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I was, for the first time in my life, buying toilet paper in bulk yesterday. This should be a simple ‘shop fast and go home’ procedure; instead, I was met with a predicament equal in complexity to my winter exam. Upon arriving at loo roll aisle, I counted five brands of toilet paper. Then within each brand there were a further three sub-categories. There I was, faced with a plethora of textures, colours and flavours. How does one decide between ‘velvet touch’ and ‘aloe vera essence’? It was only then that I realised that consumerism has been taken to entirely ridiculous levels.
Behold the Big Mac. Some say it’s the ultimate balance: a reasonably priced and well-sized delicious pick up meal. How did we survive without it all these years? What did we smother our artificial meat in before they created the world famous Big Mac sauce? Human beings were healthy once. In fact, we were perfectly satisfied with, remember these, ‘hamburgers’. That’s your standard patty. The unhealthiest aspect of Western society lies in the assortment of needless, unnecessary, money-grabbing goods. With cancer on the rise, obesity at its highest high, is it not safe to say that things are getting out of hand?
We love to tell ourselves that we’re immune to advertising. But anyone, myself included, who owns a Dyson, a 3d TV or a pair of speakers that have an outage of over 70 watts is a victim of swindle. In fact, before any of these items were made known to people, they were not at all necessary in their life. We were quite happy with Henry Hoovers before Dysons were made available. The problem that I have with the way in which consumerism has mutated is not the way people now use products as a means of judging socioeconomic status. The most serious implication of our consumerist obsession is that us frail humans are suffering indefinitely as a result.
We are now well accustomed to having brands shoved down our gullets at every bus stop. What is undeniably overlooked by us all however are the effects these products have. The revelation 40 years ago that cigarettes can cause perhaps one of the most deadly and widespread illnesses, lung cancer, should have been a wake-up call. Yet we continue to poison our diets and lives with imaginary consumables. In developing countries carcinogenic preserved foods are believed to be a major cause of liver, stomach and oesophagus cancers. In Western society we struggle more with cancers of the colon, rectum, breast and prostate, usually caused by obesity, lack of exercise and diet. Heart disease also remains the biggest cause of death worldwide despite it being easily avoided via a healthy diet.
Imaginary consumables. It’s a stupid phrase I made up on the 38 bus on my way to work once to describe the millions of products that have been invented for no reason other than to make cash. Why do Skittles exist? Seriously. Before they were invented we would never have Skittle cravings. It is downright difficult to resist new foods or products of any kind that are put before us. Especially when we know they’re fun, sexy or have sugar in them. When a new Coke appears, it has to be tried. A new ‘Call of Duty’? Sign us up. We in the UK live in a world where it is easier to live unhealthily than vice versa because the guys in charge of our diets discovered what we liked to eat and fed us more of it, regardless of the health implications. The race to find a new food fad, drug or any other addictive product is the most competitive struggle. It is the reason we now have ‘Fanta: fruit twist’, a radioactive looking glow-in-the-dark orange concoction or ‘Honey Jack Daniels’, the new way to slowly dissolve your liver with whiskey.
I myself am no saint. I’ve ingested more ‘Glenn’s vodka’ than I have water at my time in uni but I’m willing to change everything. I’m willing to throw out the totally useless remote-control T-rex gathering dust in my London bedroom and even to stop wasting so much time on FIFA 13. It’s crazy when you look at it, how much of ourselves we give to these imaginary consumables. If our beloved Skittles were to reconstruct their ingredients to be all natural, it would probably taste terrible. Instead, it’s imperative for them to keep finding weird new breeds of even unhealthier Skittle to keep us hooked on the brand. The only way this whole ‘stop relying on imaginary consumables’ thing works is if everyone ceases eating processed, carcinogenic rubbish in general. It would require not just for people to give up their daily bag of Skittles but to boycott sweets for good. It would require for people to stop buying stupid needless things like half-toaster-half-coffee-machines and start living life free from the objects that are starting to own us. Steep requests. The first step though is simple: just go eat a sandwich next time you feel like a Big Mac.