Consumed by Consumerism

“Did you notice how my cousin was flaunting her Chanel bag at my mother’s funeral?” a friend of mine asked, piqued. I was at a loss for words at her statement, more so because she managed to notice the designer bag on her relative’s shoulder despite her grief on the death of her beloved mother.

Later that day, at the same funeral, after the body was shrouded and prayed over, my daughter and I were given a ride by one of the close relatives of the deceased. While I was thinking about this transient life, and wondering how the family would cope with the loss, one of the ladies in the car suddenly declared how annoyed she was with her tailor for not getting her outfit ready on time. She wondered aloud where she could buy a better outfit, and most importantly what she would wear at the upcoming event.

Another lady riding with us offered her expert advice in an attempt to resolve this crucial issue. I was really amazed; it seemed like nothing had happened. My 8-year-old daughter looked at me with a confused expression on her face. I had not realized she was old enough to grasp the absurdity of the situation. Having lived all her life as an expat, away from her extended family, her little mind was exposed to a bitter reality for the first time; the materialistic mindset that had corroded the finer sentiments of a people, and I had no justifications to give her.

Since moving away from my home country, I have witnessed the steady increase of the brand mania epidemic, every visit back home. I know that it is more or less a universal phenomenon now, but I guess it has been more noticeable for me in my home country where there are more opportunities to socialize. The alarming thing that I have noticed about this materialistic marathon is that it is accompanied by an invisible force that compels one to be a part of it unless one decides to be an outcast, and who would want to be an outcast? Exactly. No one!

“How can you still have iPhone 6 when the latest iPhone 7 has arrived? Seriously, this is so last year!”

“How can I give her a non-branded gift? You know she gave me a Louis Vuitton bag. Your gifts speak a lot about your status.”

“They always buy designer clothes. I can’t go to their place wearing this!”

“My friend has got his Nike shoes customized.”

There is no end to it. We are consumed by this consumer mindset which threatens to turn us into senseless compulsive buyers. Desire this, wish that, want this, hoard that, stack this, stock that… and it goes on and on, so much so that even before getting what you wish for, the urge to want more of the latest things starts to infect us.

It’s sickening how people ruthlessly throw their money on unreasonably luxurious commodities and this at a time when millions are dying from hunger and poverty. Worse, is when the ones who can’t afford to indulge so, look up with awe and respect to these extravagant people, forgetting that Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) has said that, “Verily, the spendthrifts are brothers of the Shayatin (devils), and Shaitan is ever ungrateful to his Lord”.

Isn’t it sad that a person’s worth is weighed by their affluence? Those who can, readily spend thousands on a designer bag without a thought, while those who can’t afford the original, happily get copies of these designer brands as long as they are recognized amongst the worthy ones. They don’t realise that if only we were to put a stop to this rat race and start taking pride in who we are rather than what we have, and focus on our true purpose in life for which we were created, we would truly have a sense of worth.

With the current state of affairs, I fear that the way this tidal wave of consumerism is overpowering our communities, one day we will proudly compete with each other in owning branded shrouds and a dead person, instead of being honored by his virtues, will be remembered by the brand of shroud he was lowered in the grave with, and the kind of funeral party that was thrown for him afterwards, astaghfirullah. I sometimes wonder if this lunacy will ever stop. Or will it go with us in our graves? Surely we seek Allah’s refuge from such a fate.

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Maria Karim

Maria Karim is an artist, a writer and a coffeeholic.

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