Now here is an easy model, an elaborate metaphor but plainly self-explanatory, which explains to people who at present do not see that the consumerist economy as it operates in so many western countries, and in many other nations also, is in fact a very great evil.
Many of you reading this essay will have seen the movie ‘Speed’ starring Keanu Reeves and Sharon Stone; and so you will know the premise on which the central motif of the storyline of the movie – a bomb on a bus – is arranged.
For those of you who do not know; here is the resume.
A baddie (Dennis Hopper) plants a bomb on a bus filled with ordinadry people its passengers. The bomb is geared up so as to become activated for it to explode once the bus has reached above 50 MPH. The bomb is indeed activated at 50 MPH so that it will explode once the bus speed drops again below the 50 MPH mark.
In the movie the bus accelerates to over 50MPH and the bomb thus is activated so that it is able to expolode; and the remainder of the movie is the story of how the bus is kept running at a speed of over 50MPH whilst the passengers eventually are evacuated and the bus is blown up harmlessly, injuring no-one.
This bomb on bus scenario is an extremly good metaphor which helps show how our consumerist economies are running in actual fact.
Our marketplaces and stores are always stacked roof-high with great proliferations of all kinds of goods and services to be bought. This is because the engine of our consumerist economies is our shopping and purchases; which are performed by people like you and me, the end user consumers, who in great amounts buy and shop and thus continue a vast cycle of exchange of goods and services. Like a cyclical conveyer the goods and sevices keep coming from manufacturers/providers in multi-billions of numbers of items for sale week in week out, year in year out.
Many of these goods and services, in fact more and more as time goes on, have been and continue to be manufactured or set up (if services) so as to make necessary for us a swift return visit or more, to the shops quite soon after having bought an item; and whenever an item is purchased.
This reutrn to the shops is made necessary in many several ways. Some usual ways which spring to mind are:
- The bought item breaks soon after use (Dime shop items)
- The bought item soon requires a replacement power source(batteries, adapter etc)
- The bought items offers accessories which one can add to it for functionality
- The bought item goes out of fashion quickly
- The bought item no long is compatible because of a subsequent development of newer versions
- The bought item fails and is not able to be repaired by a professional nor at home
- The manufacturer’s projected lifetime for the bought item is short
- You want a latest model of a product/service instead
- A smallish piece goes missing and cannot be replaced/is non-replaceable in the marketplace
There are a host of other reasons why one is compelled so very often to go back to the shops quite soon after having bought an initial item or service; and for you to buy a second item or service; usually generically of the same kind, but maybe a different particualr model sometimes, which replaces the former purchase or supersedes it.
Near all the reasons I listed and many of those I did not list, for you going again soon to the shops for another similar purchase are ‘engineered’ reasons concocted by the manufacturers of goods, and by the suppliers of services, so that such events as are on my list do in fact occur frequently, as frequently as the suppliers can get away with, so that the suppliers’ policy ever is seen to be to get you back to the shops seeking another and similar purchases as often as possible.
It is this cyclic conveyor which characterises how our economies are set up to work; so as to keep up our standards of living, of employment, and our money circulation going briskly; and so we continue to live materially pretty well; but at the cost of absolutley gigantic waste of resources and of overprodction of goods/services; and the whole thing is a shaky house of cards in an increasing breeze; and dependent on the continuity of such sales being maintained and ever increased and increased at an ever faster rate of sales.
Those of you more perspicacious will be beginning to see how the plot of the movie ‘Speed’ and the ‘bomb on the bus’ scenario is apposite and appropriate to this setup of consumer economics we have gotten ourselves into. There appears to the economists to be no easy way to curb the revs and slow this consumer bus without that bomb going off; that bomb whose fallout includes economic deprression, dislocation, collapse and a resultant fragmentation of society into a new and anarchic free for all on the streets.
This collapse scenario is perhaps the biggest nightmare of governments in many lands right now. Just a few severe shocks to the system such as that one in 2008 which came close to plunging us all into darkess and despair, and the people will become unemployed in droves and out on the streets rioting and angry, because means and materials for living are no longer sufficiently available to sustain many of us.
Thus we are all on that bus and at present it is doing more than 50 MPH and the bomb is primed ready to explode once we dip in speed and slow down somewhat.
This ‘bomb on bus’ explanation of mine might seem to you to be overstated, a scaremongering, a deliberate exaggeration to grab your attention, sensationalism; and me myself appearing to be devil’s advocate and for the hell of it?
