Depression by Consumerism

Posted on September 14, 2011

I did something in the newsagents in Broughton today that I haven’t done for as long as I can remember and though I am ashamed of myself, I did it for the right reasons. No, I didn’t buy a pornographic magazine and a box of Kleenex, it was far worse than that…..I bought a copy of The Daily Telegraph! Before anyone asks, no I haven’t fallen for the charms of David Cameron and George Osborne and joined the lower middle class branch of the Conservative party……..far from it. However, after shuffling around like a dirty old man, waiting to be sure no one would spot me (particularly Nick) I purchased this paper because the front page headline stood out like Jim Davidson at a Gay Rights march, particularly as it was a headline you would more likely associate with the centre left journalism in The Guardian.

British family life in crisis
Parents shower their children with toys and designer instead of spending time with them

This statement comes from UNICEF who claim that kids in Britain are the unhappiest in the industrialized world because they are trapped in a cycle of compulsive consumerism and that parents in the UK are locked into a system of consumption that they know is pointless but impossible to resist. The study found that in Spain and Sweden where there is less emphasis on material wealth, children were far happier than here in Britain. This doesn’t make pretty reading, but I will go on regardless, because the study also showed that there was an enormous gap between the UK and the other countries with regards to childhood happiness. I will quote Dr. Agnes Nairn: “While children would prefer time with their parents to heaps of consumer goods, parents seem to find themselves under tremendous pressure to purchase a surfeit of material goods for their children. This compulsive consumption was almost absent in Spain and Sweden.”

This took my mind a few years back to a trip I took to Mumbai (Bombay to you old colonists) in 2006 and in particular a chaotic Sunday night beach party/circus/fair involving children, parents and grandparents. What was so noticeable was that everything was fun, whether it was beach cricket or manually operated rickety wooden rides; it was fun, exciting, funny and not least sociable. Don’t forget, these people were living in road side shacks with nothing even bordering on material but with the ability to enjoy life, yet what was really depressing about this was that it was all on the edge of changing forever. During one of my terrifying death defying taxi rides to the cricket ground I made comment to our driver how happy the children of Mumbai were, to which he replied “Not for long” whilst pointing at the huge billboards advertising Vodafone HSBC and other huge corporations. His claim was that advertising creates addictive consumerism that fills people with greed, jealousy and hate. Strong words indeed, but I got his sentiment; people in Hatch Warren are regularly seen vomiting when they hear the news that their neighbours are getting a new car or conservatory.

Families gather on Mumbai Beach every Sunday

Now don’t get me wrong here, I don’t long for the day I am living in a shack with daily risk of typhoid, malaria or cholera, the western world has plenty enough going for it to keep me here in my safe European home. However, this report is something all us parents should take notice of, especially after seeing a tweet by journalist Liza Harding yesterday that stated the average age for male depression to develop is 14 as opposed the 30 in the 1980’s. Now, I am no child psychologist, but if kids are seeing the pressure of consumerism in their parents who are living in a demented state of one-upmanship, it is little wonder they are worrying themselves sick about tuition fees, mortgages and material goods. To make life worse for them, nearly all the best jobs in banking, law, the media and popular culture are put aside for a small privately educated elite whilst they are left to scrap for what’s left over, which at the moment, isn’t very much. Fuck me, it is no wonder so many of them are depressed, the impending pressure of adulthood is unrelenting.

George, Harry, Matt and Chloe (who was very popular for some reason) leaping in to the Harbour

I try to buck the norm, but I am by no means innocent, my kids have these games and I don’t spend all my time having jolly picnics out in the fresh air with my rosy cheeked children who are wearing Aaron jumpers their Grandmother knitted, but now I am going to try that little bit harder to spend more time doing other things with them. It was noticeable on our recent English holidays how much fun kids can have for free, in Swanage, Harry was barely out of the sea in daylight hours, and in Cornwall, every evening George, Harry and their friend Matt spent hours jumping in the harbour with other kids, laughing, showing off and making entertainment out of nothing……. a bit like the kids on the beach in Mumbai when I think about it. That’s what happy memories are made from, not sitting indoors with a pasty grey face playing Grand Theft Auto or some other nasty bastard game full of gratuitous violence. Some kids (not mine, not ever while I exist) go to midnight openings of Game or Blockbuster to get these games first when they are released, that is just not right, whatever spin you put on it. It’s total fucking madness that’s what it is, if any of you have let yourself do this, punch yourself in the mouth this instant and get your fucking act together.

My memories of childhood are playing football, bike rides and going fishing…………..oh…and seeing if I could get the high score on Pacman and the threat of a nuclear holocaust on my doorstep!!

1 Reply to "Depression by Consumerism"

  • Trevor and Amy
    September 15, 2011 (5:32 am)

    Nice post Bob.

    I reckon kids are indoctrinated from almost as soon as they can walk with consumerism. Audrey talks pretty much non-stop about Disney princesses even though (age 4) she hasn't seen a Disney film. Eli (age 2) is completely sucked in by Bob the Builder. It's all harmless enough, but indication that big organisations can get kids early.

    I can't really criticise as I'm sure I was a real TV addict when I was a kid (despite not having a colour TV until I was about 10). It was just that in 'our day' the TV programmes didn't have a huge range of merchandising, plastic toys, clothing, food and bed linen behind them. (ok some did – I used to covet my mates Space 1999 space ship)

    Like you I'm sure kids can get as much fun from free stuff. It just takes a bit more imagination and involvement to organise.

    That all sounds very righteous and I'm sure our kids will be sat in front of a Play Station 10 (or whatever it is by then) along with all their other friends.

    Like you say though (although I was heck of a Manic Miner player) my best memories come from illicit bus trips to Coventry/Brum or having 'camp fires' over the local allotments.

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