We should not worship growth

The GrUBe

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Published Friday April 26, 2013

We should not worship growth

By Elizabeth Bryning

Many people have told me that Mongolians are not religious. These people point out that Buddhism was crushed in the communist purges and that the remnants of Animism and Shamanism are now rapidly disintegrating with the urbanization of Mongolia, as the rural folk, an endangered group, tend to be the only possessors of these belief systems today. But after several years living in Mongolia, I have to disagree with the common assessment of religion in this country. The people of this country do have a religion. But the dominant religion is not Buddhism, Animism or Shamanism; it is Consumerism.


The “god” of this religion is “Growth in Gross Domestic Product” (GGDP) and the believers worship fervently at the altar of this god, doing everything possible to support GGDP, at the cost of their culture, their environment, and even their livelihoods.


Mongolia is not alone in practicing the religion of Consumerism. This country imported the religion of the Lord GGDP along with their other imports from countries where the religion of Consumerism is well-entrenched, such as the United States and China.


In Consumerism, the vehicles by which the Word of God is spread are media and advertising. Consumerists don’t have to go to a temple or church to get their fix. They just turn on the television, open a magazine, or click on an internet browser. The means of spreading the religion are now so integrated into our lives that most of us don’t even know that we are continually receiving the messages of Consumerism.


This religion of Consumerism is, like most religions, based on certain principles or commandments, as well as on mantras that are unconsciously repeated over and over by the faithful. As Consumerism promotes excess, it of course has more than the usual number of commandments. I’ve listed the top 20 below.


Top 20 Consumerism Commandments:

1. Thou shalt be greedy and consume goods and services even when you don’t need anything, and thou shalt especially overindulge on food.

2. Thou shalt be habitually discontented, but continually seek products and services that soothe your discontent temporarily.

3. Thou shalt envy thy neighbor and covet their objects, and particularly emulate those who accumulate mountains of useless and vulgar ornamental items.

4. Thou shalt be impatient and thou must seek instant gratification and constantly practice the habit of impulse buying.

5. Thou shalt not be compassionate, kind, tolerant or forgiving; thou must instead be competitive at all times, as competition maximizes Profit, which is the Holy Spirit of the Lord GGDP.

6. Thou shalt ridicule and undermine anyone who questions the wondrous God: Growth of Gross Domestic Product. He is the one true God, the only God, so sayeth the Great Prophets: the Leaders of Industry, the all-knowing Economists and the MBA-Possessors, who, like the Lord GGDP, must also never be questioned.

7. Thou shalt always seek the “newest” most “state-of-the-art” objects, even if the version you have works just fine.

8. Thou shalt be slothful and never fix anything that is broken; thou must instead throw it away immediately.

9. Thou shalt reject anything that has been used by anyone else, even when it is in perfect condition.

10. Thou shalt always believe advertising, in any shape or form (including when disguised as a sit-com or news report on television) and immediately purchase the products that are thereby advertised.

11. Thou shalt define your identity by how many possessions you own and how big your debt is; the more the better for the Lord GGDP.

12. Thou shalt only wear clothing that is clearly branded with a designer label, so that everyone can see how much you paid for your clothes and shall see that you are a True Believer. Likewise, thou shalt buy expensive cars that are oversized and use a lot of fuel so that everyone can see that you have money to waste and shall see that you are a True Believer. True Believers go to Platinum Class Heaven, where no recyclers or re-users are allowed.

13. Thou shalt make purchasing decisions based solely on factors of pride, prestige, vanity, and price, with no thought for the working conditions or wages of the workers who make the products or provide the services; and no thought for the environmental impact of the consumption of natural resources, or the pollution caused by the manufacturing process or distribution of the products.

14. Thou shalt dispose of all objects without thought of their impact on the environment.

15. Thou shalt only think in the short term, only as far ahead as the current fiscal quarter, and thou must never learn from the past or someone else’s experience, unless it relates to upholding the Lord GGDP.

