Why do so many people seek external solutions for internal problems? One factor might be the economy depends on it.
Our economic system heavily relies on human labor and consumption to maintain itself. If the world economy stuck only to the essential needs of food, water, shelter and healthcare, the entire system, as we know it today, would implode.
Capitalism requires a consistent rise in profits and minimization of costs. The benefits of the system come from the natural urgency and competition it creates. The rewards of succeeding at capitalism are marketed as the “ultimate life dream” of wealth, freedom and status. And so, everyone in the system is driven to work hard and compete with everyone else.
The economic system closely mirrors nature where there is inherent competition to survive and thrive. And so, there is a natural feeling to capitalism that makes it appealing to everyone but its biggest losers.
Where the system becomes a trap is where regular people get “tricked” into producing more than necessary and consuming much more than they can afford to. Often for reasons that really make no sense.
Ultimately, consumerism makes the promise of happiness and social status. Happiness and status are defined as having nice things. Thus, everyone works towards the goal of attaining as many nice things as possible. Even the homeless will sometimes turn down food and shelter for money instead.
Shortcuts to achieving high status are marketed to people constantly in the form of credit card debt, new products, improved products and exclusive opportunities. However, once again, this is usually a bait and switch because the system has no real shortcuts outside of pure luck. Those who market these shortcuts are just taking advantage of the system and trying to create a shortcut for themselves, ironically.
The flaw in believing materialism leads to happiness through consumerism is the inherent lie of it. It is based on the idea that external factors can provide permanent internal happiness, fulfillment or satisfaction. Consumerism works very much like a drug. Whenever you achieve a material goal, you get a social status boost. And so, when someone gets a big promotion at work, a new car, new clothes, etc. they have the urge to share this information with others via social media or other means. The mindset is based on trying to purchase love, respect, attention, status and approval through worldly success rather than personal growth and character.
In the end, humans are social creatures and our achievements mean nothing if we have no one to share them with or show them off too. We often share our success to validate our “worth” to others and also to gain or maintain higher status in the pack.
Once people receive the drug of validation that comes from “showing off”, they might experience some level of temporary happiness. However, this quickly fades once all the social media “likes” stop coming and all the congratulations end. The void of daily life starts to slowly creep back in. Now, the person needs another “fix” and they start shopping for their next status symbol. The cycle goes on and on with true happiness remaining as elusive as it was from the start.
With everyone in constant competition for the most impressive status symbols, people essentially become willing slaves in the system. People will stay with bad romantic partners based on economic co-dependency or the need to maintain an image. People will form relationships more to fill voids or not be alone with their own thoughts than to truly connect with others. There is no time to connect when you’re in competition with everyone.
Where does this all lead to? Ultimately, it leads nowhere. As the game can never be won and only those selling the false dreams enjoy the real profits. The system only works because it never actually delivers on what it promises. At least not permanently. If the system delivered, people would lose their motivation to consume excessively. They would also lose motivation to invest their money in expensive status symbols instead of rewarding life experiences, personal growth and the gaining of wisdom. If that were to occur, the sales of consumer items would plummet, jobs would be lost, and the economy would crash.
A system based exclusively on constant growth must find a way to grow at any cost. And this is why, these days, many people put more trust in brand names than they do in friends, family or the media. Just walk around any major city and see how many people are basically walking ads for various brands, businesses, products and services. Brand names are themselves a status symbol.
At the heart of status is competition. And at the heart of competition is fear. The system uses your fear against you, making you a willing slave.