The Many Golden Calves of Consumptive Behavior
If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already — it’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power — you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.
—David Foster Wallace
Being a society founded almost entirely upon the idea of consumption, we are bound to be disappointed. Consuming creatures only thrive when there is more. Always more. Consistently more. Unfortunately, as we consume (the trees, the water, the oil, the food, the minerals, the plastics, the money, each other) there is almost always less. A consuming culture holds little value in replenishing the supply — we're too busy consuming in the moment to worry about there being anything left for others.
And so we whine.
There isn't enough. I'm unhappy. I'm unfulfilled. I need more — time, money, youth, leisure. I need more sex. I need more channels on cable. I need more weapons, more enemies, more friends, more likes on Facebook, more followers, more opportunities.
The saddest (or most infuriating or most pathetic) sight is that of a hugely obese man, surrounded by empty Quarter Pounder boxes and used up French Fry bags, howling at the sun because he is hungry. "Christ," you think. "How could he possibly still be hungry? He's consumed more quasi-meat and chemically sterioded potatoes than anyone should have to eat, let alone want to eat, and he cries out that he is empty. What the fuck is that about?"
When having more is the goal, when being fully satisfied becomes increasingly difficult, the squeakiest of wheels fight with every breath to get what they want with little regard for anyone around them.
The entitled lady with the faux leather clutch who complains vigorously about the fact that her latte isn't foamy enough, ignoring the line of people behind her, demanding that she be treated as if she dropped down from the Mt. Olympus of "The Customer is Always Right?" She'll probably get a free latte.
The businessman who decides at the last minute that, in spite of the bold print that specifies that "Tickets are neither refundable nor can they be exchanged for another date," that he needs the date changed on his tickets and will not take no for an answer? He'll probably bitch and complain and puff up enough that it'll just be easier in the long run to give him the exchange.
That dickhammock that sits on his car-horn, blaring away because you are on your bike and are making him 15 seconds slower to his completely life-changing meeting at the copy store? You'll probably move out of his way if for no other reason than the potential loss of hearing you'll endure if you don't.
At some point in the game there are so many squeaky wheels, so many fights for more, so much of complaint and outrage that it all blends together like a purée of white noise like listening to a million people scream at a god who isn't listening.
It's about the belief that more will heal that hunger. That more will satisfy the empty growling of the soul. It seems to matter little that most of us on the planet have never really known hunger — in America, the person living below the Poverty Level still lives like royalty in comparison to the large majorities of those living in Other Places. Most of us complain about how fucking cold or hot the weather is but sleep in buildings with beds. But we want more.
The saddest (or most infuriating or most hopelessly pathetic) sight is that of a well-fed, well-housed, well-paid businessperson throwing up his or her hands in horror at the very idea that Society might require of him the slimy skim off of her giant vat of Buttery Wealth to even the playing field for other members of Society.
And yet we worship them. We see those who have the Most as being the Most Successful. Those who have acquired or borrowed or stolen the most are the Captains of Our Capitalist Nightmare. It is our Disease. It is why we consume relentlessly and are relentlessly disappointed in the fact that no matter how much we have, it is not enough.
Did you eat today? It's enough.
Did you talk to someone and feel like that person listened to you? It's enough.
Did you have a place to go that protected you from the cold? It's enough.
Did you enjoy a tiny bit of creature comfort — a Hershey's Kiss, a bit of porn, a cigarette, a cup of coffee? It's enough.
We fight for a utopia that has never, can never exist. A place of unlimited resource with an equal share for all. It's a lovely dream yet the vision is tainted by the fact that we are all human and humans, from the beginning of recorded history are encoded to consume and want more.
It takes extraordinary effort to find a sense of satisfaction with enough but it is within that effort that lies that utopia.