16. Thou shalt perceive things such as education, art, nature, and wildlife as the Anti-LordGGDP and reject them, as these things divert spending from mass-produced disposable products that have no long-term value, but which the Lord GGDP thrives on.

17. Thou shalt put your individual interests above everything, except above GGDP or the Great Prophets because They must be worshipped above all.

18. Thou shalt view people only in terms of their current value to the economic system that upholds the Lord GGDP. Unskilled, disabled, sick and elderly people must be suppressed, along with children and anyone who is poor or who re-uses or recycles anything.

19. Thou shalt declare yourself a “philanthropist” when you donate unwanted objects to the poor and pay them below the minimum wage to do things you don’t want to do.

20. Thou shalt treat people as objects and accumulate many of them around you; thou must not seek out the good and unique things in anyone but instead discard people as soon as they are found to have a flaw or lack “utility” in your life, including your parents and other family members.


The Five Sacred Mantras of Consumerism:


“Shopping is fun!”

“Profit is king!”

“More is better!”
“Me, me, me!”


I have to confess that I was once, to some extent, caught up in the religion of Consumerism. It is a very enticing belief system. It seduces you with the image that you can live a happy life if you simply abide by the Commandments, without ever thinking for yourself or questioning the principles on which your life is based. Consumerism tells you that you can solve all your problems simply by buying something or discarding something. It tells you that you have right to everything the world offers, without any responsibilities; as if you live alone on the planet and everything belongs to you. In the religion of Consumerism, you don’t have to share. With this religion, you only need to give in to the temptation to conform to the mould; become comfortably numb.


But I escaped from the clutches of this cult and began questioning my beliefs and examining the values those beliefs were based on. I then reformulated my values based on the wise teachings of many philosophers, including Socrates, Siddhartha Gautama, Mary Wollstonecraft, Jesus, Mahatma Gandhi, the 14th Dalai Lama, Laozi (Lao Tzu), Simone de Beauvoir, Baruch Spinoza, and my grandmother, Jean Higgins.


Based on my revised values and beliefs, I now make conscious choices about what I do with my life, where I go, who I spend time with, and what I buy. Yes, I also buy things. One can be a consumer without being a Consumerist. Unless we live as hunter-gatherers, we all have to buy things, but we can choose to buy wisely, we can be “conscious consumers.”


Every purchase we make affects somebody. For example, we can choose to buy conventional tea that is sprayed with pesticides and which therefore causes cancer among the workers in the tea fields, or we can choose to buy organic tea, which does not harm the health of the workers and also doesn’t harm the ecosystem resources (soil, water, air…) that we all need for our survival. It can be hard to be a conscious consumer, because it involves thinking, seeking information and exercising our ethical and moral capacity; none of which are encouraged under the religion of Consumerism. It is not possible to completely avoid harming people or the environment when we buy things, because everything we consume has an impact, but by being conscious consumers it is possible to reduce the harm.


Mongolians do not have to follow the herd and worship growth. The independent and strong people of Mongolia can draw on their rich heritage and their long history of intellectual thought to develop their own philosophy, one that upholds their culture and respects their people, their environment, and their way of life. They can once again be a nation of people that Chinggis Khaan would be proud of.


Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=3919

Posted by on May 1 2013. Filed under Arts & Culture, Business & Economics, Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

1 Comment for “We should not worship growth”

  1. I am from the United States, and I agree with this article wholeheartedly. Consumerism and economic growth cannot be equated with creating a good and whole society. I am often saddened by the obsession that many of my peers and family members have with purchasing more and more expensive and unnecessary objects each day (though I love them dearly).

    I am only a undergraduate student now, but I plan to attempt to change the relationship that my country has towards consumerism, as well as its relationship towards the environment. Good luck in Mongolia, a beautiful country that I hope I will be able to see with my own eyes some day.

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