What about consumerism in America?

April 1, 2013

During my second Skype with Carolyn Helfand, we talked, as it was expected, about the consumerism in America.
Firstly, I asked her what’s her shopping habits were. She answered that shopping wasn’t a big pass time for her, and explained to me that she wasn’t someone we can call “shopping addict”, means that she wasn’t spending every time lot of money, and but she preferred to buy occasionally some very beautiful cloth : like shoes, or jacket, something which can be going on for a long time. She explained to me that despite of buying lot of things every time, for her it was more interesting to buy once in a while some things with a very good quality, or which are very beautiful. This mentality makes me understand that Carolyn wasn’t very the stereo type of what French can imagine in term of consumption in America: good, she could bring me a critical look at this consumer society.

Afterwards, I asked her to talk me about her relationship to material things. She told me that she wasn’t sentimental about things, that for example she didn’t like when her room was crowed, and that she could throw things away without being gloom or feeling remorse.

Then, I asked her if the stereotypes we heard about consumption in America were true, and I took the example of Black Friday. Although this does not surprise me, Carolyn replied: Yes, totally! I thought it was funny because I always thought that it was French People who were exaggerated this stereotype! But It wasn’t: Carolyn told me that in America there was really was a consumer culture, that people where quite obsessed with buying every time, even when they don’t need it, or even really want it. She took the example of “Buy and Bulk”, where people buy things in large quantity, when there is discount, just because it’s cheap but they don’t even need it! On the same subject, I asked her if she agreed with the values of the “consumer society” and which impact could it have on life every day. She explained to me that these society leads to people who don’t know anymore the value of the money, because they buy when they don’t even need it, and also that this society came from a human reaction: we all already had buy things just to be like the others, because we are used to compare us to the others. And Carolyn, as I do, thinks that its material society is a huge problem.

Then, we talked more specifically about Black Friday: Fortunately, I had not in “front of me” (or in front of my camera) a huge fan of Black Friday, because (this isn’t intolerance) I’m sorry but for me this thing is very weird: This is something I can’t imagine doing! An overconsumption and Carolyn thought that too. As explained to me Carolyn, I can totally understand the desire of people to buy things cheaper, but as Carolyn told me, on this day, some people get crazy! She even told me that some people died trampled during the day, this is horrible, really but so disproportionate.

Moreover, Carolyn told something that I really appreciated because I thought It was really just : She talked me about the contrast between the day before, Thanksgiving, when you’re thanking for what you have, and you’re supposed to be grateful and therefore reasonable, and the day after : which is one of the day when people buy the most in all the year. A sad contrast.
Finally, I asked Carolyn if she didn’t thing that always want to consume can lead to an eternal dissatisfaction. She agreed, because for her, when you buy every time, you don’t even have time to appreciate what you’re buying. Therefore, it’s not the solution and it obviously won’t make you happier.

To end this summary, we can say that of course, the consumer society is something quite disturbing and sad because we lost some important values like the value of the money, being reasonable, even the value of things when we buy overwhelmingly, but the thing the most sad in this society is that I think we lost ourselves : We don’t even know when we really want or need something, we’re familiar to buy lot of thing therefore we can’t appreciate things like before, and the worst is that we don’t even know anymore that we’re totally dependent of this perpetual purchase. This is not a critic or depressive remark. I think it is the true, but that no one is guilty for that, because this is an human thing, and the best we can do with that is to try to take back from this society. And I also thing that the American society is not the only one to be like that, because we can find this character in lot of society. Let’s try to buy things we really need, and really want and living this society might be easy.

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