Consumerism feeds on isolation and disconnection caused by a model of "happiness" based on dissatisfaction.
"The secret of happiness is not getting married or having a child, but traveling." This is the title of a newspaper an "article" that appears in its digital version and refers to the results of a survey carried out by Booking.com, a travel page. The tens of thousands of inveterate travelers who share this article on Facebook and Twitter do not seem to notice that the article gives as a recipe for happiness precisely what it sells: travel.
No one disputes that traveling can bring happiness, like getting married or having children. But none of the three can give you THE happiness. If that definite and absolute happiness depended on something external, then perhaps we would be in danger of confusing it with a projection of our shortcomings. We could find ourselves facing the abyss of finding ourselves excluded from the possibility of being happy if we do not have money to travel, if our obligations or other obstacles prevent us.
“The world is increasingly designed to make us depressed. If we were happy with what we have, why would we need more? How do you sell an anti-aging moisturizer? You make someone worry about their aging. How do you get people to vote for a political party? You make him worry about immigration. How do you get them to buy insurance? You make them worry about everything. How do you get plastic surgery done? You emphasize their physical flaws. How do you get them to watch a TV show? You make them worry about not being left behind. How do you get them to buy a new Smartphone? You make them feel like they are being left behind. Being calm thus becomes a revolutionary act ”, says Matt Haig in his book Reasons to Stay Alive (reasons to stay alive), with something that seems obvious: the engine of our capitalist system is rooted in dissatisfaction and frustration, in the mandate of "having to have" to "be happy."
It is no longer just about obtaining material things. From accumulating cars, houses, jewels, and other material objects, we have gone to the absurdity of “collecting moments”. One might ask if they are collected on Facebook, on Instagram or in our fragile selective memory, unable to retain experiences that escape us like sand through our fingers, no matter how hard we cling to them.
That obsession with collecting moments turns cookbook trips into a photo here, photos there: seeing the world no longer through the lens of the camera, but through the screen of our Smartphone, essential also for a happiness now inaccessible for the " fools ”who marry and have children.
Perhaps it is not necessary to travel tens of thousands of kilometers to enjoy a sunset, a beach or a forest, even if we do not get so many likes to our Instagram photos. But marketing has invaded our language and our imagination to such an extent that many people come to feel that happiness is being lost with experiences and landscapes that we may have within reach and not so many miles from home.
The payment of different pages for publishing content in different media contributes to the rise of this type of cookbook, which always has nine or ten keys to achieve success or happiness in capital letters. Not one less, not one more: "the nine habits of emotionally intelligent people", "the nine habits of productive people", "the secret of happiness, according to 12 of the wisest philosophers in history." Even journalists abuse this simplicity and we play it to attract more clicks and perhaps thus get more publicity from advertisers: "the nine keys to understanding the conflict in Syria", "seven responses to the spectacular rise in light" eight consequences of Trump's coming to power ”.
The media also match these high levels of dissatisfaction and unhappiness with our barrage of negative news and tragedies. Consumerism feeds on the isolation that arises from fear and disconnection caused by threats to an overrated comfort zone that is often mistaken for authentic, imperfect happiness.
Carlos Miguélez Monroy