Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Theology of Consumerism

I am what I own, and if I own nothing, I am nothing. Not wishing to be nothing, I strive to be something by owning something I can’t afford so I can be something.

It all comes down to things, be it the thing I own or the thing I am. Without things, there is only the silent void, empty and without meaning. It is the void I dread, which is why I must fill it up with lights, beeps and the soothing glow of stainless steel and plastic.

This is why I am a member of what writer Joe Bageant calls, “the cult of radical consumerism.”

Another reason I am a member is that I love destructive ironies. You see, it is my patriotic duty to buy because in a corporatist society, there are but two choices: either grow or die.

The irony is that all growth is a journey towards death. The faster the growth, the nearer we come to death. We are seeing this phenomenon at work as red ink pours from the open veins of our dying economy.

I also belong because I love servitude. There is a perverse peace in being so far in debt that I dare not raise my eyes to cast a disapproving glance at my betters. Better to keep my mouth shut and make my monthly minimum payments. Show me a man behind the wheel of a BMW, an iPod in his ear, and I will show you the most pliable of beings, a slave who thinks he’s a rebel.

The thrill of ownership in is the anticipation of possession. However, once possessed, the treasured item becomes another piece of junk gathering dust on a shelf or in a closet. Novelty stimulates; familiarity bores.

When I think about it, what I practice is not the “cult of radical consumerism” but the theology of consumerism. I am a consumptive mystic seeking unity with the toy. I am on a spiritual pilgrimage to find the ultimate toy into which I will merge in perfect union as the cosmos opens up to me.

So, I snort and buy, snort and buy, a mendicant shopper wandering the barren malls of America looking for the logo that will liberate.

--Belacqua Jones

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