Consumerism in Brave New World Essay Example



"Globalization is a driving factor in making goods and services previously out of reach in developing countries much more available. Items that at one point in time were considered luxuries—televisions, cell phones, computers, air conditioning—are now viewed as necessities" (Mayell). Currently, many individuals believe that material objects once considered to be luxuries, such as televisions and cell phones, are necessities. This has caused the market for consumerism to increase greatly. Now, most individuals possess a cell phone. Before cell phones were considered to be a necessity, the natural resources needed to produce cell phones were more plentiful. Now, these materials are being depleted; consequently damaging Earth and depleting natural resources.

Additionally, with increased access to technology and immediate access to information at the click of a button, individuals can obtain any information that they require immediately when they desire it. This constant stream of digital information can cause humans to gradually become less and less patient when facing events in everyday life. This is because instant gratification builds an individual’s need for immediate satisfaction, and causes them to become angry or frustrated when they are not instantly appeased (Conti). So, as Huxley warned in his novel, Brave New World, consumerism and instant gratification are principal socioeconomic issues present in today's society; enabling issues including a negative impact on an individual’s mental health, a detrimental impact on an individual’s overall happiness, and a negative impact on the environment to come to fruition.

There are many examples as to why an increased amount of consumerism and an increased dependence on instant gratification can be detrimental. For instance, the fact that instant gratification decreases a person’s potential for patience is often discussed: "With the world at our fingertips, it’s hard to learn patience when everything is an instantaneous fix. If we become ill, suddenly search engines are filled with a possible diagnosis" (The Duke Perspective). With the ability to almost instantaneously obtain knowledge from any source on any desired topic, humans are often driven to access information rather than socialize. This has an extreme impact on human socialization as the need for interaction with real humans as opposed to an online source declines. 

People can receive and consume any products that are marketed online and can be instantly gratified through online entertainment and fake socialization sources such as social media. The theme of instant gratification is also present in Aldous Huxley’s novel, Brave New World. In this novel, one of the main characters, Bernard, attempts to stand up to the societal norm of instant gratification: “He began to talk a lot of incomprehensible and dangerous nonsense. Lenina did her best to stop the ears of her mind; but every now and then a phrase would insist on becoming audible. ‘to try the effect of arresting my impulses,’ she heard him say. 

The words seemed to touch a spring in her mind” (Huxley 63). Lenina does not understand that immediately giving in to the government’s suggestions and being instantly gratified can have negative consequences, but Bernard does and he is trying to resist this calling. Bernard wants to attempt  to stand against the standards set in his society, even when doing so causes him to appear to be an outlier in society. Interestingly, various studies have been done that have proved that people are more likely to make better long-term decisions rather than short-term ones when they are tempted by instant gratification: "If you offer them a choice between $10 today and $11 tomorrow, they usually choose the smaller amount. If the choice is between $10 a year from now and $11 a year and a day from now, most people choose $11” (Harvard Health Publishing). 

If given the option to receive $1 more money in a day or on that same day, people are likely to choose that day; however, if they are given the option to receive more money in a year, people are likely to choose this option. This illustrates that people are between at making long-term beneficial decisions rather than decisions in which they are tempted into wanting instant gratification. Overall, there are many examples of consumerism and instant gratification that can be found in today’s society; however, these all have negative consequences and should be avoided to the best of a person’s ability.

Both instant gratification and consumerism can have extremely negative impacts on an individual. For instance, when people are overwhelmed or unhappy, they may turn to material outlets for their stress. These outlets may include drugs, alcohol, and other unsafe behaviors. Like in Brave New World, these people become easily upset if things do not go their way. Instead of having the patience and mental abilities to realize that these obstacles are merely part of life, they turn to other sources for instant gratification (The Duke Perspective). As the want for instant gratification grows, people who are not immediately rewarded for their actions and who do not receive what they feel they are deserving of, become upset. Soon, this may cause them to turn towards harmful coping mechanisms that generally only have temporary benefits. 

These can turn into addictions and can have a very negative impact on an individual's life. Consequently, in Brave New World, Bernard states, “‘Oh, [spending time with you (Lenina) was] the greatest fun,’ he answered, but in a voice so mournful, with an expression so profoundly miserable, that Lenina felt all her triumph suddenly evaporate. Perhaps he had found her too plump, after all” (Huxley 64). Although Bernard enjoyed giving in to his deepest desires, he was still able to see the negative impacts that this had on his life. His views allowed him to see the benefits in withstanding the temptations that instant gratification provides while holding out for something more valuable. Instant gratification has even been known to cause addiction and impatient behaviors. In one example, scientist Walter Mischel set up an experiment known as the "Marshmallow Test" which was conducted with children. 

Researchers told the child that they could either receive a cookie and marshmallow at that moment, or they could wait for the researcher to return after a certain amount of time and they would then receive two marshmallows or cookies. It was proven that children who were able to wait earned higher SAT scores later in life, that they were less likely to have behavioral problems, and that they were more likely to succeed in school. Additionally, researchers learned that the children who successfully waited were likely considering the "cool" (intellectual) aspects of the situation while children who were not able to wait were likely considering the "hot" (emotional) aspects of the situation (Conti). 