Here then is a current live example of the processes of ‘the bomb on the bus’ scenario in action in the workings of the British and maybe in many other economies in other nations; and right now. It is the example of the Community Care Sector in Britain becoming utterly overburdened and ailing, failing to function; so that perhaps hundreds of thousdands of elderly and disabled persons here are presently without much of the help they need to live a modestly reasonable life; and perhaps once not long ago they were receiving from the State at an adequate level of Care services.
The UK is an aging population; hence our voting to Brexit so as to be able to kick out all the immigrant foreigners here, who are mostly young people under 30, was such a grand and farcical shot in our own foot.
I myself walk into my town centre and I see so many of the people are depending on some kind of Social Welfare; huge numbers of people; and I suspect this is pretty typically the case for all UK large towns and cities. Wheelchairs; motability shopping scooters; people walking with sticks; with disabled badges on their cars parked up in specially reserved areas closer to the shops; many elderly making slow progress and heavy weather of their trip to shop for groceries etc.
These are the apparent casualties of age. There are another host of persons who rely on a visitor, a welfare person to come to the house and look after them. They rarely if ever go out anymore themselves. There are the hundreds of thousands of diabetic elderly; of arthritic; of osteopathic; of dementia; of all sorts who are at home and being cared for by a family member supplemented by State vistors, respites and allowances. The problem is huge. Over 50% of us over 60 now.
This means that the Home and Elderly Care Sector like the National Health Service has had grown up to service its huge footprint, a gigantic multi-billion $/£ industry of pharmaceuticals, prophylactics, dressings and anasthetics, gases, toletries and masses of masses of sundries; all being vacuumed up in gratuitous amounts by our Health Service and Social Care, and at an ever increasing cost to the public purse.
The Health Service is in pretty much the same dire straits as is the Home/Elderly Care Sector as regards finding funding to make ends meet.
The very biggest drain on the amount of resources which are presently being made available are probably the fees charges made, usually to Local Authorities, for the cost of Care Home accommodation for so many people, mostly elderly, who no longer can survive by their own physical/mental resources at home in the community. The buck for the bills for these people’s care for the most part stops with the Public Purse also.
Altogether then we have a consumer society wherein for a company to survive it needs to be ever selling in large amounts, and increasingly so, in an ever grater proliferation of new models, inovations, upgrades, improvements, ventures into new areas of provision and so on. All this,in the parlance of the politicians and the pundits comprises a good portion of our ‘energetic, resourceful, creative, innovation-driven and successful consumer economy.’ There are no words adequate to praise it and us – to be sufficient for the poltiticians and the pundits.
Yet what are we getting; what are we seeing; with this wild-frontier type push ever further westwards of the consumerist machine, which like a log shreddrer is carving to sawdust the forest resources of an entire world, as it applies itself to Health Care and to Elderly/Disabled Care in UK in Nursing Homes and in the Communtiy at large?
Remember our consumerist economies are utterly dependent on their increasing sales of and increasingly adding to a proliferation of products/services; and also rely on superseding ‘older’ ones with ‘newer’ models/types/kinds just as soon as the marketplace is able to bear the novelty of the next version, and/or the next new product/service. How does such an economic model bear down on a Publicly Funded Sector like Health and like Social and Community Care?
Of course the bill to cover adequately these unlucky peoples’ needs who depend on these Public Sectors of Health and Care is likewise going to be ever increasing and ever proliferating; as these Sectors are being evermore railroaded into a false and constructed necessity to be buying upgrades to replace constructively redundant versions of goods and services – sometimes jettisoning ‘redundant’ versions which have perhaps decades of actual years of life potential in them, were they to be continued to be suppported by their manufacturers. But offering such continued support is anathema to the manufacturers; their decisions not to continue spupporting such items are calculated premeditated business decisions so that the profits keep high and rolling in of necessity. A nice tranche of new money is likely to be coming in for manufacturers, traders, from the sale of yet another whole lot of next version, next increment products and services.
How is a Health and a Care Sector with a reluctant funder in the Great British Public able to sustain itself when it is caught in a vice grip of the pincers of a public reluctance to throw more money at them and a consumerist economy which is run and exists only on the fact of squeezing evermore money and sales out of its goods and servicves, as these are being prepared for and in the preparation for, the public. Just as the public is in chains to this consumerism; so are its Publicly Funded Health and Care Sectors and Services.
Further, the public itself is evermore a-clammour for the next item up in the range, a new this or a better that; a replacement; and the old model they had likewise having years of good life still in it – this one ends up on the dump. The public has ‘bought into’ this consumerist model; it has been convinced by the advertising and by the hype and by the propagation machinery of an onslaught of a magnitude which makes Dresden in 1945 look like 2017 Bahrain and its manufactured island resorts. The public has been fooled by the continuous and continuing barrage of persuasion from the manufactruers and the companies and by the artfulness of the men and the women who head them up.
