Yesterday, the second online Unir debate took place, this time around the concept of “Consumerism.” The first short film of the session was Happiness, a video that shows a city full of mice dressed in shirts and ties, animals that take the underground to work and fight to buy products on Black Friday. The city where they move around is full of posters promising happiness, but the more the protagonist mouse consumes, the more depressed he becomes.

After the screening of the short film, Basak Canboy, TBS professor and moderator of the debate, shared a photograph of an establishment located in Plaza Catalunya in Barcelona at nine o’clock in the morning and asked the audience what they thought was the link between consumption and happiness.

Materialism and dissatisfaction

Javier Garcés, a psychologist expert on consumerism, explained that since the 2008 crisis there has been a change in consumers. Consumers have broken the distinction between sales and non-sales periods, “the consumer now only buys when he or she is at an advantage, which is why we find permanent offers.” He also reflected on the increase in dissatisfaction in societies where welfare and consumption are increasing as a result. “The idea that shopping brings happiness is particularly prevalent in dissatisfied societies, and a relationship can be drawn between materialism and unhappiness. He also highlighted the problem of over-indebtedness and shopping addiction, two growing problems in this type of society.

TBS professor Diego Ravenda stressed that the portrayal of human beings as rats is very timely. Furthermore, he stressed the social component of consumerism, “when we talk about consumption, social acceptance also comes into play.” TBS professor Yancy Vaillant compared the vision of consumer society a few years ago with the current one. “Back then, people had a much more idyllic image. They believed that we would work fewer hours, that society would be happier in the long run”.

Waste of life time

The second short film in the debate was an excerpt from the program Salvados, in which Jordi Évole interviews former Uruguayan President José Mujica. Mujica talks about consumption in contemporary society, “we spend money on nonsense that has nothing to do with human happiness,” the former president says in the video. According to Mujica, spending money and consuming is a waste of a lifetime, which we could be investing in the things that motivate us, “the greatest thing you have is that you are alive,” he concludes.

After the video, Professor Joanna Pousset brought up the relationship between consumerism and ecology, “we consume, but at the same time, we are destroying the environment.” She also spoke about the consumer needs created by marketing, something that is clear in the first short film. Diego Ravenda highlighted the inequalities in the system, “the benefits of growth do not benefit everyone either, but rather the economic system generates wealth with huge inequalities.”

Consumerism or hyper-consumerism?

Olivier Benielli, director of the campus, intervened to focus on hyper-consumerism, “the problem is not so much in consumption but in consuming beyond needs, although from the moment we have the freedom to do what we want, it is difficult to fix needs or reasonable consumption.” He also highlighted the role of consumption and its growth in raising living standards and developing economies. “The balance between the environment and the economic system also implies a decrease.” He emphasized that a decrease also implies voluntarily renouncing purchasing power and depriving oneself of many things. Basak Canvoy ended with a final reflection, “what can we do as users or consumers? Where is the limit?

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Consumerism, hyper-consumerism and responsible consumption

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