Monday, April 16, 2007

Taking consumerism seriously

I've linked to this article before, but I want to share a longer quote and encourage you to read it all.

In preaching, I've found the subject that falls flatest with listeners is preaching against consumerism. And that's among folks my age and older. According to Prof. Naomi Rockler-Gladen, Generation Y is even more enmeshed in consumerism than previous generations:
The dreams, the memories, the rites of passage of Generation Y – all of these are intricately intertwined with consumerism. . . . While all of us in the post-war western world have grown up with the association between happiness and consumption, this association is all the more powerful with Generation Y. They have been reared with unlimited advertising and limited models of social consciousness or activism.
And lest older folks think we're somehow better than the media-saturated young adults in Gen-Y, let's consider the culture in which they've entered adulthood, and what that culture says about all of us.
This is the first generation that came of age in the era of rampant advertising in the schools, as well as Channel One, the news program piped into schools complete with advertisements. As a Generation X-er who graduated from high school in 1988, I recall very few ads in school. A relatively short time later, the hallways, lunchrooms, and sports facilities of cash-strapped schools are now frequently sponsored by corporations. When I ask students if this happened in their schools, they supply never-ending examples: stadiums dotted by Nike swooshes, lunchrooms filled with Pizza Hut and Chic-Fil-A, a back-to-school party sponsored by Outback Steakhouse, even book covers underwritten by corporations. Then, of course, there’s the prom. Eschewed by some of my Gen X counterparts, the prom is back and bigger than ever, teaching future brides and grooms important lessons about gowns, limos, and flowers. . . .

The reality is that many young people don’t take consumerism seriously because they feel that as individuals, it does not affect them. As media activists like Jean Kilbourne have argued, this illusion that advertising affects “everybody else but me” is nothing new, but I think this is even more the case with Generation Y. Students claim violence in the media doesn’t matter because they grew up playing Doom and they didn’t turn out violent. Or they claim that unrealistic images of women in the media do matter because they know a lot of girls with eating disorders. Many young people don’t seem to have a language for understanding that the media doesn’t just affect us on an individual level – the media impacts society politically, economically, and ideologically. A student might dismiss ads in his high school by saying they did not affect him; nonetheless, I argue, the proliferation of ads in high schools have affected culture as a whole.
You may not agree with everything Prof. Rockler-Gladen has to say. But consumerism is probably the greatest false god compromising the church in the United States. Preachers, we need to know how to speak out against it.


Blogger NathanColquhoun said...

i read that article in adbusters a few weeks ago, and it was one of my favourites in a long long time. so well written and what a convicting view of culture.

12:41 AM, April 17, 2007  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Yes, the adbusters article is insightful. Good to hear from you by the way. Even before I heard from you I had a link to one of your posts in the queue for this morning. Thanks in advance for the quote. Peace.

7:33 AM, April 17, 2007  

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