Quotations on Consumerism/Overconsumption
The worldwide financial and economic crisis seems to highlight their distortions and above all the gravely deficient human perspective, which reduces man to one of his needs alone, namely, consumption. Worse yet, human beings themselves are nowadays considered as consumer goods which can be used and thrown away. We have started a throw-away culture. This tendency is seen on the level of individuals and whole societies; and it is being promoted! In circumstances like these, solidarity, which is the treasure of the poor, is often considered counterproductive, opposed to the logic of finance and the economy. While the income of a minority is increasing exponentially, that of the majority is crumbling. This imbalance results from ideologies which uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and thus deny the right of control to States, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good. A new, invisible and at times virtual, tyranny is established, one which unilaterally and irremediably imposes its own laws and rules.
To the New Non-Resident Ambassadors to the Holy See: Kyrgyzstan, Antigua and Barbuda, Luxembourg and Botswana,
Vatican City, 16 May 2013
…the tragedy of consumerism: one acquires more and more things without taking the time to ever see and know them, and thus one never truly enjoys them. One has without truly having. The consumer is right—there is pleasure to be had in good things, a sacred and almost unspeakable pleasure, but the consumer wrongly thinks that one finds this pleasure by having more and more possessions instead of possessing them more truly through grateful contemplation. And here we are, living in an economy that perpetuates this tragedy.
Brian D. McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy, 2004
In North America, we like to believe we have transcended the false idols of ideology. But the Market is our god. Data surveillance and techniques that classify, segment, and isolate the population are already here. Soon each consumer will be segmented into a specific "target" audience; each of us will become increasingly isolated in our separate technological enclosure or cell. The result is the Virtual Panopticon - a new instrument of social control. Computerized corporate "wardens" can observe every detail of every life from the central tower. Their precisely calibrated interactive feedback can induce consumers to willingly follow patterns generated by psycho-demographic profiles. More efficient than naked military power, this arrangement offers a better way of extracting money from consumers through the tactics of computer-targeted micro (rather than mass) marketing.
Rick Crawford, Invisible Crises, 1994
'Tis a gift to be simple
'Tis a gift to be free
'Tis a gift to come down where you ought to be
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
It will be in the valley of love and delight
When the true simplicity is gained
To bow and to bend we shall not be ashamed
To turn, turn will be our delight
'Til by turning, turning we come round right
Elder Joseph Brackett, Shaker hymn, 1848
American culture is no longer created by the people... A free, authentic life is no longer possible in AmericaTM today. We are being manipulated in the most insidious way. Our emotions, personalities and core values are under siege from media and cultural forces too complex to decode. A continuous product message has woven itself into the very fabric of our existence. Most North Americans now live designer lives—sleep, eat, sit in car, work, shop, watch TV, sleep again. I doubt there's more than a handful of free, spontaneous minutes anywhere in that cycle. We ourselves have been branded.
Kalle Lasn, Culture Jam: The Uncooling of AmericaTM, 1999
With respect to physical existence, one needs little, and to the degree that one needs less, the more perfect one is.
Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855), Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, 1990
A faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.
Proverbs 28:20 NIV Bible
A large percentage of those living in developed societies are told what brand of soda they should drink, what cigarettes they should smoke, what clothes and shoes they should wear, what they should eat and what brand of food they should buy. Their political ideas are supplied in the same way. Every year a trillion dollars is spent on advertising. This rain pours on the helpless masses that are totally deprived of the necessary elements of judgment to formulate an opinion and the knowledge required for mediating and discerning. This has never happened before in the history of humanity. Primitive humans enjoyed greater freedom of thought.
Fidel Castro, Interview with Federico Mayor Zaragoza, former director of UNESCO, Jan 2000
A man is rich in proportion to the things he can afford to let alone.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), Walden, 1854
A strange species we are. We can stand anything God and nature can throw at us save only plenty. If I wanted to destroy a nation, I would give it too much, and I would have it on its knees, miserable, greedy, sick.
John Steinbeck (1902-1968), Letter in The Washington Post, 28 Jan 60
A vital difference between the professional man and a man of business is that money making to the professional man should, by virtue of his assumption, be incidental; to the businessman it is primary. Money has its limitations; while it may buy quantity, there is something beyond it and that is quality.
Frank Lloyd Wright (1869-1959), Frank Lloyd Wright on Architecture: Selected Writings 1894-1940,
ed. Frederick Albert Gutheim, 1941
Advertisers regularly con us into believing that we genuinely need one luxury after another. We are convinced that we must keep up with or even go one better than our neighbors. So we buy another dress, sports jacket or sports car and thereby force up the standard of living. The ever more affluent standard of living is the god of twentieth century North America and the adman is its prophet.
Ronald J. Sider, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, 1977
Advertising is in the business of making people helpfully dissatisfied with what they have in favor of something better. The old factors of wear and tear can no longer be depended on to create a demand. They are too slow.
cited in Harvey Salgo, “The Obsolescence of Growth,” Review of Radical Political Economics, Fall 73
Advertising signs: they con you into thinking you're the one
That can do what's never been done
That can win what's never been won
Meantime life outside goes on all around you
Bob Dylan, It's Alright Ma, 1965
Advertising tries to stimulate our sensuous desires, converting luxuries into necessities, but it only intensifies man's inner misery. The business world is bent on creating hungers which its wares never satisfy, and thus it adds to the frustrations and broken minds of our times.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen (1895-1979), Lift Up Your Heart, 1942
All human toil is for the mouth, yet the appetite is not satisfied.
Ecclesiastes 6:7 NRSV Bible
All left-wing parties in the highly industrialized countries are at bottom a sham, because they make it their business to fight against something which they do not really wish to destroy. They have internationalist aims, and at the same time they struggle to keep up a standard of life with which those aims are incompatible. We all live by robbing Asiatic coolies, and those of us who are 'enlightened' all maintain that those coolies ought to be set free; but our standard of living, and hence our 'enlightenment,' demands that the robbery shall continue.
George Orwell (1903-1950), Essay on Rudyard Kipling, 1942
cited in Wendell Berry's What Are People For? 1989
All of us experience the sad effects of blind submission to consumerism. In the first place it represents crass materialism. At the same time it represents a radical dissatisfaction because one quickly learns that the more one possesses, the more one wants, while deeper aspirations remain unsatisfied and perhaps even stifled.
Pope John Paul II (1920-2005) excerpts from public statements
compiled by the Christian Society of the Green Cross, 1996
All plenty which is not my God is poverty to me.