These men and women who head up the companies; they themselves buy things top of the range and which last because they are made for their class of person. They do not buy their own mass produced temporary and stop-gap goods and services which they convice us to buy. They eat of the best; dwell of the best; wear of the best; take leisure of the best; and so on. No budget value frozen chicken Christmas dinner for one in a unheated December room for them.
What would it be like ask yourself if advertising stopped for a day? If no one was to buy and sell for one day? No tokens, coupons, special offers, giveaways, two for ones and so on; nothing. Think of the withdrawal. Think of the time available to consider one’s position?
The accompanying and also contsructive, constructed, ‘rush’ in which we are all encourage to be; the absence of any period of time without music, without background noise, nor background action, images, colours, flashings, and so on; all these assualting the senses every waking minute in many of our lives, maybe in most of the lives of our people, imagine these gone. Their functions are clearly fabricated to encourage us into believing we are in the swim of soemthing we call ‘life’; just as the station master at Waterloo Rail Station Terminus in London asks his staff to put on CDs of Brass Band marching music so as to chivvy along the commuters crossing London during rush hours.
It is yet another hoodwinking, another pulling of wool over our eyes; so as to supplement the barrages from manufacturers, traders, their angles and the pressures they innundate upon us to buy, buy, and buy again. Thus we are in a race we can never win; a consumerist race against ourselves until the resources start to run out and science begins to admit to and accept its limitations and its guilt in providing us with overkill in the realm of ‘the next upgraded item’ ever in the planning.
Theirs is not scientific method; which is a method which proclaims proudly its aims of objectivity and of negation of bias or of interference. These scientists are all chasing the bucks; their whole efforts are inclined towards feeding up to the gills the consumerist economic machine. Likewise the large and prevalent marketing departments in so many larger companies; being hothouses where ‘new’ ideas for products, for the public presentation of products, and for the presentation to the public of the company and its public image, for devising ploys and angles and for getting the better of the competitors; and of stealing a march or even a piece of technology or the like from competitors, if it can be done without comuppance; all this is commonplace everyday of a course stuff today; and the ethics of it and the long-run deleterious effects it has on society and on general trust and goodwill at large are passed over in an eyblink and go wholly by the board.
Our science, like our marketing and our economy as a whole is not geared up primarily to serve its customers, us, with the means of a comfortable and reasonable life. It is geared to the consumerist setup to serve those who head it up and not the people. I am convinced that consumerism is an elaborate and deliberately constructed mental prison, constructed thus by what may be termed loosely Big Business, in which most of us misguidedly enter into our cells and lock ourselves in and throw away the key, thinking ourselves happy and well served.
Consumerism is a great evil.
I have not got onto the subject of how our delusional hedonism which has resulted from this self-incarceration, and which our putting ourselves into the chains consumerism has provided to us; how our short-sighted self-gratifications thus reverberate and concatenate across the world to other less prosperous, less preposterous, nations and peoples than are we; and make their lives deprived, prolonging their deprivations; peoples whose labours often service our materialist penchants and lusts for gadgetries and our OCD shopping fetishes.
I believe also, and this issue is one which I am going to round off this overlong essay with, I believe that there is a way out of consumerism; a way out into another means of production, distribution and marketing. A way out which considers first those whose hands produce and use products and services, and which offers everyone adequate levels of care and of healthcare and of general social provision. A way out which values truly the earth and its need to be cared for; cares truly for its resources being managed soberly with restraint; values truly the welfares of less fortunate ones home and abroad whose lives deserve better. A way out which enlightens us who are self-satisfied in the cells of the prisons of consumerism; enlightens us of our complicty in this farcical runaway helterskelter ride to destruction; and enlightens us how we might feel better about ourselves and feel less unsatisfied and restless about our half-lives, ever on the go chasing one knows not what; satisfied because the good things arising out of our new-found restraint, sobriety, and coming to our senses can be seen not merely for ourselves and in our own lives, but by us more importantly in those lives who live and work on the desperately miserable wrong side of consumerism. Not just the elderly in the Care Homes in UK or the people in wards in our hosptials; but those others we never see or meet with too, who presently are providing over the course of their (also constructively) curtailed lifetimes our unnecessary abundances of proliferated wastes and redundant gorgings of resources and of overkill goods and services
Get off the bus.