March 14, 2005 by Isaac Hovet

Maybe the most difficult obstacle for any American to overcome is consumerism. Now, I know that I would be a hypocrite if I spouted off about this topic without qualifying myself as a huge (quite literally, ahem…) consumer. I often think about the tragedy of it all, but realize that America’s issue with greed will not be overcome unless it starts with me. I don’t want to be shallow like the celebrities who rail and rant against pollution, sign a few autographs and then drive off in their $60,000 SUV (15 mpg hwy). In a nutshell, I am greedy, I love new things and may think about what my $30 Applebee’s dinner could buy someone in Bulgaria, but don’t often change how I spend. Instead I let my income level dictate my lifestyle. My $26,000 a year doesn’t get me far in the eyes of Americans, but in the eyes of the a lot of the world, I am rich. So, I start this tirade by lumping myself with most everyone else (from America at least).

Here are some startling figures and statistics that I got from this site . . . I hope this knowledge changes you and me . . .

If we could shrink the earth’s population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look something like the following:

  • 6 people would possess 59% of the entire world’s wealth and all 6 would be from the United States.
  • 80 would live in substandard housing
  • 70 would be unable to read
  • 50 would suffer from malnutrition
  • 1 would be near death; 1 would be near birth
  • 1 (yes, only 1) would have a college education
  • 1 would own a computer

Wow. The next time you hear me moaning about my “meager income” please verbally abuse me. I don’t have any room to complain, to beg God for more or to dream of massing more wealth in my little kingdom. Something is drastically wrong with the way that we Americans view the world.

I have often thought about the reasons why we Americans are so self-centered and, in spite of the greatest information flow ever, extremely ignorant of the world’s problems. As I have contemplated this two things that have stuck out to me:

  1. Americans believe that America is the quintessential Christian nation. Now, there is nothing wrong with believing in our nation or valuing what is good about it. It isn’t hard to see that America was founded, and is run on, a good many Christian concepts. Some of those being (1) The equality of all people (2) Religious freedom and (3) the apparent acceptance of a higher being (In God we Trust, etc). Nonetheless, there is something wrong with valuing America above all of humankind, above God or above reason. That is the line of thinking that causes many people to devalue the rest of the world while embracing every lavish indulgence of America.

    I have actually heard Christians state that other countries would be able to have the blessing and wealth of America if they simply served God the way our country does. I have to admit that anger rises in my chest at such a comment. Is it really that easy to forget Job? Job, who had everything taken away from him in spite of his unequivocal righteousness, solidly proved that God gives and takes away not as a result of some divine contract, which guarantees the success of some individual or people group based upon their performance. God has blessed America with wealth because he has chosen to, not because we earned it. The line of thinking that equivocates America with righteousness breeds a worldview that sees America as being ahead of the rest of the world. Therefore, ethno-superiority rises to the forefront of our thinking. With that mindset, Americans view themselves as evolved to a higher level while other nations, people groups or governments are categorized as unsophisticated, unevolved or, simply put, inferior. As such, Americans give as much thought to other peoples as you or I do towards a monkey at the zoo. We acknowledge they exist, we throw them some bananas (appeasement money) at times, are amused with their infighting, get sad when they die or happy when they reproduce, but the monkey’s lives don’t affect our lives. Monkeys shouldn’t change our lives a whole lot, but people should matter.

    It is time that we realize that God has blessed our country to be a blessing. We interpret his blessing as an endorsement of everything that is American.

  2. Marketing. Do you realize that our great economy is based mostly on you and I buying things that we don’t need? Think about all of the things that you own. How many of those things meet basic needs (feed you, give you water, give you [necessary] shelter or oxygen)? In order to keep this economy growing and vibrant people need to be convinced to spend money of stuff they don’t need. So, everyday we are begged to be more selfish, told that we deserve this or that and deceived into creating needs.

    When we are brainwashed to be that selfish, we can’t see past the next pair of Gap jeans, our new Lexus or upgrading to a better (many times unnecessary) house.

I can’t change everything at once, but I can change myself. Even if it is just little things, I am trying to be more aware of who I am and who I should be. Here is a website that is standing against the greed of America. I encourage you to take a look . . . ADBUSTERS

I will write about some of my successes and failures in the coming months. For now, don’t feel guilty, mad or overwhelmed . . . Just be a good manager of you and keep the rest of the world in mind too.


3 thoughts on “Consumerism

  1. scroller says:

    Well, that was quite a comment you had on consumerism. I was quite impressed with how you communicated the concept. For years, I have been bothered by the consumerism mentality in the US. I guess your last comment really said it all……thanks for sharing your thoughts…..

  2. It is SO difficult to think clearly about the subject of wealth and righteousness. It’s easy to feel confident about heavily skewed opinions.
    Bridger, your point about the implied relationship between God’s blessing on the US and God’s endorsement of our way of life is pretty central I think.
    It seems that fallacies like that quickly emerge when we lose track of 1) The degree to which we are unworthy of God’s presence, interaction, grace, love, acceptance. Even with my best smile on, I’m filled up with wrong motives and selfishness. 2) The degree to which it is His presence, interaction, grace, love, acceptance is the source of the blessings (not our own superior thinking, believing, or dressing).
    It is not wrong for the US to be blessed. It is very wrong that we are not completely humbled by the fact that we are.
    It would seem that a trully humble heart with a full plate would also be a very generous heart.
    I too wrestle with these things. I swing widely between wanting a bigger house, a higher paying job, a faster computer… and being astounded at the wealth that is daily mine to experience. None of it I have any right to. None of it have I trully created. Then I see a huge old station wagon drive by with a woman and her daughters… and a faded but sincere Jesus Loves You sticker on the back. That woman works 3 times harder than I do… probably with less than a 3rd of the resources I have access to. I wouldn’t be suprised if she’s on her own with her girls. Wealth doesn’t go to the worthy… it falls like the rain on the righteous and cruel alike. And poverty comes like a drought… to everyone.

  3. Bridger says:

    As we struggle through this together, lets help one another. Not by being judgmental of the other’s financial habits, but by encouraging, rewarding and celebrating generosity on every level. I can start there.

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