How Do Our Kids Get So Caught Up in Consumerism?
In the Merck Family Fund’s Yearning for Balance national survey, 86 percent of people agreed or strongly agreed that "today’s youth are too focused on buying and consuming things." This is a touchstone issue for children and the future. The following book excerpt deals with how children today discover what it means to be human.
How are we initiated into the universe? To answer we need to reflect on what our children experience over and over again, at night, in a setting similar to those children in the past who gathered in the caves and listened to the chant of the elders. If we think in terms of pure quantities of time the answer is immediate: the cave has been replaced with the television room and the chant with the advertisement. One could say that the chant has been replaced with the television show, but at the core of each show, driving the action, and determining whether or not the show will survive the season, is the advertisement. That is the essential message that will be there night after night and season after season. Television's Bonanzas, Cheers, and Cosby shows all come and go; the advertisement endures through every change.
What is the effect on our children? Before a child enters first grade science class, and before entering in any real way into our religious ceremonies, a child will have soaked in 30,000 advertisements. The time our teenagers spend absorbing ads is more than their total stay in high school. None of us feels very good about this, but for the most part we just ignore it. It’s background. It’s just there, part of what’s going on. We learned to accept it so long ago we hardly every think about it anymore.
But imagine how different we would feel if we heard about a country that programmed its citizenry in its religious dogmas in such a manner. In fact, it was just such accounts concerning the leaders of the former Soviet Union that outraged us for decades, the thought that they would take young children and subject them to brainwashing in Soviet lies, removing their natural feelings for their parents or for God or for the truth of history, and replacing these with assumptions necessary for their dictatorship to continue its oppressive domination.
Reprinted with the permission of the Center for a New American Dream. © New American Dream.
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