Tuesday, September 3, 2013

THE AGE OF DISCONTENT - Islam, consumerism and the creation of discontent

The Age of Discontent
How can you be happy with the car you are driving?
How can you be contented with the shoes that you are wearing?
Are you really happy with the tone of your skin? The colour of your hair?
I know you are looking at my new iPhone with envy...
So buy it, laser it, wax it, smoke it, extend it, rebond it,
Mortgage it, buy a bushel and buy it all on credit!

I can make you happy,
I can make you complete,
I can satisfy your needs
That you never knew you needed! 

Islamic Consumerism? A university (The Multimedia University, Cyberjaya) here has invited my friends and myself to give a talk on 'Islamic Consumerism'. Being the wordy sort of sinner, I will focus on the phrase itself and pose the question whether there is such a thing as 'Islamic Consumerism' and whether the phrase is in truth a contradiction in terms. My hunch is that the answer hangs upon what we mean by 'consumerism'. Because there are two general meanings often attributed to this loaded word, one is good and positive, while the other is very negative indeed. 

Desire? We cannot however get away from the notion that consumerism is inexplicably tied to advertising and PR. This is a well documented fact and has been researched to the ends of the Earth by people who are way smarter than myself. And central to the idea of advertising and PR is the creation of desire.

Or Discontent? But as illustrated by the poem above, the idea behind advertising and promotions is also the creation of discontent - through which we are persuaded that we are not actually happy or contented. Or that we should not be happy or contented with what we already have. Otherwise why would the masses continue to buy something they don't actually need? We do so because we are already convinced that life would be better, we ourselves would be happier if only we owned the new BMW, the new Apple laptop, the latest summer collection of Prada. So we bung out the old and buy into the new, becoming just another statistics in the Consuming-Wasting Age of Man. Thus proving the advertising titans and their focus groups correct and accurate.

So be happy, grateful and reject The Age of Discontent. And exercise prudence in the usage of this world. For Allah (s.w.t.) did not send us here as the Eater of the World. We are the Stewards of Earth, and hold direct responsibility towards the beauty, sustainability and subtle balance of the eco-system. And one day, there shall be a reckoning of our deeds and misdeeds.

Loving our world to death... until all that is left are pictures
in our cellphone. 

Don't you agree, sunshine?

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way

1 comment:

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