No one knows exactly when consumption became an ideology. In the beginning, it was just people buying things that they needed. It was a natural behavior. They needed bread and milk. They needed bricks to build their houses, so they bought them. But with time, a busy industrial Machine was set up in the background, which churned out all these products that needed to be sold. The Machine eventually became stressed out. It had to sell all its products, whether people needed them or not. Very soon consumption was completely reversed: it was not driven by the people and their needs anymore. It was driven by the need of the Machine to sell. It was driven by its hunger for money, the hunger to sell anything to anyone, whether it was of poor quality or not. And in order for the Machine to sell increasingly inferior quality products to consumers, it had to invent a new religion. A religion that was so powerful it could override people’s common sense, and peoples’ real needs. If people were sufficiently brainwashed, they didn’t necessarily have to have a need for the product they were buying anymore: as long as they Believed in the religion, as long as they believed that the product might be useful to them at some point in the abstract future, as long as they realized only after they took their shopping home with them that it was pointless, the machine had completed its transaction. And the people still flocked to the shopping malls the next day even though they knew they felt even more empty since their last visit, because they Believed: they believed abstractly that owning something is good, whether it was useful to them or not. As long as the new religion managed to reinforce this dogma, transactions multiplied, and the hungry machine was fed with the currency it needed.
And as with all religions, after a while people became fanatical. They idealized the machine and couldn’t see that it had manipulated them. Because the machine was perfect. The production factory was God, the marketing campaigns were His sermon, and the products themselves were His blessing. The religion became the biggest one on the planet, uniting and engulfing all others within its ideology: Christianity, Islam and all major religions that had preached some level of self-restraint succumbed to it. Consumption, excess, growth became powerful dogmas not to be challenged by anyone. Self-restraint became sacrilege: it became an insult to the new God. Any concept of conservation of resources was seen as a direct attack on the system and the existence of our civilisation. Too much of anything could never be a bad thing. Society became one big junkie, overdosing on the resources it pillaged from a planet that had almost run dry of “gifts”. Like any junkie, there was no measure, no stopping point. But worse even, no knowledge that the junkie was doing anything wrong. The religion just felt “natural” to humans. Overconsumption, overpopulation felt natural, when in fact every ecosystem always takes steps to curb species that over-proliferate or over-consume. Humans chose the wrong religion, in a planet where there had only ever been one, ancient religion: the religion of Sharing.
(from the upcoming “Little Book of Doom”)
George is an author, researcher, podcast host, chemist, molecular biologist and food scientist. You can follow him on Twitter @99blackbaloons , listen to his Spotify podcast George reads George, sign up for blog alerts below, or enjoy his books