Here’s a great mini-essay from Eugene Peterson’s Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places.
“In our present culture all of us find that we are studied, named, and treated as functions and things. ‘Consumer’ is the catch-all term for the way we are viewed. From an early age we are looked upon as individuals who can buy or perform or use. Advertisers begin targeting us in those terms from the moment we are able to choose a breakfast cereal.”
“For those of us who are reared in North American culture, it is inevitable that we should unconsciously acquire this way of looking at everyone we meet. Other people are potential buyers for what I am selling, students for what I am teaching, recruits for what I am doing, voters for what I am proposing, resources for what I am building or making, clients for the services I am offering. Or, to reverse the elements, I identify myself as the potential buyer, student, recruit, resource, client, and so on. But it is consumerism either way.”
“I have no complaint about this at one level. I need things, other people offer what I need; I am happy to pay for and take advantage of what is offered whether it is food, clothing, information, medical and legal help, leadership in a cause that is dear to my heart, advocacy in matters of justice, or victim-rights that I care about. I’m quite happy to be a consumer in this capitalist economy where there is so much to consume.”
“Except. Except that I don’t want to be just a consumer. I don’t even want to be predominantly a consumer. To be reduced to a consumer is to leave out most of what I am, of what makes me me. To be treated as a consumer is to be reduced to being used by another or reduced to a product for someone else’s use. It makes little difference whether the using is in a generous or selfish cause, it is reduction. Widespread consumerism results in extensive depersonalization. And ever time depersonalization moves in, life leaks out.”
“But souls are not sieves; souls brim with life: ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul!”