"In the 1930s, Paul Mazure, a leading Wall Street banker working for Lehman Brothers, wrote: 'We must shift America from a needs, to a desires culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things even before the old had been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality in America. Man's desires must overshadow his needs.'" 
(from the BBC film Century of the Self)

"By the 1950s, consumerism was thoroughly interwoven in the fabric of American society. In 1955, economist Victor Lebow would epitomize the new status quo, writing in the Journal of Retailing: 'Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction and our ego satisfaction in consumption. We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced and discarded at an ever-increasing rate.'" 
(via Post Carbon Institute)

Thanks to Carol Everhart Roper

"The accumulation of plastic thousands of miles away from land known as the North Pacific Garbage Patch captivated University of North Carolina at Wilmington staff member Bonnie Monteleone and led her to make four open-ocean voyages in three oceans.  While at sea, she hand-netted ubiquitous plastic objects found in nearly 8,000 nautical miles from these research voyages, made possible through the Graduate Liberal Studies Program at UNCW.  Her show is built from artifacts recovered at sea representing various aquatic regions of the world." 

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Comment by Michael Penn on June 10, 2014 at 12:00pm

Joan, consumerism started way before this, but imagine that the white man got Manhattan Island from the Indians for a few trinkets and beads. Now that is consumerism at its best!

Comment by Joan Denoo on June 7, 2014 at 11:03am

Emily, thank you for the reference to William Morris, I've just read a few of his poems and he is a treasure. Just a little snippet:

  • I do not want art for a few, any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few.
Comment by Emily Henderson on June 6, 2014 at 11:41pm

I love this topic. If you've ever heard of William Morris, I read a wonderful thing he wrote that had a major impact on me-he said something to the effect that true art/beauty/things of value are things you will keep if they are tattered-because you love them. Those shiny new pieces of crap you feel the urge to "need" to buy will be forgotten as soon as they were bought. Awesome and true.

I always think of the Chumbawumba song "On ebay." Everything we see-precious or crap-is bought and sold "On eeeeebbaaayyy, from Babylon back to Babylon...";)

Comment by Michael Penn on June 6, 2014 at 8:23am

We have indeed been taught that we need new items way before the old ones break or wear out. Almost everyone has fallen victim to this way of thinking. This is how the economy keeps on going when our money is no good. This is how bankers get rich. This is why society is so fickle.

My grandparents had good furniture but today these items are replaced with particle board and sawdust. Plastics and many other items may break and need to be replaced, but the material itself outlives mankind. There are no recycle centers or proper disposal. People want to buy new cars and computers and the like when nothing is wrong with the ones they have now. We have to do this because our neighbor or friend did it.

We have been taught well!



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