Augustine of Hippo (354-430), The Confessions, Bk VIII, ch 8 c. 397
All the wants which disturb human life, which make us uneasy to ourselves, quarrelsome with others, and unthankful to God, which weary us in vain labors and foolish anxieties, which carry us from project to project, from place to place in a poor pursuit of we don't know what, are the wants which neither God, nor nature, nor reason hath subjected us to, but are solely infused into us by pride, envy, ambition, and covetousness.
William Law (1686-1761), A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, 1728
And I encourage you all to go shopping more
George W. Bush, 43rd U.S. President, News Conference, 20 Dec 2006
And he said to them, "Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions."
Jesus as quoted in Luke 12:15 NRSV Bible
And other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop...
these are the ones who have heard the word, and the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
Jesus as quoted in Mark 4:7,18-19 NASV Bible
Any so-called material thing that you want is merely a symbol: you want it not for itself, but because it will content your spirit for the moment.
Mark Twain (1835-1910), Old Man in What Is Man?, 1906
As businessmen caught a glimpse of the potentialities inherent in endlessly expanding the wants of people under consumerism, forced draft or otherwise, many began to see blue skies... What was needed was strategies that would make Americans in large numbers into voracious, wasteful, compulsive consumers—and strategies that would provide products assuring such wastefulness. Even where wastefulness was not involved, additional strategies were needed that would induce the public to consume at ever-higher levels.
Vance Packard (1914-1996), The Waste Makers, 1959
As riches grow, care follows, and a thirst For more and more.
Horace (65 BC - 8 BC), Odes, 19 BC
At a certain fork in the road of automatization, Europeans chose to have more time, and they work far less than we do and get much longer vacations. We chose to have more stuff, the stuff sold to us through those beckoning adjectives—bigger, better, faster: Jet Skis, extra cars, second homes, motor homes, towering slab TVs, if not the time to enjoy them or to enjoy less commodified pleasures.
Rebecca Solnit, “Finding Time,” Orion, Sep-Oct 07
Both abundance and lack exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend ... when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that's present—love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature and personal pursuits that bring us pleasure—the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience Heaven on earth.
Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance, 1995
But prosperity without a soul is like a corpse whose heart has stopped beating. There is no life, only consumption.
Cal Thomas, Who Lost America, speech in Oklahoma City, 11 March 1999
But the instinct of hoarding, like all other instincts, tends to become hypertrophied and perverted; and with the institution of private property comes another institution—that of plunder and brigandage. In private life, no motive of action is at present so powerful and so persistent as acquisitiveness, which unlike most other desires, knows no satiety. The average man is rich enough when he has a little more than he has got, and not till then.
William Ralph Inge (1860-1954), “Patriotism,” Outspoken Essays, 1920
But the meaning of life is not . . . explained by one's business life, nor is the deep desire of the human heart answered by a bank account.
Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), Man and His Symbols, 1964
Can it be seriously denied that, to the mass mind of today, the good life has become inseparable from the maximum possible consumption of things! Poverty has been promoted to be the chief evil of human existence... Men can no longer be judged to be poor by what they consume, but by what they think they should consume and do not... Even though their bellies be bursting with chicken, the vast majority of people would still be poor if a minority of bellies were bursting with turkey.
D.R. Davies (1889-1958), The Sin of Our Age, 1947
Can we reasonably expect happiness from an insatiable appetite which, no matter how it stuffs its belly, is still psychologically like Oliver Twist in the poorhouse, holding up an empty bowl and begging, "I want some more"? Isn't it possible that our dream of the good society contained, from the beginning, a hidden violation of the Tenth CommandmentÂ¿"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods"?
Joy Davidman (1915-1960), Smoke on the Mountain, 1953
Cause the boy with the cold hard cash
Is always Mister Right, 'cause we are
Living in a material world
And I am a material girl
You know that we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl
Peter Brown and Robert Rans, Material Girl, 1984
popularized by Madonna on Like a Virgin, 1985
Christmas is a school for consumerism - in it we learn to equate delight with materialism. We celebrate the birth of One who told us to give everything to the poor by giving each other motorized tie racks.
Bill McKibben, Christianity Today, December 1996
Civilization has run on ahead of the soul of man, and is producing faster than he can think and give thanks.
G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936), Daily News, 21 Feb 1902
Civilization is a limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities.
Mark Twain (1835-1910), More Maxims of Mark, 1927
Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you.
James (d. c. AD 62), the epistle of James 5:1-6 NRSV Bible
Comforts that were rare among our forefathers are now multiplied in factories and handed out wholesale; and indeed, nobody nowadays, so long as he is content to go without air, space, quiet, decency and good manners, need be without anything whatever that he wants; or at least a reasonably cheap imitation of it.
G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), Commonwealth, 1933
Consume more than you need
This is the dream
Make you pauper
Or make you queen
I won't die lonely
I'll have it all prearranged
A grave that's deep and wide enough
For me and all my mountains o'things
Tracy Chapman, Mountains of Things ©1987 SBK April Music/Purple Rabbit Music
Consumer sales depend on the habits and behaviors of consumers, and those who manipulate consumer markets cannot but address behavior and attitude. That is presumably the object of the multibillion-dollar global advertising industry. Tea drinkers are improbable prospects for Coke sales. Long-lunch traditions obstruct the development of fast-food franchises and successful fast-food franchises inevitably undermine Mediterranean home-at-noon-for-dinner rituals—whether intentionally or not hardly matters. Highly developed public transportation systems lessen the opportunity for automobile sales and depress steel, rubber, and petroleum production. Agricultural lifestyles (rise at daylight, work all day, to bed at dusk) are inhospitable to television watching. People uninterested in sports buy fewer athletic shoes. Health campaigns hurt tobacco sales. The moral logic of austerity contradicts the economic logic of consumption. Can responsible corporate managers then afford to be anything other than immoral advocates of sybaritism?
Benjamin R. Barber, Jihad vs. McWorld, 1995
Consumer wants can have bizarre, frivolous, or even immoral origins, and an admirable case can still be made for a society that seeks to satisfy them. But the case cannot stand if it is the process of satisfying wants that create the wants.
John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006), The Affluent Society, 1958
Consumption is presented as our right, even as a patriotic act. We celebrate stores filled with goods. But once the novelty of my purchases wears off, I often feel more burdened and dissatisfied. In my heart I know that most of the things I buy will end up in the trash or a Salvation Army sales rack - adding to the huge surplus that is the inevitable, although hidden, part of our society's unprecedented wealth.
