The consumer as 'happiness machine'

The consumer as 'happiness machine'

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The consumer as 'happiness machine'

Nor has it been around for very long. It has its roots in an economic strategy developed only in the early 20th century and streamlined after World War II in the United States.

This statement by a top economic analyst of the 1940s best outlines this strategy: “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, our ego satisfaction, in consumption... we need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever accelerating rate.”

The strategy, which has been very successfully implemented in the US, looks at making ‘happiness machines’ out of citizens, who will be so complacent in the cycle of production, consumption and waste that they will not look to ask tough questions about their way of life.  
There are good resources on the Internet to see the consumerist lifestyle from a different point of view. Here are two such: ‘The Story of Stuff’ ( and the BBC’s Century of Self documentaries, available on YouTube (go to and do a search using the terms ‘Century of Self’, ‘Happiness Machines’ or ‘Engineering of Consent’).

The point is, a way of life that’s barely a century old, can easily be made to give way to another if the need is felt. It just needs enough voices to speak up against it.
The life electronic

Household waste is, of course, among our prime personal contributions to the environmental problem, but one other that’s rapidly growing is electronic waste. We have begun to use up electronic devices at a mindless pace, and the detritus that this creates is given little thought. The products that we discard are full of toxic materials which contaminate the lives of those who break these down, as well as the air, ground and water of the places in which this activity takes place. 

There is an important development around the corner in this regard — the Indian government is about to notify a legislation which will specify how electronic waste is to be dealt with. Specifically, the attempt is to introduce a concept called ‘Extended Producer Responsibility’, where the cost of the recovery of waste material will be borne by the manufacturer. Not surprisingly, industry is fighting this logical measure tooth and nail. The Bill is up for public scrutiny and comment. The Website of the environmental NGO Toxics Link provides an easy way for you to interpret the proposed rules and respond to them, at  

Other ways and means

The acceleration in the environmental movement has been spurred by a number of campaigns which have made specific actions their goal. Most of these are worthy of support, and add to the overall impact that you can make. Some of these include:  The effort to make festivals such as Holi, Diwali and those involving the immersion of idols more environment-friendly.  Replacement of fluorescent bulbs with CFLs. Yes, this does have some tricky aspects to it, but until a better alternative (such as LEDs, which are perhaps an improvement in the future) presents itself, this measure is worth it.

All initiatives aimed at saving water, electricity, etc. Tree plantation and ‘greening’ campaigns. Fuel conservation measures and the use of public transport over private vehicles. Plastics bans