Monday, October 3, 2016

Living with Less

E-tailers like Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal are doing brisk business this festival season.  According to a report in today’s Times of India, Flipkart sold half a million items within the first hour of launching its Big Billion Days event yesterday.  Amazon India sold 1.5 million units in the first 12 hours of its “Great Indian Festival” sale.  Snapdeal had 11 lakh buyers in the first 16 hours.

Pakistan is trying to nibble away India with the teeth and nails of terrorists and India is celebrating consumerism.  Consumerism is certainly not as malevolent as terrorism but it isn’t a virtue anyway.  A few years back Professor Galen V. Bodenhausen of Northwestern University concluded after a psychological research that “Irrespective of personality, in situations that activate a consumer mind-set, people show the same sorts of problematic patterns in well-being, including negative affect and social disengagement.”

Consumerism makes people more greedy and selfish. My own observation is that even the religious people in India are motivated by greed and selfishness.  There are even people in India known as gurus or godmen or ammas whose primary motive seems to be acquisitiveness.  Just take a look at the empires they have built up in business, academic institutions such as medical colleges and engineering colleges, real estate, and so on.  If gods’ own men and women are motivated by greed and selfishness, what can we expect from ordinary mortals?  And let us not forget that many of our godmen are sheer rapists and  plunderers.  Such “holy” people do a tremendous disservice to the people by being the most nefarious role models.

Bertrand Russell argued that all human behaviour is motivated by desires.  He listed acquisitiveness, rivalry, vanity and love of power as the four “infinite desires.”  Consumerism flourishes by pampering these desires. 

On the one hand, we notice an increase in religiosity these days.  There are more and more religious cults, gurus, godmen, and umpteen other things.  On the other hand, there is a rapidly rising consumer culture.  Isn’t there an obvious contradiction?  It’s time to examine these religious organisations and their leaders.  Perhaps the income tax department can start doing some work in this regard.  In the meanwhile, we the ordinary mortals can introspect to see whether we need all these things advertised in the front and back full pages of our newspapers.  [Snapdeal has swallowed the inner and outer front and back pages of the Times of India I received this morning.  The next two front pages are gobbled up by Flipkart.  Amazon had its due share yesterday.]

The amount of waste produced by such consumerism is alarming to the very planet.  Consumerism throws too many things away, too many things which the earth cannot digest ever.  Consumerism is a big pollutant, bigger than the industries.

Consumerism makes us subhuman.  We become mere grabbers and gobblers.  We lose the ability to distinguish between needs and desires.  The latest gadget becomes our need.  Consumerism perverts our minds, our thinking.  In fact, we stop thinking and start accumulating things.  So many things that our house is not big enough.  Enlarge it.  There’s no limit to the ‘enlargement.’

The fact is that we don’t need so many things. Nobody has ever become happier merely for owning a lot of things.  Quite many have become sadder for possessing all those things.

Perhaps, it’s time to stamp the brake.  Stop and think.  Are we moving in the right direction?  Perhaps, it’s time to change the gurus who sell us illusions and shadows.  Perhaps, we need to discover the wisdom that lies deep within us.

PS. Phew!  I started out with the intention of writing a couple of paragraphs and ended up with a protracted homily that outdoes a holy man’s preaching. I am another hypocrite.  I too had my own holy gurus, you see.


  1. I agree with you. I also think that by nature humans want to possess things. When we did not have access to goodies, we would look towards western goods either smuggled or when a relative visiting US or Britain presented us some. With e-tailing many things are available to us. We can also choose by looking at price. I think only when a person transcends his needs for material possession, he/she takes his/herself out of rat race. For others life continues as usual.

    1. Greed is one of the basic human instincts. It seems to have no limits. And consumerism feeds on it. The olden day greed had some natural limits simply because of the difficulty of availability of things.

  2. Well, being a Team Manager with Amazon IN, I don't think I'm qualified to comment here, but I agree with you in a way. The consumerism is indeed a bane, as people lose the value of things. Gone are the days, when the old Philips Transistor used to remind us of our grandpa tinkering with it. Nowadays, we rarely can find a thing in our homes, which are more than 2 years old, as we always get a newer model with better options and discard the older ones with its integrated memories. Nostalgia is banished and is replaced by novelties. It's sad in a way! A thought provoking post on today's materialistic mindset.

    Don't tell anyone I said that! The GIF is today too! :D

    1. I won't tell anyone :)

      The use-and-throw culture is another aspect of consumerism which produces so much unwieldy and hazardous waste of all sorts. The waste alone may write the requiem for the planet.


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