This concept seems to be popping up all around me, so I thought it’d be interesting to discuss.
Yesterday I was watching The Story of Stuff and I was really struck by how much the culture influences our choices. The part that really got to me was when she talks about the way that we are pressured into buying something new even when we have a perfectly good, but older, version of the same thing at home. So, for example, I have an iPod Nano, but there’s a new one out that looks more sleek. When I’m at the gym, everyone knows that mine is the older one. It works perfectly fine. I don’t need a bigger one. Despite all of this, it is obvious to everyone that I haven’t bought a new one in a while, and I’ve had people make comments. Its ridiculous.
Most people just toss theirs in the trash when they buy a new one, and then there are all sorts of toxins and plastics that will take hundreds of years to break down, if they ever do. That doesn’t even count all of the toxins and trash that was made just to create that iPod (and the newer, sleeker one that I would have then bought). The metals and other resources in there will be completely lost, and it is all only because of pressure to change to be like everyone else and to show that I have wealth.
This morning I was watching The Independent Lens as they showed a documentary on The Men of Hula. They talk about how men did hula up until the white man came, and it was quickly shunned. People started to buy into the American idea that men shouldn’t move their hips that way and they should play football instead. It is still difficult for men who want to hula today because the culture has changed and they have lost so much of their richness as Hawaiians. There is a movement to bring back the Hawaiian culture and to stop being ashamed, but several generations now have stopped speaking Hawaiian and carrying on their special traditions just because they were told that it was a low-class activity.Â It is amazing that we are willing to give up so much of our history and what makes us unique just to fit in.
The same thing happened with breastfeeding during my mom and Grandma’s time. They each faced a lot of culture pressures to do something completely unnatural (formula feed) just so that they wouldn’t look poor. Although this is getting better in some areas, this stereotype still remains for millions of women and contributes to millions of deaths. According to UNICEF, if every baby were exclusively breastfed from birth to six months, an estimated 1.3 million lives would be saved each year. Most of these babies are formula fed because the mothers feel some kind of pressure, either from medical professionals or their culture. It is so sad!
I am always amazed when I step back and look at all of the things that we blindly accept because everyone else is doing it. My great Grandfather always said that “The masses are asses.”, and I totally get what he was saying. The masses will buy into all sorts of destructive ideas just because everyone else is doing it. Its so sad, and I get sucked in just as much as everyone else does.