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Consumerist culture hurts poorer nations

Consumerist culture has tipped the scales of justice further off balance. Third World countries continually add more slave labor in order to keep up with the demand affluent countries impose upon them. “The U.S. alone, with only 6 percent of the world’s population, consumes 30 percent of its resources,” (Enough, Anti-Consumerism Campaign) while the countries that produce the majority of the goods consume only 2 percent. Andy Warhol stated, “Shopping is more American than thinking,” and through our culture’s obsession with excess, we are exploiting the labor and resources of poor nations for the benefit of our luxury.Affluent nations such as the U.S., Canada, Australia, Japan and Western Europe have adopted the title “consumerist nations.” Consumerism is defined as a social and economic creed that encourages us to aspire to even more than that share, regardless of the consequences. (www.enviroweb.org/issues/enough/enough06.htm) In order for wealthy countries to live at elite levels, the rest of the world must sacrifice. These sacrifices include the imperatives of existence; hence we have global hunger. Global food shortages are not the result of inadequate resources; they are the result of greed. Statistics from “Enough, Anti-Consumerism Campaign” prove that the world has enough grain to allow every individual over 25,000 calories daily. This is grain alone – not to mention all the other crops produced. Overpopulation isn’t the problem; it’s unequal distribution. Gustavo Gutierrez, a leader in the Practical Theology of Liberation stated, “The poverty of the poor is not an appeal for generous action to relieve it, but a demand for the construction of a different social order.” If affluent countries would decrease excess, the demand for resources would decrease, allowing crops produced by the poorer nations to partially remain within those boundaries. Perhaps then obesity rates would go down and children in Mozambique, Ethiopia and Central America would have opportunity to live past two years of age. Supporters of consumerist culture like to defend their beliefs through statements such as, “The trickle-down of wealth will yield justice to impoverished countries.” Honestly, are we supposed to believe that the farm laborers in South America and factory workers in Bangladesh are making any profit? Of course not. Rich nations find a way to turn that money back into their economies. As a result of heavy borrowing rates of the 1970s, the majority of Third World countries are in serious debt to the wealthy nations. This causes most profit received by Third World countries to be channeled back into the payment of debts. The impoverished workers never see the reward. All they know is that a higher demand of their labor is expected. “The richest fifth of the world’s population is able to monopolize 83 percent of its wealth, while the poorest fifth is left to subsist on only 1.5 percent.” (Enough, Anti-Consumerist Campaign) Does this show that the trickle-down effect is in fact in effect?Consumerist culture is a direct result of greed. Until we can universally adopt the philosophy of “Live simply so that all others may live,” injustice will only perpetuate. If you care not for humanity, I conclude with a statement once again from Andy Warhol, contrived from logic. “When the last river and the last forest has been destroyed….man will discover that he cannot eat money.”
Lisa Bhungalia is a senior English major.

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