Returning back to school, and coming to Jakarta, has really forced me to think deeply about consumerism. Jakarta is a city of shopping malls – over 140, probably more than any city in America (unless you include strip malls). New York City, my home in the states, is the capital of finance, the machines that drive the modern capitalist economy.
New York City and Jakarta often feel like two sides of the same coin – the modern, developed consumer and the developing consumer, but both want the same things. In neither city do I feel like I fit in.
Can we really buy our way to happiness? After several years of traveling, of having new experiences, I’ve really begun to see how little I need to survive, material wise, but how I can feel really empty unless I have good people around me. We’ve really changed how we perceive ourselves and the world. Even our hobbies are commodified, our interests categorized, and our lives ordered to fit the consumerist path.
But it’s all unsustainable. We’re losing not only our moral backings, but our diversity of cultures, personal relationships, families, and, what I think is the biggest thing missing in modern society. Our connection to Earth – our connection to nature, to all the living things in the world. Jakarta and New York City are both modern cities, sterile in their own way, where we life in communities constructed around time, consumption.
Cities where we can’t even see the stars anymore.
I think we as a society need to regain this connection to mother Earth, and to each other, on a natural human level. We need to reassess how we live. There is nothing natural about nation-states, about cities, about consumerism. And therein lies the problem.