosperity, pause and rethink. By all means it is wise to wait for Sale Seasons and Discount Offers to shop for essentials, but to spend money and buy irrespective of requirement is nothing but engaging in the thankless job of boosting the economy at the expense of one’s personal well-being.

It is unwise to define success in terms of mere material prowess bereft of priceless human values. So while it is important to do our bit to keep the circular motion of money intact, it is equally pertinent to make wise choices for expenses and investments without being deceived by the quagmire of consumerism.