Humans Are Just Money Making Machines: Dual Consumerism and The Reductionist Imperative
By David Metcalfe
February 26, 2020
The Dual Consumer
We see thousands of advertisements every day. We stare at our phones and computer screens for endless hours, and advertisements pop up constantly: on our Facebook newsfeeds, YouTube videos, games, and well, chances are, any screen you have on your phone has some kind of advertisement. The phone itself is an advertisement for Samsung or Apple or whatever. Then driving through any city you’ll see billboards, massive logos, promotions, etc. When you walk into a store you’ll see all kinds of enticements to buy things. Most people’s clothing even has brands written on it.
Modern life is constantly shouting, “Consume! Consume! Consume!”. But the advertisements are just the exterior. There’s a lot going on behind it.
Behind the advertisements are businessmen, from small business owners to massive corporations, conspiring how to yell, “Consume! Consume! Consume!” in the most effective way possible to make you… well, consume. In fact, they spend years in schooling and have advanced algorithms and experts weigh in on everything from the best wording to the colour schemes to the slogan and even the font style; all with the end goal of getting you to buy the most possible.
But you wouldn’t be any good at consuming if you didn’t have the means to consume it i.e. money. And money is a representation of goods and services. For goods to exist, they must be made, delivered and sold. For services to exist, there must be something people need and can’t or don’t want to do themselves, and other people who can and will do it for them.
We need to learn to make money so that we can spend money. And that is called “education”. From a young age, little consumers learn to read and write so that someday they can read all the advertisements and all the prices and read and write the things they need to at their future jobs so they can spend the money on the advertisements they read. They learn math so they can calculate the cost of items and do math related jobs to make money. They learn and they learn, all so we can send them to the work force, advertise to them, and get them to spend their money!
But the biggest thing behind all these advertisements is the philosophy being promoted. Every advertisement promotes an exterior idea: buy this product or experience and you’ll be happy, you’ll be fulfilled, people will like you more, etc. Every advertisement promotes a business that tells you that you are a consumer: you exist to make them money. Every advertisement seeks to understand you and manipulate you to consume.
Sometimes businesses have an altruistic result; the product is something that actually helps the individual’s life (not that the business necessarily cares whether it really helps your life, but it may happen). But many businesses actually hurt people. Why is “McDonald’s” advertising a bacon packed Big Mac in a country with severe obesity and heart health issues? Why is “Budweiser” advertising a beverage responsible for thousands of drunk driving deaths, unwanted pregnancies, fetal alcohol syndrome, addiction, and a major factor in a massive amount of crime?
But more than that, these conspiring men behind the products profit from every vice and addiction imaginable. Behind every drug user is a drug maker, a drug transporter, and a drug dealer, who all profit off of the victim’s suffering. Behind every pornography user is a pornography maker who creates content- often in less than moral ways- and profits from the user. Behind every cancer patient dying from a lifetime of smoking is a cigarette company who figured out how to get to them. Behind every “alternative medicine” that doesn’t actually work is a “doctor” who thinks convincing people away from real medicine is worth a quick buck. Behind every person in credit card debt is a credit card company getting rich off the interest.
Society will educate you so that you can work, make money, be advertised to, be manipulated, and buy the products available to you. You are a money making machine- both making money for yourself by working, and making money for companies by spending it.
Beyond The Consumer Identity
The worst thing about this whole thing is that we believe it. We buy not only the products, but the narrative being sold. We only want to learn things if they are relevant to making money. We only want to hear about a product if it helps our life directly. We want to make the most money possible. We want people to think of us as successful money makers. When we embrace the consumer narrative, we embrace the consumer identity.
But what are we to do? Reject consumerism? To avoid being advertised to, you’d have to live off the grid, with no technology, out in the forest. We’re going to see advertisements no matter what. And the fact is, we need many of the products and services that are being advertised to us. And we need to work to make money for those products and services. But what we don’t need, is to buy into the narrative, and accept the identity.
Humans are not a means to an end; they don’t exist to make and spend money. It’s a part of life, sure, but a small part. In reality, it’s so small in comparison to how large our culture makes it that to have any semblance of accuracy we need a major shift in our narrative. We need to shift from “Consume! Consume! Consume!” to the great expanse of the human experience and identity. A shift towards appreciating hobbies, family, relationships, art, history, sports, religion, etc. without valuing everything by its price tag. A spouse is not good to marry because they’re rich. A job is not good to have because it earns a high income. A book is not only good if it tells you how to become rich. A relationship with God is not valuable because it increases your bank account or gives you job opportunities.
There is more to humans than we give ourselves credit for. If we keep buying into the reductionist narrative of “humans as consumers” we will keep thinking too little of ourselves and others. Paul wrote in his letter to Timothy that “Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils.”
Don’t love money; love God and love others, and accept making money as one minor aspect of our lives. Live a life that is so dynamic and inspired that money could never compare, and embrace the fuller identity that conspiring men would rather manipulate you into forgetting.