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Enslavement to a Consumer Society
by Kimberly Miller
For Sale
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There is no individuality in existence today. Individuals are just cloned fragmented pieces of other persons. We lack identity, and thus must form a semblance of personhood through identifying with the "accepted" or "desirable" qualities of others. We don't know who we are, but we're certain of who we'd like to be; thus we make ourselves agreeable to those in society who validate our worth based upon their prerequisites. Even if we "go against the grain", our identity still finds its basis in a checklist in our mind that determines who we are based on our accessories and additives, rather than our personhood.

All humans want to be accepted. Thus we conform to a culture that denotes us with worth and value established on how much we agree and identify with its structured systematic philosophy. To buy acceptance, we embed ourselves within its "sanctuary" to find emotional security, but by doing so we must allow ourselves to become manipulated products resembling every other group "member". If we choose to separate ourselves from this culture or stand in opposition to it, we are labeled as outcasts and devalued in the eyes of those within its subsequent circle.

Imagine a black man from the inner-city; he would rather draw or read than play a particular sport. Immediately he is labeled as different or "white", and his value decreases in the eyes of that particular sphere. But now take that black man and put him in a white suburb. He would be highly praised for his intellect and artistic ability, and would be accepted based not on his color nor his athletic ability, but because of his studiousness and work ethic- that is if he dressed according to their particular "code" and spoke with proper professionalism; he would also need to mirror their values and up bring his family in a similar fashion. On the other hand, if a white man from some affluent suburb were to pursue a career in teaching elementary children, he would be discredited as less than a man and demeaned for lacking prestige, influence, or power, regardless of his attire or intellectual ability, in comparison to his counterparts who happen to be wealthy CEO's and professionals.

It appears that we as humans form checklists of familiarity in our minds; we subconsciously want everyone to be just like us in one regard or other. As a result, we accredit worth to individuals based upon specific qualifications that lie in conformity with our own culture's values and attributes. Small infractions, such as dress, parenting style, values, or personal accessories, will cause the worth of a person to decrease in our eyes simply for the fact that they are different from what we consider the "accepted norm". If a person does not want to conform to the culture that we ourselves are immersed in, that in actuality has formed our personhood rather than us fashioning it, then that person is esteemed marginally in our eyes.

So what is culture? We say, anthropologically speaking, that culture is the set of beliefs, ideas, or practices of a particular people group. But what if these beliefs and practices are nothing but generational qualifications that offspring are expected to conform to and exhibit? Is there any individualistic identity if our identity is based upon the uniform molded identity of others?

Yes, I understand that people groups possess special traditions and manners of living that are unique and admirable. But I am not speaking of the beautiful culture of heritage. I am speaking of conformity to a classified norm that deems one as "desirable" or "undesirable", "of worth" or "lacking significance," as "accepted", or "unaccepted." This culture is not something fluid and extensive, allowing individual life to find its place in society and flourish in its midst, this culture is demeaning, suffocating, and predictable. One could say that there are unique expressions of self permeating our society, diverse sects that exhibit their "self" through art, intellect, or dance; but if the veil would be removed and truth given opportunity to speak freely, one would see that perpetuating mind-frames are exhibited and passed along from person to person and from group to subsequent group.

It would be atrocious for a black man to like country, let alone to be a Republican, and enjoy tofu. But does this qualify the black man as being any less "black"? Does this inhibit his personhood in some manner? Do such characteristics render him as having "denied" his culture and chosen that of the white man? Or are his eyes simply being opened to new experiences in life and his heart freely able to choose, profess, and partake in the beliefs and behaviors he desires regardless of what his peers or other surrounding spectators may think. This perpetuating culture of conformity traps people groups in a box. Whites must act in this manner, Blacks in this, Asians according to this code, and Hispanics along these lines. Christians must think this way, Muslims must be radical terrorists, homeless men must be lazy drunks, and rich businessmen must all be stingy and self-centered. I am by no means promoting the denying of rich heritage for uniformity; I am simply illuminating the mockingly hidden reality of a system that is enslaving and stealing our very personhood, worth, and value.

