« Midtown Market | Main | Genius Loci »

Consumerism, is it a social design problem?

To identify a social design problem, I took into consideration two things. First, was to find out what in the hell it really meant, and secondly to observe my surroundings. So here was what I defined social design to be: Just like a community (which also involves social design), social design in its self is constructed on a system between all people, and their environment (this includes, the places that they live, their culture, religion, beliefs, morality, wants and needs, and the list goes on….). So with this broad definition, I chose a broad perspective and I decided to tackle consumerism as a problem in social design.

What is consumerism? According to Webster, it is the promotion of consumers’ interest based on a theory that states that through purchasing, we will help our economy. This is a pro-consumer definition. So what is the problem?
According to anti-consumers on the web site “Never Enough?, they talk about things that are felt to destroy the world through consuming. An example of what they mention is global hunger and how there is enough grain to supply everyone with 2500 calories a day. Wow! No more hungry people! The problem in their eyes is the unequal distribution of food and the fact that the rich buy way more and waste way more than they need or even consume. A second issue they discuss is pollution. This is an obvious problem as well. I think the site is saying if we consume less, there is less waste and less pollution, from cars to packaged foods. A second website “Overcoming Consumerism? talks about consumerism by showing what it would be like if consuming was already controlled…
There is a problem with these concepts. They make it look like people are going to have to live in an environment between how the Amish live with a communist government and something tells me America would never be for that. Their ideas are great, but they need to realize these are the greedy power hungry eyes of America we are staring into. Its not that I disagree with anti-consumerism completely, I just think that anti consumerists think America can go from one extreme to another and that is just not feasible. People are used to having and getting what they want to some extent, and even though it makes Americans stressed out and hate their lives… they live for it. Many Americans live for money, and introducing them into a new world like this would be a total culture shock. The rich powers of the world would have a heart attack, as would any American living above the normal level. At a personal level, I care about people, I hate the Idea of people going hungry, and I care about the environment, but I am also a poor college kid. Would my opinion change if I was rich? I would like to think not. At the same time, I wouldn’t like the idea of people telling me that I cant buy what I want… hell, I don’t like the idea that I cant buy what I want now.
However, I do think the anti-consumerists have valid points and consumerism in growing America is a huge social design issue. On CNN this weekend I witnessed this story about a guy threatening another guy’s life with a gun over a damn “Tickle Me Elmo Doll?. Now, not only is that just pathetic and embarrassing, it also says something much deeper about our materialistic pro-consumer environment. Americans want what they want now, and often times will go to great extremes to get it.
So, with this said, I think we can help our consumers go back to what is truly important… but it has to start small, and people have to be a part of an overall solution for this craziness. An example to start would be perhaps less packaging in factories (Like cds and dvds it really sucks to have to spend a half an hour opening the damn package because of the wrapping and tape anyway). Another would be less reliance on transportation. Small changes like this will make a huge impact on our socially designed structure of consumerism. I don’t think this can happen alone, so I feel people need to be aware of this issue and they need to start caring to be able to help.

Read More on problems with consumerism your self!!!
Works Cited
1.Never Enough Anti Consumerism Campaign (Chayley Collis, Stuart Cooper, Paul Fitzgerald, Jane Lawson,Jonathan Purkiss, Joseph Ryan and Anna Thomas.) http://www.enough.org.uk/
2.Overcoming Consumerism http://www.verdant.net/
3.CNN.com http://www.cnn.com