25 January 2008
It has been argued in recent times that consumerist materialism drives the American economy. Whether or not this is really the case, assuming that it is, the question then becomes whether that is a bad thing. America is a capitalistic society, yet are there not ethical bounds to capitalism?
According to George Lewis in his article “The Mall as Refuge” the mall can be a huge commercial nexus, but not one that has gone without criticism. The mall is said to have become a large part of our culture and buying things a new national pastime (Lewis).
Malls have a large number of places to purchase items in a confined space. It brings a overwhelming array of ways to spend money to a population that is brainwashed to believe they need to buy said items with their hard earned money. Perhaps no one can say it better then Tyler Durden from the movie Fight Club when he indignantly proclaimed;
“Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”
This speech epitomizes the state of our sick society in today’s age. People are obsessed with material items because they use these items to try in vain to fill a void in their own self that causes them to feel empty. This is also epitomized from a different perspective from that same insane alter-ego Tyler Durden from Fight Club when he advocates the opposing position of the masses of concentrated mindless delirium previously introduced and says ever so eloquently, “Fuck off with your sofa units and strine green stripe patterns, I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say let… lets evolve, let the chips fall where they may.”
Not only is he criticizing the idea of needing to buy things to feel complete, he is doing it on a philosophical level. He is saying that we cannot base our worth on what we own in an artistic and revolutionary way. This is not to say the mall is innately bad, just as a weapon is only as dangerous as he who wields it the mall is only physical. The idea of the mall was not sinister by nature… However people do seem to work at jobs they hate for stuff they don’t need quite often…
The mall is essentially an economically driven place that has somehow turned social… Turning an economic thing into something social makes buying social… By making buying social people typically will want to buy more. People can go to the mall with their equally spiritually lacking friends and buy more.
So the mall is not innately bad, no. It is the weak, simple people with no self worth that perpetuate the idea of it. The idea that it is a necessity that should be gone to for fun and enjoyment regularly is wrong… It is not to say that in moderation the mall is evil or something dramatic to that effect… It is the idea that people need material items to be happy that is wrong.
It is important that people make the distinction between needs and wants in order to become shrewd consumers… However, the lines between the two can blur when advertising uses the terms interchangeably.
This ideal of filling voids with material goods cannot be summarized better then by the holiday season. As Dave Barry said, “Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.” Even the most religious holidays are commercialized now…
The fact that religion is not even left alone in the pursuit of happiness in materialism reflects the magnitude of the situation. The mall can be an innocent place to purchase things one needs pr a place where empty people go to buy stuff to try to fill the void.
Ultimately like anything it is people and not the things that make a thing what it is. If people would change their ways, the economy would be forced to follow by its own self-interest.
I wrote this in my community college English class when we were doing a unit on copywriting. Now don’t get me wrong I like watching Mad Men very much and I find it has very interesting ideas, I even bought “Mad Men and Philosophy” and have been meaning to read it! Funny thing is I thought of the “and philosophy” series years before I knew it existed…
Anyways, I think my writing has improved since I just turned 18 but I’ll let you decide for yourselves as always!