Society around us necessitates a certain type of lifestyle, specific morals and values, and a generalized conception of what is valuable and important. How is one immersed into the propaganda, advertisement, and underlying message of media (which is backed by dominant structures in our society) supposed to escape such a systematic brainwashed and programmed mindset of functioning. Since birth our children are programmed to think and behave in certain manners based upon the society and "culture" around them. This can be a beautiful thing, if upright morals and actions in line with Christ are being perpetuated, but this can be dreadfully harmful if mindsets and behaviors of bondage and lifeless conformity are being instituted instead. Our children are being taught that they can only be happy if they indulge their appetites on fast-food, possess the latest and greatest electronics, or drive the newest and pristine of vehicles. They are only desirable if they look a certain manner, dress in specific brands, and weigh the right amount.

What is being perpetuated throughout American society? What if we don't hold up to these measures and lines? Are we discredited? Rejected? Unaccepted? Worthless? Does this promote lack of confidence? Suicide? Eating disorders? Isolation? Do these standards leave us in a constant swirl of anxiety as we must compete with one another to obtain a greater degree of worth and value based on achievements or the things that we own?

There is no end to the struggle. If one strives to conform themselves to the "ideal" individual, and to obtain their personhood through what they possess or achieve rather than who they are individually, they will continue in the rat race of consumerism to fill up their emptiness within with products and recognitions that soon become outdated, grow wrinkles, are forgotten, and ultimately become dust. We ourselves become impersonal, but yet gorgeously adorned objects who are constantly filled with material possessions or prestigious accolades, but yet continuously empty due to the holes in our hearts that we can't seem to patch up. It's a wearisome toil producing only hopelessness and defeat.

All around us there is competition to gain acceptance, worth, and value; we desire to be the most desired in the eyes of others, the most prestigious, the best looking, the most talented. Only in this can we find some substance of an identity that is nothing more than a beautifully colored presentation of "something" that is not us. We become "things" with special features, not persons with a soul and emotions. We are nothing more than programmed robots seeking to oust all others for the position of "greatest" product on the market. Like cell phones we can't help but brandish our newest upgrades and latest features-"Look at these new sneakers!" "Have you heard my latest single?" "Check out my sweet ride!" Not only are we suckers to the endless influencing advertisements of media, we happen to sell ourselves through advertisements. If we're not selling ourselves, due to the effects of self-hatred, we are primarily invoked in the worship of others and sold out to the endless advertisements proclaiming how great they are. We are worshipers of many gods, namely ourselves, but Tim Tebow and Rhianna have quite good followings, not to mention Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise. We buy into the glorious presentations of their greatness and quickly find our worth and value in living through their lives and accomplishments due to the fact that we are too defeated, complacent, or ignorant to pursue our own. In lacking a secure identity and in the constant pursuit to obtain a fabrication of it, we are content to even surrender our lives-to basically give up living- that we might find fulfillment through glorifying and consuming ourselves in the lives of others who are named "the more desirable".

We sell ourselves. The awe of the matrix is much more pleasurable than the reality of the enslavement we're encased in. It's easier to play into the system, to maintain our scripted role, than to step outside into the light of facing our own depravity and emptiness, and to accepting the fact that we are just puppets daily consenting to the forceful stride of being played by those who possess more power and money than we do. Why combat the current? Why stand against the elements of this society and demand our minds to be freed from their ever enticing control? It's difficult to muster the strength to rise up and fight an enemy if we are thoroughly content with their rule over us; if we "enjoy" the momentary satisfaction we feel in storing up our earthly treasures.

There must be a movement, one that is counter-cultural to the system we've found ourselves bound in; one that boldly steps outside the determined and acceptable lines that society has set up as the status quo around us. This movement however can only arise out of a people who are no longer content with the plague of emptiness raging inside their souls. It can only gain momentum out of the hearts of a people who are thirsty to know who in truth they are as persons, not as products or consumers. Jesus is calling forth a people who are separate from the world, confident in His love towards them, and no longer entangled in the lie that their worth is found in the material possessions or ahievements that they obtain. This people will know that they are sons and daughters immensely loved.

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