Consumerism is not solely an American plague. It’s pretty much international -for those who can afford it or for those who can not afford it, but do it anyway.
Overspending and over-consuming is no-doubt a pretty annoying pre-Christmas habit for Greeks. When it comes to Greek-Americans though it is threatening to become a purpose for living. The constant bombarding of glossy leaflets promising previously unheard of deals & “clearance sales” shouldn’t be having us rushing to the stores, coupons at hand, zoned out and weary-eyed underneath the cheap neon lights while getting mild to severe asthma symptoms after prolonged exposure to Chinese clothes’ fumes.
Contrary to what Erik Fromm or our own Kargakos would say, it is not just about what it represents. To me, it is mostly about what it really is up here in the surface of things: A dreary-bad quality of life. Yep. Believing material goods may bring happiness is trash blah blah, of course, everybody knows that. Yet everybody goes shopping. And everybody falls into the trap of staying there, in the neon-lit hell hole way too long. And no. I don’t believe the symbolism of it is the worst. Sc*** the symbolism. If you are having fun shopping, if you are out with friends, that’s great, way to go!
But you are not having fun. You are not even around friends. You are all by yourself. Amongst strangers. Security cameras. Security guards. Bad chinese fumes. And the sound of credit cards being charged or rejected. Underpaid cashiers. And all-numbing neon lights.
“The lights bother you?”, a friend asked me. He hadn’t even thought that was a problem. It hadn’t even crossed his mind that the presence of security guards or guns equals an unhealthy reality. In his mind it is perfectly reasonable for people to be dishonest and to constantly be trying to s**** each other. Anonymity and huge department stores probably would bring the worst in people.
Last year I was in Greece for Christmas. I remember strolling down busy streets with artfully decoraded shop windows while one of my best friends melancholically explained how her classmates and her aren’t as close as they used to be. They only see each other a couple of times a month. And by that she meant meeting for coffee. Three-hour coffee sessions. Did I mention my friend is in her early forties and a working mum? Imagine someone complaining about that in North America? A Greek-American would be bragging on how socially savvy they are for networking with ex classmates if they met one of their classmated once a year for a half hour lunch. At cosi. Leaving early so as not to be late for work. Then returning to the office, where they would respectlively spend an hour and a half browsing holiday deals online.
A lot of people try to pretend we all have a choice. We don’t have to pay attention to the non stop commercials that propagate buying s*** “holiday” after “holiday”. No. We definitely don’t have to. But we come home from a long day of work and we are so tired. All we want to do is watch tv and just be passive for a while. Give us a break now, won’t you. Plus it’s not consumerism. It’s shopping therapy. Cause what else is there to do? Coffee shops close by 8 and even if they were open who would want to sit there all by themselves. Nobody is calling our cells. If they did they’s be getting our answering machines anyway. Nobody’s texting us. Nobody’s dropping by to spend time with us. They prefer checking out the deals in the nearest outlet mall cause there was another coupon in the mail last night. They prefer to be alone.