Wherever we look, we see wars in which millions of people are dying or being injured and disabled; we see genocide and slaughter. There are acts of terror causing tension across the world, deaths from hunger despite all the technological advances of our time, a social order in which spiritual concerns and virtue have been abandoned and strife and turmoil caused by moral degeneracy.
On the other hand though, we see that a global phenomenon known as ‘consumer culture’ has brought almost all the world’s societies under its sway.
The huge increase in consumer products, and the way they now rapidly and more easily reach vast numbers of people through globalisation and the tools of mass communication, is causing the emergence of a genuinely global consumer culture.
When people purchase the products imposed on them by this culture — and made available at the same time across the world — they imagine that they have established empathy and oneness with the world. Yet most sociologists and cultural scientists are of the opinion that the culture is undesirable in various respects.
Critics state that people are only happy when they possess the popular products advertised by consumer culture but that this happiness is very short-lived and the result is the emergence of people who look and behave exactly the same across the world.
Moreover, people gradually become addicted to this culture and experience psychological problems, mostly stemming from the general idea ‘He’s got Product X, so why don’t I?’ The encouragement of demand, particularly for tech products, is regarded (and criticised) as one of the primary ways in which this culture is nourished.
Among the justified criticisms is that becoming addicted to, and a captive of, a particular culture prevents one from growing spiritually, resulting in underdeveloped individuals and societies.
Although it is perfectly legitimate to wish to buy made available by this culture and to follow and adopt a fashion disseminated across the world, that people become deeply unhappy when they find themselves unable to buy these products, and suffer serious psychological distress as a result, is a sign of severe personality disorders.
To imagine that true happiness, which is only actually possible through a highly developed spirituality and a clear conscience, can be attained through the purchase and possession of material things is a sign of a false and coarse way of thinking.
It is also however true that consumer culture leads to technological advances that raise overall living standards and make life more comfortable, and that this leads to rapid change and progress.
The world is changing, and mindsets too; people delight in enjoying the modern world, technology, fashion, sport, art and films or entertainment created by the consumer society. They want to do what they wish, without hindrance, in the manner they choose, and live without oppression in freedom and liberty.
They do not want harsh discipline. A more libertarian, respectful and sensitive way of thinking about individual rights and freedoms dominates the world.
But there is another very significant risk growing together with the consumer culture: Extravagancy. While the idea of consumption has grown as never before, global waste and extravagance have increased in a parallel manner.
Figures from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) show one out of every three food items produced for consumption is thrown away. The global level of food wasted stands at 1.3 billion tonnes a year.
Yet every year, 18 million people die from hunger and malnutrition while a staggering 500 million are undernourished and two million children die from starvation, malnutrition and related causes.
Enough food is thrown away by the developed countries to feed 15 times the number of people who starve to death every year. Although it has long been noted that waste can be prevented with good planning and the problem of hunger overcome through a more balanced distribution of the world’s wealth, hunger still tops the list of ‘the world’s 10 greatest health risks.’
A new law recently presented before France’s parliament by former food minister Guillaume Garot compels supermarkets to donate food that is nearly past its sell-by date and is expected to provide a solution to food waste in the country by 2025.
It is obvious that such measures could prevent waste. But there is only one way to eradicate waste and profligacy, and that is for people to become more sensitive to the tragedies going on all around them.
Harun Yahya has authored more than 300 books, which have been translated in 73 languages, on politics, religion and science. Twitter: @Harun_Yahya ; E-mail: www.harunyahya.com