Paul Boyer, "My quest: to live with less," Christian Science Monitor, 30 Oct 2003
Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to, only in so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer. The maxim is so perfectly self-evident, that it would be absurd to attempt to prove it.
Adam Smith (1723-1790), The Wealth of Nations, 1776
Contentment is natural wealth; luxury, artificial poverty.
Socrates (B.C. 469-399) attributed
Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage. Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Turn the old; return to them. Things do not change; we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts. God will see that you do not want society.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), “Conclusion,” Walden, 1854
Cupidity...takes created things for ends in themselves, which they are not. The will that seeks rest in creatures for their own sake stops on the way to its true end, terminates in a value which does not exist, and thus frustrates all its deepest capacities for happiness and peace.
Thomas Merton (1915-1968) in Introduction to
Augustine (354-430), The City of God, tr. Marcus Dods, 2001
Day by day night after night
Blinded by the neon lights
Hurry here, hustlin' there
No one's got the time to spare
Money's tight, nothin' free
Won't somebody come and rescue me?
I am stranded, caught in the crossfire
Stranded, caught in the crossfire!
Tooth for tooth, eye for an eye
Sell your soul just to buy, buy, buy
Beggin' a dollar stealin' a dime
Come on can't you see that I
I am stranded, caught in the crossfire
Stevie Ray Vaughn (1954-1990), Crossfire
with Tommy Shannon, Chris Layton, Reese Wynans, B. Carter, Ruth Ellsworth
Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are the eyes of man.
Proverb 27:20 NIV Bible
Distance does not decide who is your brother and who is not. The church is going to have to become the conscience of the free market if it's to have any meaning in this world—and stop being its apologist.
Bono of U2, quoted in an interview with Anthony DeCurtis, 20 Feb 2001
Do not let your "eye" be drawn by the false "beacon lamps"—of wealth, or position, or fame, or possessions. Be vigilant over your will and desires, for these are the corrupt forces that dwell within, and keep you from living free.
John of the Cross (1542-1591), Ascent of Mount Carmel: Book 1, Chapter 3
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Jesus quoted in the Gospel according to Matthew
Matthew 6:19-21 NRSV Bible
Economists use the word consume to mean “utilize economic goods,” but the Shorter Oxford Dictionary’s definition is more appropriate to ecologists: “To make away with or destroy; to waste or to squander; to use up.” The economies that cater to the global consumer society are responsible for the lion’s share of the damage that humans have inflicted on common global resources.
Alan Durning, How Much Is Enough?, 1992
Every man is rich or poor according to the proportion between his desires and his enjoyments; any enlargement of wishes is therefore equally destructive to happiness with the diminution of possession, and he that teaches another to long for what he never shall obtain is no less an enemy to his quiet than if he had robbed him of part of his patrimony
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), The Rambler #163, 8 Oct 1751
First, ...our culture invites us to locate the sum total of human happiness here and now and in the consumption of the fruits of the technological economy; and second, ...we have not been tricked into this, but that we actually chose this path several hundred years ago and continue to choose it on a more-or-less daily basis.
Craig M. Gay, "Sensualists without Heart,"
The Consuming Passion, ed. Rodney Clapp 1998
For they (capitalists) hold as their chief heresy, in a coarser form, the fundamental falsehood that things are not made to be used but made to be sold. All the collapse of their commercial system in their own time has been due to that fallacy of forcing things on a market where there was no market; of continually increasing the power of supply without increasing the power of demand; of briefly, of always considering the man who sells the potato and never considering the man who eats it.
G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936), As I Was Saying, 1936
For why, my brothers and sisters, would you rejoice in silver? Either your silver will perish, or you will, and no one knows which will perish first. For neither can you remain here always, nor can silver remain here always; so also with gold, wardrobes, houses, money, real estate—and in the end, even the light by which we enjoy all these things. So do not be willing then to rejoice in such things as these. Rejoice instead in the light that has no setting; rejoice in the dawn which no yesterday precedes, and no tomorrow follows.
Augustine (354-430), Exposition on Psalm 85:6
From the 1890s on, American corporate business, in league with key institutions, began the transformation of American society into a society preoccupied with consumption, with comfort and bodily well-being, with luxury, spending, and acquisition, with more goods this year than last, more next year than this. American consumer capitalism produced a culture almost violently hostile to the past and tradition, a future-oriented culture of desire that confused the good life with goods. It was a culture that first appeared as an alternative culture—or as one moving largely against the grain of earlier traditions of republicanism and Christian virtue—and then unfolded to become the reigning culture of the United States.
William Leach, Land of Desire, 1993
Give me neither poverty nor riches,
grant me only my share of bread to eat,
for fear that surrounded by plenty,
I should fall away and say,
"Yahweh - who is Yahweh?"
or else in destitution, take to stealing
and profane the name of my God.
the Sayings of Agur, Proverbs 30:8-9, Jerusalem Bible
Give the public the 'image' of what it thinks it ought to be, or what television commercials or glossy magazine ads have convinced us we ought to be, and we will buy more of the product, become closer to the image, and further from reality.
Madeline L'Engle (1918-2007), A Circle of Quiet, 1972
Greed usually signifies an inordinate attachment to money and things. We think of the miser counting his money and storing it in the bank, or we picture the person reveling in her possessions, obsessed with stuffing her big house or houses with more things. But this view of greed does not really capture the spirit of our consumer economy. Most people are not overly attached to things, and most are not obsessed with hoarding riches. Indeed, the United States has one of the lowest savings rates of any wealthy country, and we are the most indebted society in history. What really characterizes consumer culture is not attachment to things but detachment. People do not hoard money; they spend it. People do not cling to things; they discard them and buy other things.
William T. Cavanaugh, Being Consumed, 2008
He who accepts his poverty unhurt I'd say is rich although he lacked a shirt.
But truly poor are they who whine and fret and covet what they cannot hope to get.
Geoffrey Chaucer (1342-1400), “The Wife of Bath's Tale",
The Canterbury Tales, late 14th century, tr. Nevill Coghill
He who multiplies riches multiplies cares.
