A Dangerous Thought Pattern

At the community center where Ruth and I are now staying, we receive the local version of the national newspaper “The Hindu”. On the front page, there is often a large space reserved for a commercial, be it for a car, the latest mobile or an insurance program. Recently, I was pretty shocked by the ad of the day. It dealt with super-luxury condominiums in Chennai (Madras). Here was the message:

Your neighbours here are a rare species: Business barons. You are every inch a global citizen. Not just because you jet set around the world. Many time over. But also because, the finest of collectibles from every corner of the globe adorn your home. Now, wouldn’t be nice if your neighbours too had the same refined taste as yours? Evolved. Welcome to the the heart of Chennai. And a mind that thinks alike. Welcome to VGN Presidency. Where your neighbours speak the same language as yours. Global brands. Stocks. Profits. Time zones. Conferences. Awards. Takeovers. Lounges. Golf… The dictionary goes on. Move in to our world. Your world. Say hi to the evolved species. Global Conquerors.

The Hindu is a popular newspaper and putting this on the front page shows a disturbing tendency. I don’t think so many locals laugh or make sarcastic jokes when reading lines like the above. On the opposite, several of them probably think “I dream about being able to afford this kind of building one day”, “When I see this, I believe our country has progressed a lot these past decades” or “People who live in this type of properties are role models for our nation”.

This kind of ad reinforces an old story we know too well. It makes us believe that those who can afford this type of lodging live a life mainly constituted of leisure and infinite joy. It shapes our minds and puts us under the illusion that a great life can be attained by making lots of money and spending it on products that will make us happy, loved and esteemed. It claims that living a resource-devouring lifestyle copied from the West is the future for each of us, that being part of the globalized world and rejecting our local cultures will make us “a more evolved species”.

This type of message is a by-product of globalization. Because it needs constant growth to keep working, the current economic model pushes professionals to over-create ads, products and services that target the rich, while marginalizing the less wealthy. But the consumption-based lifestyle promoted by this system, this money-driven way of living where there is never enough comes at a high price for both societies and the planet, and makes the world move towards an illusionary — wrong — direction. Studies have shown that depression, anxiety and substance abuse tend to be much higher among individuals who value the ideals encouraged by the consumer society. Also, people tend to be less empathic, generous and cooperative when money is a priority; and when materialistic values go up, concerns for ecology tend to go down. In the end, the artificial corporate-created way of living leads us to a stronger disconnection from our local communities and Nature, our real sources for happiness, security and sense of identity.

I hope I am not the only one to see this Indian ad not like a sign of progress for humanity but as a sad caricature of a hazardous global trend. What is your opinion on the subject?

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