Even as children, humans begin to develop their attitudes towards instant gratification; these continue to impact them for the entire duration of their lives. If a child is unable to see the value in waiting to accomplish larger goals, then they may struggle later in life. This is an extremely negative impact of instant gratification as a lack of patience can lead to various adult struggles. So, it is very important that individuals, especially children, understand that, although instant gratification and consumerism are tempting, it is better to hold out for something that will be more beneficial in the long run.

Increased consumerism can also have an extreme impact on the environment and may deplete many natural resources. For example, in her article "As Consumerism Spreads, Earth Suffers, Study Says," Hillary Mayell references a quote by Gary Gardner, a director of research for Worldwatch. He states: "The report addresses the devastating toll on the Earth's water supplies, natural resources, and ecosystems exacted by a plethora of disposable cameras, plastic garbage bags, and other cheaply made goods with built in product-obsolescence, and cheaply made manufactured goods that lead to a "throw away" mentality" (Mayell). The “throw-away mentality” allows people to believe that it is okay to pollute the environment, as long as they can obtain what they desire. 

This mentality is often considered as selfish and contributes greatly to pollution all around the world. Those who consume more than what they require may also be less likely to care about the environment, contributing to the poisoning of the Earth. The same theme is present in Brave New World. For instance, when John speaks of his life on the reservation, he states, “When he tore his clothes, Linda did not know how to mend them. In the Other Place, she told him, people threw away clothes with holes in them and got new ones” (Huxley 87). 

In Brave New World, the theme of consumerism is very strong as the government requires consumerism to thrive. Due to this, they require their citizens to continually consume and produce waste while causing irreparable damage to the environment. On the reservation, they value the environment, so they scorn John for continually needing new clothes. In civilization, where Linds was from, they continually replaced damaged products, so Linda was unsure about how to reuse products when she became stranded at the reservation. One real-world example of these impacts can be seen when considering consumerism in China.

 It was stated that, “China provides a snapshot of changing realities. For years, the streets of China's major cities were characterized by a virtual sea of people on bicycles, and 25 years ago there were barely any private cars in China. By 2000, 5 million cars moved people and goods; the number is expected to reach 24 million by the end of next year" (Mayell). Over the past 25 years, consumerism has increased greatly due to the rise of advanced technology. This has caused both positive and negative effects. In this instance, the increased number of cars in China has greatly impacted their environment. Currently, China is very polluted; it will only continue to become more polluted as consumerism increases. It is also noted that owning a car was considered to be a luxury. Today, owning a car is relatively normal. With an increased demand for cars, there is also an increased demand for the natural resources necessary to produce a functional and safe car. In summary, although it is very tempting for individuals to consume and consume whenever they desire new products, this increase in consumption is not worth all of the negative impacts that it has on the environment.

Opposing views claim that consumerism and instant gratification allow people to be happier because they can access information and purchase products without having to wait and become frustrated. One cannot deny the fact that it may seem as if instant gratification and the ability to constantly consume more products would allow a person to be happier. However, research has proven that people who succumb to the temptations of consumerism and instant gratification are not necessarily happier or more successful than those who do not; in fact, they often experience mental issues due to this. For instance, it has been found that "the increase in prosperity is not making humans happier or healthier, according to several studies” (Mayell). Additionally, “findings from a survey of life satisfaction in more than 65 countries indicate that income and happiness tend to track well until about $13,000 of annual income per person (in 1995 dollars). After that, additional income appears to produce only modest increments in self-reported happiness" (Mayell). 

Although it may seem as if instant gratification may make people happier, research shows that this is largely untrue. This is because people are unable to feel true satisfaction for their actions since they did not have to work very hard to achieve their goals. This may also be because these people are never satisfied with what they have and instead are constantly wishing for more and more. This constant need for more and more can even have an extreme impact on an individual’s mental health. It has even been proven that humans who are bombarded with constant information may resort to escapism techniques which may be extremely detrimental to their health; even causing a person to develop mental disorders such as anxiety and depression (The Duke Perspective). Therefore, although it may seem that instant gratification would make individuals happier, it has been proven that this is not so, and that increased consumerism and instant gratification can lead to mental issues instead.

Overall, as Huxley warned in his novel, Brave New World, consumerism and instant gratification are principal socioeconomic issues present in today's society; enabling issues including a negative impact on an individual’s mental health, a negative impact on the environment, and an increase in risky behaviors to come to fruition. In both Brave New World and the compiled research, the negative impacts of both consumerism and instant gratification can be seen. Additionally, instant gratification does not cause individuals to become happier; instead, it may cause them to develop mental health issues. This research and knowledge are critical, especially in the digital era that is currently taking place in today’s society. In closing, humans must attempt to be aware of the impact that their increased consumerism and need for instant gratification have; not only for themselves, but for others around them, and the Earth as a whole.