Consumerism: Double-ended slavery of new age

ERGIN YAMAN
Published

The parts of the world that are exploiting the most and as such, causing large scale injustices and inequalities are the ones that are setting standards for human rights, equalities and freedoms

Mankind, which has largely lost its ties with innate values and natural moral senses, the quality of which normally define the quality of spiritual satisfaction, has been exposed to new ways of spiritual satisfaction that completely contradict these values and senses. Consumerism is one of these new ways that is affecting the whole world and turning the innate values and natural moral senses upside down. While the number of people who lead simple lives and consciously protest excessive consumerism is low, the majority of people are struggling to stand up to this wild trend of buying and using goods in ever-increasing numbers. This also heavily applies to Muslim people whose faith disapproves of excessive consumption.The purchase and use of goods used to be primarily based on need while this consumption has now become a ritual.

Individuals are seeking comfort, spiritual and egotistical satisfaction, status and acceptance through a constant cycle of purchasing and consuming goods. Although this habit is partly the individual's own choice, to a larger extent it is something imposed by the new culture and globalized mindset that does not tolerate anything that is worn out or outdated. People are relating to one another through the quality of what they are wearing or using and they are competing with one another in terms of who has the shiniest smartphone or clothes. This has consequently turned individuals into free agents of consumerism and capitalism.

Of course, this level of excessive consumption couldn't be possible without an equally high level of production and the burning issue here is the places where mass production takes place. It must occur to all of us when we check the labels on products that the goods that find themselves in the shops, from the bottom end to the top brands, are produced in some of the world's poorest countries or where human labor is cheapest. Producing dead cheap and selling uber expensive is the trend that all companies are going for to maximize profits. Unfortunately, when the absolute focus is on profits no one is taking heed of fairness or whether they are paying the right fee for the production of goods.

Ironically, when measured in line with developed countries' standards for human rights, equalities and freedoms, countries where mass productions is taking place probably scores lowest in terms of these values when it is mostly developed countries' companies that are choosing poor countries for mass production.

The act of buying can be very simple. You pop into a shop and pick up something you fancy and in most cases pay an outrageous amount for something that has probably been produced at a very low cost. On the other hand, things are not equally simple for laborers who manufacture all these products with very low wages and hard working conditions. This being the case, can it be claimed that we are not part of this unfairness when wearing garments that are produced in China, India or any other place where human labor is cheapest? In other words, are we not being voluntary ambassadors of capitalism by flagging the unfairness through everything we wear or use? How much are we contributing toward their exploitation while contributing to the wealth of a certain number of people?

This being the case we claim that developed countries are the most advanced in terms of human rights, equalities and freedoms! Not only that, we accept that developed countries are those that determine what constitutes a violation of human rights, equalities or freedom. It doesn't stop there! There are even institutions that brand which countries are failing in terms of human rights, freedoms, equalities, poverty and so on. To add to this, developed countries have global aid institutions that are there to help those in need! Going beyond that, the developed part of the world has international human rights courts that are meant to address global human rights violations! Don't we just dot all the i's and cross all the t's?!

Unfortunately this is the level of contradiction we face today! The parts of the world that are exploiting the most and as such, causing large scale injustices and inequalities are the ones that are setting standards for human rights, equalities and freedoms. Again it is the same parts of the world that has all these so-called humanitarian institutions and global justice courts that are allegedly addressing the poverty and injustices in the exploited parts of the world! The contradictions and unfairness could not be any deeper.

* Analyst at Strategic Thinking Institute, Ankara

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