I wrote these words a few days after returning from Peru SST last summer, traces of reverse culture shock all but hidden as I faced the immediate trauma of re-entry:
“In the United States, we so often attempt to nourish ourselves with little more than the “Fats, Oils and Sweets” section of the material food pyramid. And although this category comes with the warning to “USE SPARINGLY,” we rarely do so, gorging ourselves on TV, Facebook, apps, video games, smart phones, clothes, cars, houses, iPads and a million other things that slowly creep in, take up the space in our hearts and our minds, the excess disguised as cushion and convenience, all the while taking us farther and farther away from each other, from creation and from our Creator.
How quickly this preoccupation, this clogged artery of a lifestyle, becomes normal. We spend our time developing all of these things to make life easier, more enjoyable, more efficient and productive, and then they end up controlling us because we have to have them. I may have lived among a village of people largely addicted to alcohol and chewing coca leaves in Peru, but I came home to a people suffering from just as much addiction.
I live with this blockage too. I knew I had it before, but I feel it even more now. I am angry that people are preoccupied with frivolous things, I feel guilty for knowing this world of frivolous things so well myself, and I am angry for not knowing what to do with my guilt.”
Almost five months writing this entry, I realize that, while my emotions may no longer be as raw, I am still dealing with these frustrations on a very fundamental level.
As the holiday season is upon us, I find myself facing the beast that is U.S.-American consumerism to a new degree. I must crawl out of my GC hole and figure out what it means to face this beast in the “real world.” As a follower of the very Messiah around which Christmas revolves, I cannot ignore the discrepancies that I see between the call to prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of God on Earth and the call from the mall to eat up the hottest new items.
It is the latter call that many people—Christians and non-Christians alike—heed. I am hardly the first person to bring this dichotomy to light, but it obviously still exists this Christmas just as much as it did last year.
Yet the problem of consumerism, whether or not one subscribes to Christian doctrine, is one that exists beyond the holidays. I do not want to write off the joy of giving and receiving openly, nor do I wish to scoff at abundance and refuse to be thankful for what I have, but I am scared that my lust for material possessions holds the power to trigger feelings of greed or pride or dissatisfaction, standing in the way of both human and divine relationships.
This is no accusation. It is a confession. I am one of those people affected by consumerism—a perpetrator, not just a passive victim—and I have yet to isolate a solution. But I do believe we must strive for a greater degree of conscientiousness in the weeks to come (and years), as Christians, as global citizens, as responsible individuals, or whatever role we claim.
Mara Weaver is a senior history and secondary education major.