Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Great Lie of American Consumerism

Commenting on the recent Black Friday death of a Walmart worker, Leonard Pitts, Jr. says this:

We say children are a priority, but when did people ever press against the door for parents' night at school? We say education is a priority, but when did people ever bang against the windows of the library? We say faith is a priority, but when did people ever surge into a temple of worship as eagerly as they do a temple of commerce?

No, sale prices on iPods, that's our true priority. Jdimytai Damour died because too many of us have bought, heart and soul, into the great lie of American consumerism: Acquiring stuff will make you whole.


Hey, you may be a total loser, may not have a friend, may not have an education, may not have a job, may not have a clue, but it will all be OK as soon as you get that new Canon digital camera, especially if you get it for 50% off.

The truth is that Christians whose hope should be other worldly as just as likely to be caught in the "stuff" idolatry as the next guy.

We should be different. But we're not.

It is to our shame.


Anonymous said...

Are you part of the new fundamentalist left? I'm sure you're a nice guy, I just happen to vehemently disagree with you and with the tone of this article. Sorry, I won't buy into the leftist belief that capitalism is nothing but evil and "we" are all responsible for tragic incidents like this. Socialism sounds like a wonderful idea. But it only works on paper and never in real life.

Larry said...

Thanks for commenting.

So you actually think acquiring stuff will make you whole? Because that was my point.

I don't care what people buy or how much stuff they have.

I care about materialism. I care about people whose hope should be in the next world living like their hope is in the pile of stuff under the tree.

I probably couldn't be less of a socialist, but I am not sure.

So based on your comments here, I have no idea what you disagree with me about. I am certainly not defending socialism, though I think it is inexcusable that people can't wait for a store to open at 5:00 a.m. Come to think of it, I can't think of any good reason to be up shopping at 5:00 a.m. But knocking down a door and killing a man in a rush to spend money?? Surely we can agree that is wrong, can't we?

David Stertz said...

Thank you for highlighting this article. I plan to pass it on to some people in my church. My heart sank....not just for the anger I have toward those involved, but also for my own sinful materialistic desires that crop up in my heart.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you that buying more stuff won't make you whole. Although, I have to say I agree with Mr./Ms. Anonymous, or at least I think I do. Here's my guess as to what he/she was saying: My guess is that he's conservative and doesn't agree with these cheap shots that use any excuse to slander capitalism and try to get us to lean more towards socialism. I'm guessing the writer is wondering if you got duped in this article. Yes, this was a tragic event; no one denies that. But don't get misled into using it as an excuse to slam America and capitalism as evil tools of the elite like socialists want us to believe. This was a tragic event that liberals will use as a cheap shot to promote socialism and villify capitalism. I think the writer is wondering if bought into the anti-American agenda.

Larry said...

Thanks for commenting.

Whatever Mr/Ms. Anonymous (and I wish you folks would use a name) was saying, I am fairly sure he/she is not more in favor of capitalism and more against socialism than I am.

I am not sure how I would have been duped. My problem is not with people buying Ipods or whatever else. My problem is with people for whom good buys are more important than ordering living. These people wanted to get into a store so badly, they tore down part of the structure in order to do so, and in the process killed a man.

That is not a problem of capitalism. It is a problem of materialism. These people were more concerned about good buys than about either orderly behavior or the life of a poor man laying on the floor while they traipse past it.

Surely you would not argue that a good buy on something is more important than a man's life, would you?

Secondly, my concern is with believers whose hope is in the next world living as if their hope in in this world. That, again, is not about capitalism, but about materialism.

I didn't see anything in the article that vilified capitalism or promoted socialism.

So perhaps you misunderstand my point, and I will take responsibility for assuming more than I should have in writing. It seems that, in this case, the children of darkness perhaps understand more than children of light (assuming that you are a follower of Christ).

Anonymous said...

This was a great article and it brought up great points. I think Mr. Pitts did a fine piece of work on this one. I also agree with your salient points. But let's not forget that Mr. Pitts is generally considered liberal (at least in my opinion he is; some may consider him conservative) and this could be easily used as just another excuse to make further diatribes against capitalism and proclaim how evil we as a country are for not being as egalitarian a society as we should be.

I think all that we're saying is to watch the motives of people and to be careful not to get drawn into the wrong philosophies, even when a person makes good points.

Maybe some analogies will help. You could write an automobile article exploring how many homosexuals buy BMW's and how it's not a lot, for example. Perhaps the real reason is because a BMW is a fairly expensive vehicle and the majority of Americans don't own one. Now, if you really wanted to promote some pet agenda, you could twist this into saying how homosexuals are discriminated against in this country and don't get good jobs and therefore that's the reason they don't buy many BMW's. Or you could write an editorial about how many women are shot each year by handguns and you could, instead of blaming the sin of the shooters, place the blame on gun manufacturers and use it as excuse to further your wrong agenda. In my opinion, the only thing Mr. Anonymous is trying to convey is to take any Pitts article "with a grain of salt," as they say. Yes, he is 100% dead on in this article, but be careful in your reading that you see the writing on the wall and don't get fooled into some hidden political agenda. I've seen articles that have tried to guilt "us" all as a society for this incident because we are Americans. I feel as guilty about this incident as I do for the tragedy of the Oklahoma bombing. In other words - not a bit. I'm "guilty" because I have listened to talk radio and therefore I am "morally responsible" for giving talk radio a marketplace and a venue in society. I should feel just as guilty as Tim McVeigh because I listen to talk radio and am therefore just as responsible.........Sorry, ain't gonna happen. I don't feel responsible one bit for the Oklahoma bombing just as I won't let anyone make me feel guilty for being an American and believing in capitalism because free market capitalism is "responsible" for stampedes.......Again, great article by Mr. Pitts! Just be careful to not get taken in hook, line and sinker into his whole agenda.