OPINION

A consumer society lost in the present

A dangerous avalanche is hurtling toward us: a surfeit of goods and garbage ready to annihilate everyday life as we know it. The value of these goods is more than 230 trillion euros per year, on a global level, and the amount of garbage produced per year is in the region of 1.5 trillion tons. In order for a product to be made, there is a need for massive amounts of natural resources, and the manufacturing process yields around 1 kilo of trash for every 100 kilos of natural resources precessed. Tons of garbage are hidden behind the shelves and shelves of cheap products we see in our supermarkets and department stores. If we were to add all this hidden trash to the final weight of a product, a coffee pot would weigh 298 kilos, a mobile telephone would weigh 75 kilos, a toothbrush would weigh 1.5 kilos, a computer would weigh 1.5 tons, and so on and so forth. Basically, there has been a global turnaround. The selection of goods with which we once made do has been replaced by a mass of countless, similar products. The citizen has become a consumer – a shortsighted, narrow-minded materialist, compared to the petit-bourgeois citizen of the past whose concerns revolved around the economy, morality and religion. These days, the emphasis is on consumption of the aforementioned goods and on money, of which one has a tendency to spend a lot more and save a lot less. Meanwhile, a wide variety of loans and insurance products conspire to relieve the individual of the responsibility of old-fashioned, family-oriented saving. Investment is increasingly slipping out of the realm of individual control the preserve of the state and major companies. People’s dreams and long-term goals, the invisible chain of well-designed plans that once linked one day with the next, are being destroyed within our major bureaucratic systems; the organization of family life has become an abstract, impersonal affair, which more and more of us are entrusting to faceless bureaucrats. The only area that really still belongs to individuals is their free time, their private life, their consumption: quick pleasures which are exhausted within a day. But the predominance of this trend is eating away at our ties with the past. And the loss of our past is provoking the loss of our future. Since the 18th century, our culture has been gearing toward tomorrow, a tomorrow tied to a steadily progressing engine of progress. This has been replaced by a today without any real weight. Duration – the main characteristic of perfection – is giving way to shallowness. The past is being lost and the future is being overshadowed. Meanwhile, the present is being compressed into just one moment, a moment that explodes and is dispersed.