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1732-1758
Heaven help a timid child in a trendy tide
He really doesn't know
That his heart's being taken for a ride
Doing what the world lays down
As a steadfast rule
And changing when the world says to change
Like a steadfast fool
Heaven, heaven help me
I'm one of the dominoes
Chain reaction coming
Blow by blow
Mark Heard (1952-1992), One Of The Dominoes, 1981
High thinking is inconsistent with a complicated material life based on high speed and imposed on us by mammon worship.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948)
The Selected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, 1968
How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
Apostle John (c. A.D. 100)
1 John 3:17-18 NRSV Bible
However destructive may be the policies of the government and the methods and products of the corporations, the root of the problem is always found to be found in private life. We must learn to see that every problem that concerns us as conservationists always leads straight to the question of how we live. The world is being destroyed, no doubt about it, by the greed of the rich and powerful. It is also being destroyed by popular demand.
Wendell Berry, "Conservation Is Good Work," Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community, 1991
Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “disposable” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.
Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudum, 55,
Rome, 24 Nov 2013
I’m continually reminded that creating one’s life can be far more of an adventure than just buying it.
David Wann, Simple Prosperity, 2007
If we were built, what were we built for? ...Why do we have this amazing collection of sinews, senses, and sensibilities? Were we really designed in order to recline on the couch, extending our wrists perpendicular to the floor so we can flick through the television's offerings? Were we really designed in order to shop some more so the economy can grow some more? Or were we designed to experience the great epiphanies that come from contact with each other and with the natural world? Were we designed to witness the goodness all around us, and to protect and nourish it? Just as "the environment" is a context, not an issue, so is "consumption." It defines at the moment who we are - and who we aren't.
Bill McKibben, Christianity Today, December 1996
In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy.
Ivan Illich (1926-2002), Tools for Conviviality, 1973
In a consumer society, expectations dare not plateau, because a growing economy depends on rising expectations... The more we let our level of contentment be determined by outside factors—a new car, fashionable clothes, a prestigious career, social status—the more we relinquish control over our own happiness.
Paul Brand & Philip Yancey, Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants, 1993
In fast-moving, progress-conscious America, the consumer expects to be dizzied by progress. If he could completely understand advertising jargon he would be badly disappointed. The half-intelligibility which we expect, or even hope, to find in the latest product language personally reassures each of us that progress is being made: that the pace exceeds our ability to follow.
Daniel J. Boorstin (1914-2004), The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, 1962
In the last twenty-five years alone, new inventions and improvements have utterly transformed the way we live. Personal computers and fax machines, cordless phones and wireless speakers, e-mail and other hi-tech labor-saving conveniences have revolutionized our work and home life. Yet have they brought us the peace and freedom they seemed to promise? Without realizing it, we have become dulled, if not brainwashed, in our eagerness to embrace technology. We have become slaves to a system that presses us to spend money on new gadgets, and we have accepted without question the argument that, by working harder, we will have more time to do more important things. It is a perverse logic.
Johann Christoph Arnold, Seeking Peace, 1998
In the name of economy a thousand wasteful devices would be invented; and in the name of efficiency new forms of mechanical time-wasting would be devised: both processes gained speed through the nineteenth century and have come close to the limit of extravagant futility in our own time. But labor-saving devices could only achieve their end—that of freeing mankind for higher functions—if the standard of living remained stable. The dogma of increasing wants nullified every real economy and set the community in a collective squirrel-cage…The mechanical expansion of human appetites, the appetite for goods, the appetite for power, the appetite for sensation, has no relation whatever to the ordering of the means of existence for the satisfaction of human needs.
Lewis Mumford (1895-1990), The Condition of Man, 1944
In this state of total consumerism—which is to say a state of helpless dependence on things and services and ideas and motives that we have forgotten how to provide ourselves—all meaningful contact between ourselves and the earth is broken. We do not understand the earth in terms either of what it offers us or of what it requires of us, and I think it is the rule that people inevitably destroy what they do not understand. Most of us are not directly responsible for strip mining and extractive agriculture and other forms of environmental abuse. But we are guilty nevertheless, for we connive in them by our ignorance. We are ignorantly dependent upon them. We do not know enough about them; we do not have a particular enough sense of their danger. Most of us, for example, not only do not know how to produce the best food in the best way—we don’t know how to produce any kind in any way. Our model citizen is a sophisticate who before puberty understands how to produce a baby, but who at the age of thirty will not know how to produce a potato.
Wendell Berry, “Think Little,” The Art of the Commonplace, 2002
Irresponsible spending is the scandal of Christian America, in the face of the world's need. The American standard of living has risen to unprecedented heights, although a large portion of the world exists on a sub-human level. Philanthropy, as we practice it, is not enough—although the word philanthropy actually means brotherhood. Our stewardship of God's goods requires that we administer in God's name—that is, with full awareness that the world is His and that His love is directed toward us no more fully than toward every man.
Rachel Henderlite, A Call to Faith, 1955
It boggled my mind to think of the seventy-five million people who hurried to work at roughly the same time every morning, clogging highways, trains and buses—somewhat like cholesterol in our arteries. Very few of us had any real sense of what we were building—and more ominously, what we were tearing apart. It felt like we were converting the planet’s richest and finest resources into products of dubious quality, busily drilling holes in the environment and living systems to do it. What was the point of all the commuting and consuming? What was the economy for? We were burning up our time and our lives pursuing happiness, but it seemed like we were happier before the pursuit began.
David Wann, Simple Prosperity, 2007
Man today is fascinated by the possibility of buying, more, better, and especially, new things. He is consumption hungry… To buy the latest gadget, the latest model of anything that is on the market, is the dream of everybody, in comparison to which the real pleasure in use is quite secondary. Modern man, if the dared to be articulate about his concept of heaven, would describe a vision which would look like the biggest department store in the world… He would wander around open-mouthed in this heaven of gadgets an commodities, provided only that there were ever more and new things to buy, and perhaps, that his neighbors were just a little less privileged than he.
Erich Fromm (1900–1980), The Sane Society, 1955
Many of our miseries are merely comparative: we are often made unhappy, not by the presence of any real evil, but by the absence of some fictitious good; of something which is not required by any real want of nature, which has not in itself any power of gratification, and which neither reason nor fancy would have prompted us to wish, did we not see it in the possession of others.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), Adventurer #111, 27 Nov 1753
Marketing constantly seeks to meet, create, and stoke new desires, often by highlighting a sense of dissatisfaction with what one presently has and is. In a consumer culture, we recognize the validity of Augustine’s insight: particular material things cannot satisfy. Rather than causing us to turn away from material things and towards God, however, in consumer culture we plunge ever more deeply into the world of things. Dissatisfaction and fulfillment cease to be opposites, for pleasure is not in possessing objects but in their pursuit. Possession kills eros; familiarity breeds contempt. This is why shopping itself has taken on the honored status of an addiction in Western society. It is not the desire for any thing in particular, but the pleasure of stoking desire itself that makes malls into the new cathedrals of Western culture.
