I grew up in the residential neighborhoods of Portland, Oregon. I walked to the neighborhood school with my brothers every morning and came home for supper at five. I lived the American dream. My parents always told me how lucky I am to be in my position. Out of all the countries, over all the years, I was somehow born into an upperclass family in the greatest empire to ever stand. From what gathered, the United States of America was the greatest because its citizens were free. We are free to follow dreams, I could be whoever I wanted to be.
America stood as the greatest country because of its economy. The free capitalist market paved the way to achieve dreams. Consumption supported by capitalism turned America into the richest country in the world. People worked hard, and bought whatever they wanted. If you wanted a house, you could get a house, nothing was stopping you. I was told this consumption is key to happiness. This happiness is derived from social competition. Unfortunately, social competition forces people to want unnecessary items. To get these, people have to work long hours and spend less time with family. This loss of family time fosters stress and fragility in the American family. Not only does overconsumption hurt family life, but it depletes the environment of its resources. Earth does not have a big enough carrying capacity to support consumeristic ideologies. If every person consumed as much as the average American, three more worlds would be needed to provide resources.
“Consumerism fosters selfishness along with envy and greed… Consumerism is a major impediment to human flourishing and a major cause of environmental degradation” Peter Wenz
Professor Leither taught me how to realize flaws in American society. With his guiding, I began to learn the hidden facts; pieces of truth swept under the rug for the benefit of large corporations. Critical Thinking and Writing gave me the tools to critically evaluate flaws in the system. From the tools provided, I broke down consumerism into two categories. First our class looked at the environmental effects of consumerism through the dirty beed industry. Second, our class evaluated the effects of consumerism on American society.
Eating Animals by Jonathan Saphran Foer taught me about the dangerous outcomes with consuming meat. Foer provides evidence to support claims meat is inhumane, as well as unsustainable. Eating meat is natural; however, consuming meat at the current state of Americans is unsustainable. High levels of meat consumption destroys the environment on three main levels. First, meat takes a tremendous amount of water to produce. Second, cattle grazing is the leader of deforestation in the Amazon. Third, methane from cattle is a leading cause of climate change. Switching to a vegetarian based diet is a necessity if future generations are to inherit a clean earth. Americans need to swallow their cultural flaws for the sake of humanity.
After reading Eating Animals, our class read Columbine by Dave Cullen. The story of the Columbine school shooting gives insight into the possible effects of an over consuming society. The shooters grew up in plainly normal American suburbs. Though they were not consumerists, everyone around them was. From a young age they realized that the world revolves around the want for unneeded things. Their insight gave them a feeling of superiority as well as depression. They deemed the best way to better the world would be to end the human race. Their disappointment with society led them to the massacring of 12 students and a teacher.
A year of CTW opened my eyes to the inner workings of the social machine. Unfortunately, this opening taught me inconvenient truths about American society. I learned that people put their pride before the truth. The harms of consumerism need to be matched the discovery of individuality. This whole life business needs to based around doing what brings enjoyment. Societal constructed norms need to be taken down, so individuals can find themselves and their passion. Through individual thinking, enjoyment can be found.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown, 2009. Print.
Cullen, David. Columbine. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
Wenz, Peter. Consumerism and Human Nature. Environmental Ethics Today. Oxford, 2001.