Putting Our Culture’s Decadence in Check

How we traded in our wisdom for mindless luxury.

Our culture’s lack of wisdom is pulling us further and further away from the consequences of our way of life. We watch television and advertisements that tell us to live an increasingly decadent lifestyle and we happily oblige, indulging in harmful behavior and plundering the planet, covering our ears and eyes when we hear of the damage it’s doing. Meanwhile, as technology continues its evolution, we march alongside it, up the mountain of “prosperity” leaving behind those who must pay for it.

Some examples:

  • By now we all know about sweatshops, we’re used to it. It may have been shocking in 1999, but today it is a mere fact, not worthy of further discussion. More and more of us buy from big box companies like Wal-Mart and Dollar Store chains, that time and time again have been proven guilty of selling items made from slave labour, even reported to be the “Top Link in the Sweatshop Chain”
  • New iPad? Check. New Blackberry? Check. There are many horror stories attached to the manufacturing of these technologies. We heard about the suicides and mistreatment  of workers at the Chinese factory that makes iPhones, but we hear less about the most taboo topic; that of metal mining fueling wars in the Congo. Much like diamonds, our technologies are full of conflict minerals and can be deemed “blood laptops” and “blood cell phones”. Sadly, wars are being financed by the trade of these minerals and the more we ignore the connection, the more suffering there will be.
  •  Adbusters featured a fascinating article last year called Cocaine Culture. This article highlighted the connection between the use of cocaine in America and the rivalry between drug cartels in Mexico, where thousands of innocent people are being killed. Blake Sifton, the article’s author, framed the issue around the irony of cocaine use among young people who are often very progressive. He wrote: “And so they march in protest, volunteer abroad, shop ‘green’ and insist on drinking fair trade coffee. But when the weekend comes and they let loose at parties, they see no contradiction in snorting cocaine, one of the most exploitative commodities on earth. They do not seem to care that for coke to make its way up their American noses, Mexican heads must roll in the streets of Juárez. Their indifference does not bode well for the rest of the country.” Many of us may not be surrounded by cocaine use, but in his article Sifton asks the ultimate question: “We need to ask ourselves how we reached this point of zero empathy for those hurt by our way of life.”

And these are just three brief examples of a long list of how we have come further and further from being a truly wise society. Instead, we paint the picture of progress but have much to be accountable for. They say the first step to solving your problem is admitting you have one, and as far as we can see, we have much work to do to.

(Original image by Frank Chimero).

1 comment to “Putting Our Culture’s Decadence in Check”

  • sirjefferson, September 26, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    assuming the profits gained from it (products) (i.e. not rejecting them, as in just not using them) does not mean advocating or supporting, let alone actively causing the opression of the people involved in the production
    also, the owners of the sweatshops/factories/their servants do not force people to work there (but the people are indirectly forced because it’s their only way to get money for buying essential stuff, which is caused by the capitalist system and partially by the factory owners because they give low wages – i do not advocate the system of property/capitalism and do say that it is evil for the factory owners to exploit the situation by having them work hard for low wages, i just mean to point out these important points which seem to be left out quite often)
    as for the cocaine part, people killing one another about the distribution of the material is not at all a necessary part in manufacturing and shipping it (and is largely based upon that it’s illegal, because when dealing with stuff that is illegal anyway, people also rather use illegal methods (mafia-style business etc.))