William T. Cavanaugh, “Consumption, the Market, and the Eucharist“
TheOtherJournal.com, 4 Apr 2005
Modern capitalism has created a world totally different from anything known before. Previous ages have assumed that resources are limited and that economics - housekeeping - is about how to distribute them fairly, Since Adam Smith, we have learned to assume that exponential growth is the basic law of economics and that no limits can be set to it. The result is that increased production has become an end to itself; products are designed to become rapidly obsolete so as to make room for more production; a minority is ceaselessly urged to multiply its wants in order to keep the process going while the majority lacks the basic necessities for existence; and the whole ecosystem upon which human life depends is threatened with destruction. Growth is for the sake of growth and is not determined by any overarching social purpose. And that, of course, is an exact account of the phenomenon which, when it occurs in the human body, is called cancer.
Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998), Foolishness to the Greeks, 1986
Modern man is alienated from himself, from his fellow men, and from nature. He has been transformed into a commodity, experiences his life forces as an investment which must bring him the maximum profit obtainable under existing market conditions.
Erich Fromm (1900-1980), The Art of Loving, 1957
Plenty is the original cause of many of our needs; and even the poverty, which is so frequent and distressful in civilized nations, proceeds often from that change of manners which opulence has produced. Nature makes us poor only when we want necessaries; but custom gives the name of poverty to the want of superfluities.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), Idler #37, 30 Dec 1758
Roughly two billion people participate in the money economy, with less than half of those living in the wealthy countries of the developed world. These affluent 800 million, however, account for more than 75 percent of the world’s energy and resource consumption, and also create the bulk of its industrial, toxic, and consumer waste.
Stuart L. Hart, Capitalism at the Crossroads, 2007
So here we are in a country with more wheat and corn and more money in the bank, more cotton, more everything in the world—there's not a product that you can name that we haven't got more of than any other country ever had on the face of the earth—and yet we've got people starving. We'll hold the distinction of being the only nation in the history of the world that ever went to the poor house in an automobile.
Will Rogers (1879-1935), 18 Oct 1931,
Radio Broadcasts of Will Rogers, ed. Steven K. Gragert, 1983
Sufficient for the day is all that we can enjoy. We cannot eat or drink or wear more than the day's supply of food and raiment; the surplus gives us the care of storing it, and the anxiety of watching against a thief. One staff aids a traveller, but a bundle of staves is a heavy burden. Enough is not only as good as a feast, but is all that the greatest glutton can truly enjoy. This is all that we should expect; a craving for more than this is ungrateful. When our Father does not give us more, we should be content with his daily allowance.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834–1892), Morning and Evening, 1866
Thanksgiving is a typically American holiday. In spite of its religious form (giving thanks to God for a good harvest), its essential, secular meaning is a celebration of successful production. It is a producers’ holiday. The lavish meal is a symbol of the fact that abundant consumption is the result and reward of production.
Ayn Rand (1905-1982), The Ayn Rand Letter, 1979
That the happiness of man may still remain imperfect, as wants in this place are easily supplied, new wants likewise are easily created; every man, in surveying the shops of London, sees numberless instruments and conveniencies, of which, while he did not know them, he never felt the need; and yet, when use has made them familiar, wonders how life could be supported without them. Thus it comes to pass, that our desires always increase with our possessions; the knowledge that something remains yet unenjoyed, impairs our enjoyment of the good before us.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), Adventurer #67, 10 Mar 1753
The devil was piqu'd such sainthood to behold,
And longed to tempt him like good Job of old;
But Satan now is wiser than of yore
And tempts by making rich, not making poor.
Alexander Pope (1688-1744), Moral Essays, 1731-1735
The effect of the post-Enlightenment project for human society is that all human activity is absorbed into labor. It becomes an unending cycle of production for the sake of consumption. The modern concept of "built-in obsolescence" makes this clear. The cycle of production and consumption has to be kept going, and the work of the artist or craftsman who aims to create something enduring becomes marginal to the economic order. Likewise, the world of action, of politics, is reduced to a conflict of views about how to keep the cycle of production and consumption going. Questions of ultimate purpose are excluded from the public world.
Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998), Foolishness to the Greeks, 1986
The good news is that curing the pandemic of overconsumption at both the personal and cultural scale is not about giving up the good life but getting it back.
David Wann, Simple Prosperity, 2007
The happy people are those who are producing something;
the bored people are those who are consuming much and producing nothing.
William R. Inge (1860-1954), Personal Religion and the Life of Devotion, 1924
The money economy thus leaves a large ecological footprint, defined as the amount of land and resources required to meet a typical consumer’s needs. For example, with only about 4% of the world’s population, the United States, the largest money economy, consumes in excess of one-quarter of the world’s energy and materials and generates in excess of 25 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Stuart L. Hart, Capitalism at the Crossroads, 2007
The sage does not accumulate for himself.
The more he uses for others, the more he has himself.
The more he gives to others, the more he possesses of his own.
The Way of Heaven is to benefit others and not to injure.
The Way of the sage is to act but not to compete.
Lao-Tzu (c. B.C. 550) The Natural Way of Lao-Tsu
as cited in Wing-Tsit Cahn, Sourcebook in Chinese Philosophy, 2002
The whole attempt to advance the kind of consumer society that depends for its growth on the ceaseless stimulation of unlimited covetousness among the rich, while the poor majority rot in their poverty—this is surely something against which a Christian should be a nonconformist.
Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998), Journey Into Joy, 1972
There would not be a market for all the goods that are produced in an industrialized economy if consumers were content with the things they bought. Consumer desire must be constantly on the move. We must continually desire new things in order for consumption to keep pace with production. The “extreme makeover” is an ongoing process in the search for novelty, for bigger and better, for “new and improved,” and for different experiences… How can we be content with a mere two [shaving] blades when the current standard is five? How can we be content with an iPod that downloads two hundred songs when someone else has one that downloads a thousand? The economy as it is currently structured would grind to a halt if we ever looked at our stuff and simply declared, “It is enough. I am happy with what I have.”
William T. Cavanaugh, Being Consumed, 2008
To me, an economy that sees the life of a community or a place as expendable, and reckons its value only in terms of money, is not acceptable because it is not realistic. I am thinking as I believe we must think if we wish to discuss the best uses of people, places, and things, and if we wish to give affection some standing in our thoughts.
