America's Real Religion: Shopping - Essay Example

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“Capitalism is perhaps the only system in which money is made not to satisfy needs but to make more money.” (Wheen)The above statement by Karl Marx perhaps explains in one line what Lawrence S.Wittner has tried to explain in his article. Capitalism creates a need among men…
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15th April America’s Real Religion: Shopping “Capitalism is perhaps the only system in which money is made not to satisfy needs but to make more money.” (Wheen)The above statement by Karl Marx perhaps explains in one line what Lawrence S.Wittner has tried to explain in his article. Capitalism creates a need among men to increase their wealth for no foreseeable purpose at all. The shareholders of companies want more wealth, so they spend enormous amounts on advertisements. They try to lure people into purchasing products which they do not need. Some companies are so smart that they create whole new needs which never existed before. Communication is a basic human need and phones were invented to satisfy it. But what then is the purpose of an iphone? Purchase of an iphone is a desire, the need is communication. But the smart advertisements have made people believe that purchase of a smart phone is actually a need and they need to spend enormous amounts to satisfy it.
The question which comes to the mind is why do people fall for these advertisements? Why do they crave for the extra products when all their basic needs like food, clothing and shelter have been satisfied? The answer probably lies in the fact that man is a social animal. Just like any other animal, he tries to compete with other humans. During the ancient times, this competition was simple – men competed on the basis of their strength for women and food. The hunter was always able to mate with the most desirable women as he had the capability to earn more food than others. With the advancement of civilization, this competition has changed. Competition on the basis of strength can land you up in jail. Struggle for food is no longer an issue at least in the developed world. The advent of the welfare state has ensured that everyone gets the basic amount of resources necessary for survival. Men still fight over women; they still want to show that they are the more successful “hunter”. This is hard wired into our genes. But with physical contest against the laws and food no longer a motive, what do they fight on? How do women decide which male is more successful and thus more suitable for mating? This is where money and consumerism come into the picture. The fight is now to earn money and to garner the latest gizmos. If you are having a Nokia 110 phone, you are outdated; you need to have the latest iphone to be able to make an impression. The free and capitalist economy of USA allows this competition to go on unhindered. Communist and centrally planned countries stem this competition by curbs but a free economy like USA appeals to the basic instinct of human – to compete, to garner more resources and become more successful than the other .As Wittner has rightly said in his article, religion takes a backseat against this basic human need to be better. Therefore it cannot compete with consumerism, so it has decided to embrace consumerism itself. In order to survive and to ensure that they do not become redundant; the fundamentalist and evangelical denominations have rallied behind political candidates who champion for unbridled capitalism (Wittner).
The problem with this approach to compete is that it is causing enormous strain on the resources of mother earth, raising doubts on the survival of our species .So what then is the answer? Should we embrace communism which puts a lid on our needs? Should we go back to the previous era in which physical strength was everything and allow a free for all? The answer perhaps lies in the advertisements which Wittner has so heavily criticized for misleading people (Wittner). When these advertisements can create a desire to buy consumer products, perhaps they can also be used to create awareness about disastrous consequences of it. As humans need to compete to satisfy their basic urge, let them compete on who has a lesser carbon footprint. But for this to happen, a fundamental change is required in the thinking of our polity which at present is firmly in the hands of capitalism.
Wheen, F. (2012). Karl Marx. London: HarperCollins UK.
Wittner, L. (2013). Americas Real Religion: Shopping. [online] Retrieved from: [Accessed: 15 Apr 2013]. Read More
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