The end of consumerism? Part 4 – Let us cease the devaluation of humanity

by Mariam Williams

This morning, Good Morning America featured a piece about trends in teen sexuality as depicted in the documentary, Oral Sex is the New Goodnight Kiss. Pre-teen and teenage girls are engaging in everything from oral sex to prostitution.  Of the clips shown this morning, the footage of two particular girls has stayed in my mind: The girl who said she figured if she was going to have sex anyway, she “might as well get paid for it,” and the one who described offers of $20 for taking off her shirt or $100 for dancing on a table.

True, I can figure out how to make just about anything apply to this blog, the economy, and unemployment, but really, this topic fits.  At least, it goes well with my previous harps on consumerism and my over-reaching predictions about its end.  These young prostitutes apply to this blog because filmmaker Sharlene Azam said “the prettiest girls from the most successful families” are most at risk for this behavior.  Their parents aren’t those living life laid off; they’re just the people—or friends of the people—whose greed helped put our country in crisis.  (More on this after the definitions.)

After my dad read my post about the lure of an easy life through a sugar daddy relationship, he expressed interest in hearing my thoughts on what he calls “the psychologically programmed consumerist commercialism at the root of the whole phenom and the possible social consequence of its relentless, vapid, amoral, vampirish soul rape of bling-blinded youth.” (Does that sentence make so much about me make sense or what?)

About a month and a half ago, I read his comment again and focused on the word “consumerist.”  I looked up its root, “consume” (emphasis not mine):

transitive verb

1: to do away with completely : DESTROY

2 a: to spend wastefully : SQUANDER b: USE UP

3 a: to eat or drink especially in great quantity  b: to enjoy avidly : DEVOUR

4: to engage fully : ENGROSS

5: to utilize as a customer

intransitive verb

1: to waste or burn away : PERISH

2: to utilize economic goods”

I looked up “consumer”:

“: one that consumes: as

a: one that utilizes economic goods

b: an organism requiring complex organic compounds for food which it obtains by preying on other organisms or by eating particles of organic matter”

The cultural attitudes are manifesting themselves in 11-year-old prostitutes, but the bling blinded most of us.  Here’s what I think happened: a few brilliant people—owners of retail and real estate corporations for the most part—paid a few other brilliant people to convince us that we had to have it.  Our lives were incomplete without the car, house, pool, clothes, jewelry, handbags, gadgets, weave, beauty treatments, and gourmet food those few brilliant people were selling.  Things could fill voids in our lives.  Things could make us happy.  Not having enough money to get the things didn’t matter to most of us; happiness was attainable, even if it was only via loans and credit.  More brilliant people profited off our mismanagement and became people whose lives were incomplete without the money to get the things, and more money on top of that.  To those same people, the people using credit also became things.  They weren’t even customers anymore, just 9 or 16-digit numbers whose rates needed to be raised.  Ways to consume more.  Means to an end.  Prey to be devoured.  Pre-teen girls to use.  Teen boys and men to get cash from.  We might as well.

Many who opposed our President’s economic stimulus plan claimed they were horrified by the burden of debt and taxes that government spending would leave to future generations.  Seeing girls of any economic status or social class approach the removal of their clothes for $20 with nonchalance horrifies me, and not just because I hate to see women objectified.  It horrifies me because the STDs these girls may spread won’t help a healthcare system that’s already insufficient for a civilized nation.  It horrifies me because these girls won’t even notice that particular social consequence because they’ll probably marry affluent men who can afford the best healthcare.  It horrifies me because seeing people as a means to an end prevents you from seeing people’s needs.  It blinds you to the compassion needed to address the health and wealth disparities in our society and to radically change the consumerist economy that we have proven will crumble when any one element—wages, jobs, credit, responsible repayment of debt, or an insatiable craving for frivolity (consumer confidence)—is removed from the equation.

Equation.  That word indicates a call for balance.  Most viewers’ comments on the story faulted lackadaisical parenting, abstinence teaching, and generational immorality.  A few saw it as a cry for attention to parents who have been too busy working to watch their kids.  Others saw no difference between this and previous generations.  If girls whose parents already have money feel they might as well dance on tables for $100, I think it goes deeper than moral deficiency, and that it’s worse than lonely kids who just want love.  It’s a devaluation of humanity that will continue to perpetuate and is perpetuated by the idea that enough is always just a little bit more.

CONSUME

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© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or http://livinglifelaidoff.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.

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1 Comment

Filed under Dating and Relationships, Economy, Lifestyles, money, Sex

One response to “The end of consumerism? Part 4 – Let us cease the devaluation of humanity

  1. Leesa M

    Hi Mariam, I’m still here—still reading,

    You and your father hit the nail on the head. I ponder the points mentioned in your blog constantly. I marvel at why, forty-plus years after the explosion of the women’s movement, young females have slipped back into rampantly degrading objectification.

    Two in the morning and I cannot sleep. I’m watching something mindless on cable, and on comes a commercials for Girls Gone Wild. I rail at the TV—“Who sold you girls the idea that this taking off your clothes and getting nasty is a good thing?” Ah yes, the reward of money and fifteen minutes of fame…after all, isn’t that what’s most gratifying in life? And the brilliant mind behind the phenomenon gets richer. Oh but ain’t that America!

    Then I think maybe I too am part of the problem. I worked for a modeling agency; I put in time at a rock radio station. I helped push the “Look sexy and party hard whoo-hoo” image.
    My concern surpassed middle-age hindsight ; it is a heightened awareness of how the keen killer instincts of corporate commercialism have placed merciless bulls-eye on our pre-teens and teens.

    Remember the rein of the Reagan generation? The ‘80’s me generation of must have now! That’s when the light bulb really sparked for light-speed consumerism. Let’s give a hearty hand to cable television for providing more venues for pimping these wares.

    There have always been shysters selling snake oil for curing all ills. As media becomes more sophisticated, so does the pitch for making money.

    Seems to me the folks who extol the virtues of conservatism are the very ones thinking up ways to make meg-bucks for mega-corporations on the backs of the young. I have nothing against monetary success, but should this be an excuse for eating our young?

    Parental responsibility is their pitiable defense cry. Tell me how parental vigilance can compete with the internet and the myriad of other ways inappropriate messages bombard our children?

    I know a couple who, when watching a television show, mute the commercials. At first I thought this practice a bit odd, but now, I think it is genius. We talk to each other through the five minute break. We miss the messages of power, beauty, and prestige that can be obtained should we run out and second-mortgage ourselves into oblivion just to feel like worthy Americans.

    Am I saying this is the answer? Of course not— there is not any one simple answer.

    The pre-teen and teen years begin an accelerated journey of self worth. Kids are vulnerable. Media images speak louder and longer than any good parent; be sexy, be popular, be the one with the most cake, then you will have worth!

    Irresponsible consumerism is devouring our future. And yet, I have no neat and easy answers on how to reverse this disturbing trend of self-devaluation. We are, as a society, sheep.

    Ten years from now these former kids will arrive into full adulthood, writhing in a web of self loathing and confusion. A generation throwing billions of dollars into therapy and big corporate health care will profit from the onslaught.

    What a brilliant plan!

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