“By the age of 20, the average westerner has seen one million commercial messages.” With this kind of exposure, it is impossible to live in the modern world without being a product of consumer society. Now psychologists, like Geoffrey Miller, are saying that it is distorting the way we interact with the world and each other: “We’ve all kind of gone collectively psychotic”.
Evolutionary theory says we are indistinct from animals and so have two primary subconscious motives: survival and attracting a mate. As modern society has taken care of our survival, “we spend more time thinking about social and sexual issues than any animal has had the luxury of doing in the history of life on Earth”.
According to scientists this has led to an obsession with ‘prestige’ or our rank in society, something that in consumer society has become synonymous with consumption. Manipulating our innermost impulses, capitalism has begun to not only reflect our evolutionary tendencies but also to amplify and distort them. Creating an environment in which consumption takes the place of traditional human interaction.
Yet this capitalist system is not making us happy. One of the great conundrums is that in an age of plenty, addictions, depression and mental health issues are becoming part of everyday conversation. The obsession with our place in society has led us to, “squander this golden age on silly anxieties.”
In the long term the individual and psychological cost of modern culture is relatively small. The environmental cost on the other hand could ultimately destroy life, as we know it. Measures taken to try and mitigate the impact of modern life are not dealing with the root cause, only attacking symptoms.
Exploring how human psychology has moulded the society that is slowly destroying the world and us, ‘Consumed’ takes us inside both the apocalyptic and redemptive sides of the human condition.