Wendell Berry, What Are People For?, 1990
To the extent that we consume, in our present circumstances, we are guilty. To the extent that we guilty consumers are conservationists, we are absurd. But what can we do? Must we go on writing letters to politicians and donating to conservation organizations until the majority of our fellow citizens agree with us? Or can we do something directly to solve our share of the problem? I am a conservationist. I believe wholeheartedly in putting pressure on the politicians and in maintaining the conservation organizations… That I live every hour of every day in an environmental crisis I know from all my senses. Why then is not my first duty to reduce, so far as I can, my own consumption?
Wendell Berry, "Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer"
What Are People For?, 1990
To the ideal of high consumption and the downgrading of spiritual values corresponds a conception of injustice that centers exclusively on the problem of consumption; and equality in consumption cannot be achieved except by violence.
Jacques Ellul (1912-1994), Violence, 1969
To the primitive man, the hunt for food embodied the will to live, to survive. To the modern man, the pursuit of material wealth…embodies the will to self-affirmation, to excess, to glory, as well as the will to survive. This vast distinction between primitive man and his modern descendant transforms the contemporary obsession with things from a physical necessity into a moral affirmation, It is this transformation which bedevils our entire economic activity.
D. R. Davies, The Sin of Our Age, 1947
Too many commercials, too many lies Too many celebrities I don't recognize Too many brand names, too many magazines I got so much sensation, I can't feel a thing Simple living Got to get to simple living Simple living Simple... simply living Too many things we just throw away If we put it in the garbage, we're gonna eat it someday We turn on the lights and a river dies We turn the TV on to see an eagle fly
Fred Small, Simple Living, Everything Possible, 1993
Too many people spend money they haven't earned, to buy things they don't want, to impress people they don't like.
Will Rogers (1879-1935) attributed
Too much of the world’s happiness depends on taking from one to satisfy another. To increase my standard of living, someone in another part of the world must lower his. The worldwide crisis of hunger that we face today is a result of that method of pursuing happiness. Industrialized nations acquire appetites for more and more luxuries and higher and higher standards of living, and increasing numbers of people are made poor and hungry. It doesn’t have to be that way… But we have a greed problem: if I don’t grab mine while I can, I might not be happy. The hunger problem is not going to be solved by government or by industry, but in church, among Christians who learn a different way to pursue happiness.
Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, 1980
True happiness flows from the possession of wisdom and virtue and not from the possession of external goods.
Aristotle (B.C. 384-322), Politics
Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
preserve my life according to your word.
Psalm 119:36-37 NIV Bible
Two opposing gospels are fighting one another for the soul of our nation and, increasingly, the world: the gospel of consumption and the gospel of peace.
Leonard Sweet, SoulTsunami, 1999
Under private property ...Each tries to establish over the other an alien power, so as thereby to find satisfaction of his own selfish need. The increase in the quantity of objects is therefore accompanied by an extension of the realm of the alien powers to which man is subjected, and every new product represents a new potentiality of mutual swindling and mutual plundering.
Karl Marx (1818-1883), Human Requirements and Division of Labour, 1844
Until recent years, British and American resource corporations, with the full backing of their home governments, roamed the world…plundering the raw materials of the people of Africa, Asia, and America. Raw materials were extracted with little or no compensation to the people or governments in those areas. To secure control of these raw materials, a series of institutions were imposed on the people to foster dependency on the transnational corporations and their home governments. The raw materials became particularly important to the exploiting corporations and governments because of the high profits earned due to cheap labor and minimal royalties and taxes. In a sense, these resources fueled the industrial growth of the United States and Western Europe.
Richard Nafziger, “Transnational Energy Corporations and American Indian Development,”
American Indian Energy Resources and Development, University of New Mexico, 1980
Water and petrol both come from the earth, and though they seem to be alike and even the same, they are in nature and purpose exact opposites, for the one extinguishes fire and the other adds fuel to it. So also the world and its treasures, the heart and its thirst for God are alike His creation. Now the result of the attempt to satisfy the heart with the wealth and pride and honours of this world is the same as if one tried to put out a fire with petrol, for the heart can only find ease and satisfaction in Him who created both it and the longing desire of which it is conscious.
Sadhu Sundar Singh (1889-1929), At the Master’s Feet, 1922
We Americans think we are pretty good! We want to build a house, we cut down some trees. We want to build a fire, we dig a little coal. But when we run out of all these things, then we will find out just how good we really are.
Will Rogers (1879-1935)
quoted in Francesca Lyman, The Greeenhouse Trap, 1990
We always pay dearly for chasing after what is cheap.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008),
The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956 : an experiment in literary investigation, 1974-1979
We are a material-mad race of people. Build, increase, expand, pile up, hoard! More and more and more. “If we can just make enough money to—to— !” Jesus said: “Sell what ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.”
Eugenia Price (1916-1996), Discoveries, 1953
We are being made aware that the organization of society on the principle of private profit, as well as public destruction, is leading both to the deformation of humanity by unregulated industrialism, and to the exhaustion of natural resources, and that a good deal of our material progress is a progress for which succeeding generations may have to pay dearly.
T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), Christianity and Culture, 1939
We are determined not to take as the aim of our life fame, profit, wealth, or sensual pleasure, nor to accumulate wealth while millions are hungry and dying. We are committed to living simply and sharing our time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need.
Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace, 2005
We are developing new types of destitutes—the automobileless, the yachtless, the Newportcottageless. The subtlest luxuries of today reaches very high in the social scale… The end of it all is vexation of spirit.
Walter Weyl (1874-1917), The New Democracy, 1912
We are slaves in the sense that we depend for our daily survival upon an expand-or-expire agro-industrial empire—a crackpot machine—that the specialists cannot comprehend and the managers cannot manage. Which is, furthermore, devouring world resources at an exponential rate. We are, most of us, dependent employees.
Edward Abbey (1927-1989), Down the River, 1982
We are stripped bare by the curse of plenty
Winston Churchill (1874-1965), Lecture, Cleveland, Ohio, 3 Feb 1932
from Winston Churchill: His Complete Speeches, 1897-1963, ed. Robert Rhodes James
We are the hollow men We are the stuffed men
T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), The Hollow Men, 1925
We can be content with simplicity because the deepest most satisfying delights God gives us through creation are free gifts from nature and from loving relationships with people. After your basic needs are met, accumulated money begins to diminish your capacity for these pleasures rather than increase them. Buying things contributes absolutely nothing to the heart's capacity for joy.
John Piper, Desiring God, 1989
We consume, as we produce, without any concrete relatedness to the objects with which we deal; We live in a world of things, and our only connection with them is that we know how to manipulate or to consume them.
