Many people appreciate the value of technology and how it drives popular culture and consumerism. Most of you my friends believe that technological advances are awesome and that only backward individuals would bad mouth technology. By the end of this speech, it is my hope, we shall all appreciate that despite the many benefits from technology or technological innovations, there are also very many disadvantages or problems associated with it. Of key concern is the phenomenon of consumerism that characterizes popular culture.
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Consumerism is generally understood to be a culture characterized by a production oriented economy and a people who are ready to consume anything that is produced. This phenomenon refers to increased consumption of goods and services by the general public relative to their real needs (Storey, 1999, p. 196). As a result of consumerism attitudes, people keep on buying things that they do not actually need or things that have negative effects in their lives.
The consumerist culture has developed steadily as a result of advancement in technology. Technology has facilitated advancements or development in the area of manufacturing, communication, transportation and general industrialization. Further, liberal attitudes have slowly found predominance especially in the Western countries. Liberalism, or a kind of belief in absolute freedom, makes people individualistic and egoistic. Egoistic attitudes lead to individuals wanting everything for themselves; especially what they least need. People do not care about the effect of what they do or do not do on the general welfare of others.
Through technological advancement especially in the communication and transport sector, these attitudes that are predominantly western are becoming global. Globalization is a phenomenon characterized by the public sphere stretching over all nations of the world (Osgerby, 2004, p. 148). What it means is that interpersonal interactions are now more proximate for all people in the world. Through the internet, people in Europe interact daily with people in Africa, Asia, and India etc. Through advancements in transportation, individuals with capacity can now trot the globe in one day. Individuals can take a flight and have lunch in South Africa then take another flight to meet business partners in Tokyo and get back to Washington in time for bed. From that point of view, technology that drives globalization is facilitating more interactions between people of the world, which is good.
However, globalization has its own demerits. As a result of globalization and enabling technology, people have access to even more products, more services, more advertisements and more consumption opportunities. The interaction between cultures of the world has led to erosion of the traditional cultural values. Although refining of traditional values is good in some instances, the abandonment of traditional values for liberal and individualistic tendencies is not good for the survival of mankind. Personal freedom is crucial for a happy existence. However, freedom is only meaningful if embraced in the context of responsibility. In actual sense, freedom means responsibility i.e. to be free is to be worthy of being held responsible. The problem with modern libertarian pursuits is a lack of readiness to be accountable to society, family or even friends. Everyone wants the other to mind his or her own business and yet each of our business affects others. Therefore, whether I am just minding my own business, that business has to affect others in a way. Therefore, responsibility for self and others is the only sure way of guaranteeing a happy existence for all.
Consumerism is driven by production oriented business operations. Production oriented operations focus on mass production of goods and creating need in the people for the products. What drives production is not established needs among consumers (Williams, 1982, p. 221). What drives production is desire for profits and enabling technology. For example, phone manufacturers produce new models each day and try to entice buyers to buy the new model. The phone makers do not really care whether the people really need new phone models or not. What they care about is how to drive sales by hooking into mindsets and manipulating public feeling (Williams, 1982, p. 217). The ethical innuendos notwithstanding, the question should be how sustainable life will be in the long run if such tendencies remain the case.
As technology advances, many assets are declared moribund. Just a few years ago, the desktop was the awesome machine everybody wanted to have. Less than a decade later, the desktops form an eyesore in dumping sites. These neglected and dumped desktops represent misused resources that are slowly but surely getting depleted. Less than a decade ago, the lap top was the coolest thing to have. Anybody with a lap top was held in high esteem and rightfully so because apart from the prestige, the portable gadget facilitated efficient business transacting. Due to development in lap top technology, many old versioned lap tops have their room on dumpsites. The focus now is not on the efficiency that a lap top should accord but rather, what model does one have.
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In conclusion, my dear friends, the discussed trend is alarming in a way because it makes life generally transitory. There is no constancy or stability as much is changing too fast (Harvey, 1989, p. 12). Although technology is facilitating better interactions among people of the world, it is also facilitating more wastage of natural resources. Secondly, it is driving consumerism as people egoistically and selfishly just buy and buy and buy without considering consequences of the same.