The Great Lie
Recently we watched TV at a friends’ house down here in Baja. They had regular American/Canadian satellite programming so we were subject to the standard commercial breaks. As we watched, we laughed out loud at the products that were being advertised. In truth, we couldn’t find a SINGLE item that we deemed necessary for our well-being, happiness or comfort, even after a few hours of viewing.
Consumerism is a machine that serves to feed itself without regard for the actual welfare of the general population or the planet. To create more and more money, products have been created simply for the sake of making the next sale. It begs the question, “What is vital? What do I really need in my life in order to feel safe and comfortable?” Our markets are saturated with unnecessary and disposable items. The impact of this mindless pattern our culture has become habituated to is responsible, I believe, for the demise of our global environment.
Spending four months outside of the clutches of this marketing machine has been eye opening. Certainly we’ve traveled before and spent time in various cultures from the first to the third world, however, never for so long in a place so devoid of billboards, commercials, or visual cues implying that we need to buy material goods. One side effect we’ve noticed is that there is a deeper sense of relaxation that’s possible because we aren’t bombarded by messages telling us to do this or buy that in order to feel happier, more relaxed, in love, etc…
To be fair, there are billboards and all those antics in the larger cities in Baja as well. Our preference has been to stay on the outskirts of one of the smaller communities on the Sea of Cortez, in large part because of its isolation from the consumerist mentality. Heck, you can’t even pay for gas at the main station on the principal highway on a credit card here (this is true for most of Baja where cash is not only king, but essentially the only form of payment accepted outside of the larger cities).
But back to my original point, I’d rather make my own purchasing decisions based on a sense of what I REALLY need, rather than on what others tell me I need. Being down here has helped me to reconnect with what is vital and truly, it’s not much. Commercials are persuasive, created by teams of experts who know enough about human psychology to create convincing campaigns to tell us what we need. Fortunately, their tactics are pretty transparent. For those with a deeper understanding of what is vital in life, watching commercials can be comical. Even our 12 year old daughter has joined our game of debunking the myths that commercials entice us to believe.
I’m grateful for this opportunity to really question what I need in life. I’m happy that I get to share in that process with our daughter. I’m optimistic that upon re-entry to the US, we will be able to maintain the quiet wisdom we have acquired in our time here, despite the barrage of advertisements and fast paced culture which surely waits for us on the other side of the border. I’m looking forward to having to work less and to be able to spend more time as a family now that I’ve broken the cycle of spending too much money on items that are truly not necessary.