Sunday, 17 February 2013

Psychological Perspectives on the Individual - Part 2: Manipulating the Masses - the Story of Consumerism

Dear All,

Please watch the following two videos:

* The Happiness Machine

* The Story of Stuff

* The Story of Change

Feel free to think about your own habit of "buying stuff" and try to analyze it critically.

Please also ask yourself the following questions:

  • What makes you buy something and decide which of many similar products you decide on? 
  • How long are you, on average happy about a particular product? 
  • Do you follow what is "in" or fashionable? If so, why - if not, why not? 
  • How does following fashion take away from your individuality?
  • What does following fashion take away from your own natural beauty (as opposed to some abstract beauty ideal that someone has decided on)?
  • What role do the mass media play in controlling the behavior of the masses?

Another side of consumerism is, as Annie Leonard pointed out in her video, the destruction of the environment. Please think a bit more about how consumerism ultimately creates the following:

  • piles of garbage (including dangerous plastic and nuclear and chemical waste), 
  • pollution of water, earth, and air, 
  • shortage of drinkable water, 
  • problems with crops and thus a shortage of food
  • global warming - and consequent changes in weather patterns and activities that will lead to a destruction of large area of current habitat,
  • the destruction of many species (some of which are crucial to the survival of humans), 
  • the destruction of the whole ecosystem - including us.
Please also watch the following:

* Severn Suzuki's speech at the UN

* The Destruction of our Planet

* Article in National Georgraphic (2004):

* The End of Consumerism

* Some Facts about the Current Situation:

* If you think that a healthy environment should be a basic human right (just as "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are basic human rights according to the American constitution), please check out David Suzuki's petition - and sign: 

Thank you,



  1. This is a good example why this course should be earlier on, I am in 3rd year now and I have already seen these videos in several other classes and talked about the issues in other contexts. Still at question though is how we are meant to relate to this, we cannot just stop the system, this has been tried before, so where are we meant to go with this idea or does it just end here?

    1. Felix, this course is the 1st CORE course. Ideally, you'd take it in your 1st year, probably in term 2 of your 1st year, not in your 3rd year. Not sure why you didn't take it earlier.
      Anyway, if you are aware of the problem, that's excellent. Of course, we can stop - or rather, change - the system! In fact, we HAVE to change it during the next couple of years! The current system has been made by people. People can make a new system. It's not all that difficult if we want to do that. Revolutions have happened before - and they were all made by the people. That's why my colleagues and I are trying to create more awareness for the situation by showing you these things. We cannot force you guys to take any action but we can hope that you are smart enough to see for yourself that you have to act if you want a future.
      If we don't stop the system now, our planet will collapse, and, unfortunately, we are not very far away from this collapse. This is all just to say: we need to act fast if we want to save the earth. This has to have priority over everything else - since nothing else will be of any value to anybody on earth if there is no functioning earth anymore. All humans will be wiped out then. Please check out 350 Org if you don't believe me that the situation is extremely critical.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. i have had several opportunities to come across this video in many business courses. I feel very thankful that finally the ideas of environment and and sustainability have raised and put into concerns. Definitely, we cannot stop the current economic systems but at least we can start moving toward the green economy where environment and other human indicators are taken more serious so that countries wont just only strike for the growth of economy and ignore everything else.

    1. Hi Vi,
      Good comment! Just one addition: we CAN stop the current system. In fact, I think we HAVE to stop it since it is killing our planet - and therefore also us. Please read my comment to Felix's post above :)

  4. this video still appeal to me no matter how many time I watch it. I always wonder how our world would be in the future. Have to say that mostly human are harassing the environment. If we cannot find the way to change our bad behaviours, we all have to an uncoutable price for that.

  5. What makes you buy something and decide which of many similar products you decide on?
    Sometimes I bought somethings because they are necessary for me, but somethings are not==" I bought them because I follow fashion.

    How long are you, on average happy about a particular product?
    One day

    Do you follow what is "in" or fashionable? If so, why - if not, why not?
    Depending on the products.

    How does following fashion take away from your individuality?
    Many times

    What role do the mass media play in controlling the behavior of the masses?
    The media is the important factors when i decide to buy somethings because i would like to be like that.

    1. Excellent points! I totally agree.

  6. Why is that in spite of the awareness of consumerism rising, there is no decline to it? Why is it that this same pattern is repeated again and again? We can’t change the cycle of consumerism and environmental destruction without making it nearly impossible to use or own many of the things we use today. Who could even think of making a computer by themselves, starting from the metal, sand, and chemicals? If the cost of a computer were not absorbed by third world countries who could even afford one here in the United States? People will never give up this having and wanting, not until the day they die. The woman on The Story of Stuff may feel bad about buying that radio for a few dollars, but that doesn’t stop her from buying it, nor would she feel it was reasonable if it cost hundreds of dollars to reflect the true environmental cost of producing it. In short, if we want the technology and progress that is made possible for a few, then it doesn’t matter how many nice sounding environmental words people spew out, they aren’t going to make a practical solution, because people want comfort and don’t want to pay the real price. I don't think there is a concrete solution to this problem.