Erich Fromm (1900–1980), The Sane Society, 1955
We did not choose to believe that personal choice is the highest human virtue. Rather, we were taught, formed, forced to believe nothing is important in life other than that which we have personally chosen. The irony is that the belief that nothing is important in life other than that which we have personally chosen is a belief that we have not personally chosen! The supermarket and shopping mall have been our school.
William H. Willimon & Stanley Hauerwas, Lord Teach Us, 1996
We do this ecological evil because we believe it to be spiritually good. We do this because, looking at it from a carefully constructed social and economic perspective, we find fundamental spiritual meaning and satisfaction in it; it is our symbol of being "number one" and blessed by God.
William H. Becker in "Ecological Sin," Theology Today, 1992
We eat when we're not hungry, drink when we're not thirsty. We buy what we don't need and throw away everything that's useful. Why sell a man what he wants? Sell him what he doesn't need! Pretend he's got eight legs and two stomachs and money to burn. It's wrong! Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
Allie Fox, father in the movie The Mosquito Coast
from screenplay based on Paul Theroux's 1982 novel by the same name
We had learned how to invent things, and the question of why we invent things receded in importance. The idea that if something could be done it should be done was born in the nineteenth century. And along with it, there developed a profound belief in all the principles through which invention succeeds: objectivity, efficiency, expertise, standardization, measurement, and progress. It also came to be believed that the engine of technological progress worked most efficiently when people are conceived of not as children of God or even as citizens but as consumers—that is to say, as markets.
Neil Postman (1931-2003), Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, 1992
We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.
Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudum, 55,
Rome, 24 Nov 2013
We have no more right to consume happiness without producing it than to consume wealth without producing it.
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), Candida, Act I, 1898
We must surely appear to the world as exactly what we are: a nation that organizes its economy around consuming twice as much oil as it produces, and around the profligate wastefulness of the wars and campaigns required to defend such consumption. In recent years we have defined our national interest largely in terms of the oil fields and pipelines we need to procure fuel.
Barbara Kingsolver, Small Wonder, 2002
We used to say I don't care if I never have any money
As long as I have my sweet honey and a shack in the woodland
Now we say I don't care if I don't have money, but it's not true
We can't live without money, no, because we don't want to
We want one of those and two of those, and oh that one looks neat, wrap it up
Put it on my MasterCard.
Put it on my Visa
And I sing it now, hey hey, hey hey, who woulda thunk it
Hey hey, hey hey, who woulda thunk it
Greg Brown, “Who Woulda Thunk It” from In the Dark With You, © Red House Records 1989
We’re prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles, rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to humanity—thus capitalism can lead to a practical materialism that is as pernicious as the materialism taught by communism.
Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968), Stride Toward Freedom, 1958
We, all of us in the First World, have participated in something of a binge, a half century of unbelievable prosperity and ease. We may have had some intuition that it was a binge and the earth couldn't support it, but aside from the easy things (biodegradable detergent, slightly smaller cars) we didn't do much. We didn't turn our lives around to prevent it. Our sadness is almost an aesthetic response - appropriate because we have marred a great, mad, profligate work of art, taken a hammer to the most perfectly proportioned of sculptures.
Bill McKibben, The End of Nature, 1989
Well, I see something and I want it
Bam! Right now!
No questions asked
Don't worry how much it costs me now or later
I want it and I want it fast
I'll go to any length
Sacrifice all that I already have
And all that I might get
Just to get
Something more that I don't need
And Lord, please don't ask me what for
The lust, the flesh
And the pride of life
Drain the life Right out of me
Mike Roe of the Seventy Sevens, "The Lust, the Flesh, the Pride of Life"
What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on...those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.
Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:29,31 NIV Bible
What can become of him if he is in such bondage to the habit of satisfying the innumerable desires he has created for himself? He is isolated, and what concern has he with the rest of humanity? They have succeeded in accumulating a greater mass of objects, but the joy in the world has grown less.
Feodor Dostoyevsky (1821–1881), The Brothers Karamazov, 1880 ch 41
What does a person need – really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in – and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That's all – in the material sense. And we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention from the sheer idiocy of the charade. The years thunder by. The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed. Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?
Sterling Hayden (1916-1986), Wanderer, 1963
What is a man if he is not a thief who openly charges as much as he can for the goods he sells?
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869–1948), Non-Violence in Peace and War, 1949
What is the chief end of man?–to get rich.
In what way?–dishonestly if we can; honestly if we must.
Who is God, the one and only true? Money is God.
Gold and Greenbacks and Stock–father, son, and ghosts of same, three persons in one;
These are the true and only God, mighty and supreme.
Mark Twain a.k.a. Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835–1910), "The Revised Catechism" 1871
as cited in Mark Twain: Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches, and Essays 1852-1890, 1992
What we're talking about is the endless, gullible elevation of necessary levels of comfort and status and everything else at the complete expense of all around us. It's going to take us a long time to learn how to climb down a little bit from the heights on which we have put ourselves.
Bill McKibben, The Comforting Whirlwind: God and the Environmental Crisis,
Sermon, Carlisle, Massachusetts, 18 Mar 2001
What will you do if your product still further increases next year? You should then destroy again the warehouses which you are now preparing to build, and build bigger. For the reason why God has given you fruitful harvests is that He might either overcome your avarice or condemn it; wherefore you can have no excuse. But you keep for yourself what He wished to be produced through you for the benefit of many -- nay, rather, you rob even yourself of it, since you would better preserve it for yourself if you distributed it to others.
Ambrose (339-397), Patrologia Latina, Vol 14:731
What worries some people about consumption (and I confess at the outset to be one of these ambivalent creatures, fat but troubled in paradise) is that the affluent, technologically advanced West seems more and more focused not on consuming to live but living to consume. The problem with consumption, and the consumer capitalism that has pushed it to feverish historical extremes, is that it has become so all-consuming.
Rodney Clapp, “The Theology of Consumption & the Consumption of Theology,”
The Consuming Passion, ed. Rodney Clapp, 1998
When I lost my faith in people
I put my trust in things
To avoid the disappointment
Trusting people brings…
I tried to do it all myself then
Surrounded by my stuff
All I found were limitations
I could not rise above
There are gadgets and contraptions
There’s a program you can download now
That will even dream your dreams
It’ll even dream you dreams
For a monthly fee
Clear up your complexion
You get a hundred hours free
Possessions cannot save you
The way some body can
When I learned to care for others
Then the boy became a man
John Gorka, When I Lost My Faith ©2001
When I walk into a grocery store and look at all the products you can choose, I say, “My God!” No king ever had anything like I have in my grocery store today.
