The theme of freedom is strongly present in my life, often as a driving force in my decision making. With July 4th, freedom and independence come in the form of patriotism. I'd like to reflect on the way the two are intertwined.
Engaging as a consumer is often posited, both latently and with firework-like emphasis, as a patriotic duty. It is also seen as a means to find happiness, to find pleasure, to make life easier, and to gain self worth.
But being a consumer does not make you patriotic and it certainly does not make you free: The more you buy, the more money you relinquish. The more you keep, the more you have to maintain and store. The more you have, the more you identify yourself with your stuff. And investing in our economy at the expense of our environment couldn't possibly be an act of patriotism. Harming our land, wildlife, and using up natural resources has long term and lasting effects for our country.
Freedom and independence are also about thinking for yourself.
Most of what we believe, as it relates to the activity of purchasing, social morays, and expectations for our own possessions, is a result of companies marketing their products to us. I hate people telling me what to do or what to think. Don't you?
Consider gift giving for birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays (both religious and cultural). If you don't give a gift in certain circumstances, you might be seen as cheap or without social grace, even though you are attempting to be mindful of the environmental impact, the recipient's needs, and issues of waste. Consider the idea that we deserve "stuff" as rewards. What can you ever do in your life that means you deserve a iPad? I'm sure you work hard and are a wonderful person. But what does it mean when we think of our accomplishments in life as transactional?
It's easy to mistake the impact of marketing as thinking, whether that be how we choose to handle social culture, expectations for our own lifestyles, and, in part, our world view.
Unless, of course, we truly think for ourselves. That is real freedom.