Bill Gates as quoted in Parade Magazine, 14 Jul 2002
When I'm drivin' in my car
And that man comes on the radio
He's tellin' me more and more
About some useless information
Supposed to fire my imagination
I can't get no, oh no, no, no
Hey, hey, hey, that's what I say
I can't get no satisfaction
I can't get no satisfaction
'Cause I try and I try and I try and I try
I can't get no, I can't get no
When I'm watchin' my TV
And that man comes on to tell me
How white my shirts can be
But he can't be a man 'cause he doesn't smoke
The same cigarettes as me
I can't get no, oh no, no, no
Hey, hey, hey, that's what I say
Mick Jagger & Keith Richards, Satisfaction, Rolling Stones, 1965
When advertisers fill our consciousness with images of beautiful, happy, one-dimensional people, they feed the illusion that our innate dissatisfaction can be relieved by material acquisition. By stuff. A cool camel smokes a cigarette; a couple in chinos sit on a sun-reddened mesa; buff teens run around on a beach knocking back soft drinks. These ads work on our unconscious by showing us a model of completion: "lack"-less people whose lives are not ruled or even touched by anxiety or desire.
Richard Wainwright, "Our Empty Desires," Adbusters, June/July 2000
When humans act like animals, they become the most dangerous of animals to themselves and other humans, and this is because of another critical difference between humans and animals: Whereas animals are usually restrained by the limits of physical appetites, humans have mental appetites that can be far more gross and capacious than physical ones. Only humans squander and hoard, murder and pillage because of notions.
Wendell Berry, "Getting Along With Nature," Home Economics, 1982
Where there no objectively desirable ends, and the individual is told to choose his or her own ends, then choice itself becomes the only thing that is inherently good. When there is a recession, we are told to buy things to get the economy moving; what we buy makes no difference. All desires, good and bad, melt into one overriding imperative to consume, and we all stand under the one sacred canopy of consumption for its own sake.
William T. Cavanaugh, Being Consumed, 2008
Whether we intend to or not, when we consume, we communicate several things about ourselves: our wealth, our personality, our affinities, and even our intelligence. Whether it is Levis or Diesel, McCafe or Starbucks, Mercedes or Chevy, Nike or Converse, every consumptive decision makes a statement. Consumption and identity have dangerously coalesced.
Timothy Willard & Jason Locy, Veneer, 2011
Whither thou goest, America, in thy shiny car in the night?
Jack Kerouac (1922-1969), On the Road, 1957
Who is the covetous man? One for whom plenty is not enough.
Basil the Great (329-380), The Rich Fool, Sermon XLI
Whoever has the power to project a vision of the good life and make it prevail has the most decisive power of all. In its sheer quest to produce and sell goods cheaply in constantly growing volume and at higher profit levels, American business, after 1890, acquired such power and has kept it ever since.
William Leach, Land of Desire, 1993
Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless.
As goods increase, so do those who consume them
Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 NIV Bible
Why do we, in fact, almost all of us, desire to increase our incomes? It may seem, at first sight, as though material goods were what we desire. But, in fact, we desire these mainly in order to impress our neighbors. When a man moves into a larger house in a more genteel quarter, he reflects that "better" people will call on his wife, and some unprosperous cronies of former days can be dropped. When he sends his son to a good school or an expensive university, he consoles himself for the heavy fees by thoughts of the social kudos to be gained. In every big city, whether of Europe or of America, houses in some districts are more expensive than equally good houses in other districts, merely because they are more fashionable. One of the most powerful of all our passions is the desire to be admired and respected. As things stand, admirations and respect are given to the man who seems to be rich. This is the chief reason why people wish to be rich. The actual goods purchased by their money play quite a secondary role.
John Russell (1792-1878), Sceptical Essays, 1928
With breathtaking rapidity, we are destroying all that was lovely to look at and turning America into a prison house of the spirit. The affluent society, with relentless single-minded energy, is turning our cities, most of suburbia and most of our roadways into the most affluent slum on earth.
Eric Sevareid (1912-1992) attributed
You can never get enough of what you don't need to make you happy.
Eric Hoffer (1902-1983)
You do not consider, money never stays with me: it would burn me if it did. I throw it out of my hands as soon as possible, lest it should find a way into my heart.
John Wesley (1703-1791), Letters, Letter to Mrs. Hall, 6 Oct 1768
You have found that you were more secure before you accumulated so much. See what greed has imposed on you: You have filled your house and now you fear burglars. You have hoarded money and lost sleep. See what greed has commanded you: "Do this!" And you did it.
Augustine (354-430), Tenth Homily on the First Letter of St. John
You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Exodus 20:17 NIV Bible
You, O money, are the cause of a restless life! Because of you we journey toward a premature death; you provide cruel nourishment for the evils of men; the seed of our cares sprouts from your head.
Sextus Propertius (c. 15 B.C.), Elegies
[Capitalism is] that commercial system in which supply immediately answers to demand, and in which everybody seems to be thoroughly dissatisfied and unable to get anything he wants.
G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936), "How to Write a Detective Story,"
G.K.'s Weekly, 17 Oct 1925
[The] illusion that mechanical progress means human improvement . . . alienates us from our own being and our own reality. It is precisely because we are convinced that our life, as such, is better if we have a better car, a better TV set, better toothpaste, etc., that we condemn and destroy our own reality and the reality of our natural resources. Technology was made for man, not man for technology. In losing touch with being and thus with God, we have fallen into a senseless idolatry of production and consumption for their own sakes. We have renounced the act of being and plunged ourself into process for its own sake.
Thomas Merton (1915-1968), Mystics and Zen Masters, 1967
they showed it to you
and you laid your money down
well it looked like what you wanted
but it laid you in the ground
Peter Himmelmann, You Bought It from Gematria, 1987
Letter to the Philippians 4:11-13 NIV Bible
" Asia's Dry Lands Crisis too Critical to Ignore,"
Environment News Service 10 Nov 2000
Issues: A Messianic Jewish Perspective
Review of Economic Studies, 1949-50
quoted by DeNeen L. Brown in
" In Canadian Court, a Native Nation Claims Offshore Rights,"
Washington Post, 26 Mar 2002
Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds, Jan 2010
Matthew 6:25-26 from the New Revised Standard version of the Bible
Atlantic Monthly, Nov 1924