Society under threat from consumerism

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Globalisation has brought technology to our doorsteps, making communication more accessible than before.

Report by Peter Makwanya

For this reason, advertisers and company executives have seized the opportunity to bombard their audiences with endless advertisements.

The interconnectedness has also persuaded almost all sectors of buying and selling, including advanced ways of commerce through a wide range of many other services offered by the internet and e-commerce.

Thousands of audiences have fallen victim to advertisers’ persuasive discourse, while advertising companies smile all the way to the bank. The societies in which we live in are under threat from consumerism.

Apart from human beings, it is the environment which also suffers from the dangers and effects of consumerism. The majority of consumers are still not aware that inadvertently, they are contributing to environmental degradation through the mass consumption promoted by advertisers.

Many advertising agencies may exploit linguistic aspects in order to smooth-talk consumers. Catchy phrases and poetic representations of adverts leave the minds of many people in disarray. The goal of any advertisement is to promote a product and persuade people to buy. That is the crucial task that advertising discourses have; to persuade potential customers to buy a product, with the motive behind the persuasion being concealed within the discourses themselves.

Environmentally-damaging discourses remain unexposed, especially in the advertising of cosmetics and chemical products. Through their use of discourses, a wide range of these  chemical and cosmetic companies’ major aim is to create relationships with the consumers without first establishing a relationship with the environment.

Hidden in the language of advertising is how it promotes environmentally and socially-negative activities and attitudes. Advertising companies thrive on the use of attractive visual images and designs that appeal to the eye, thereby influencing the mind in making ill-informed choices.

By so doing, the consumer is encouraged to consume more than he or she bargained for. This is called impulsive-buying. By buying more, consumers are put into unnecessary debts and damage the environment by using these substances.

Consumers need to be extra careful when buying cosmetics and chemicals for use. With the advent of the look-east policy, arrays of chemicals and cosmetics have invaded our markets. The good friends from the east have finally found a dumping ground in Zimbabwe and indeed the rest of the developing countries.

Some cosmetics are not labeled at all but consumers waste no time in buying them, notwithstanding the repercussions and side effects. The reason is these products are cheap, and cheap is dangerous. It is the pursuit of artificial lifestyles   that leads consumers to buy potentially-damaging products.

Some people have damaged their skins in an attempt to have a light complexion. Why are banned products quickly finding their way into our markets? Have our boarders become so porous that haulage trucks can negotiate contraband into the country without attracting the attention of the authorities? Possibly, someone somewhere gets his or her palms greased.

The damaging ‘friendly’ products should be exposed as they disturb our relationship with the environment. Normally what is said in an advert is said against the background of what is not said. What is not said is the possible hidden repercussions in terms of the health or the environment.

It is not only the impact of these products on the environment, but the methods of production which are harmful. Despite this, the consumers are continuously pressured into buying, buying and buying, ignoring the effects. The sellers  thrive on putting on a ‘friendly face’ by appeasing buyers and being viewed as worth trusting, caring and dedicated.

The youth and the gullible are potential targets, especially for cosmetic companies. The companies use pictures of beautiful women on the one hand and men with  bulging muscles on the other to attract the outgoing.

Long ago, perfumes were reserved for luxury and special occasions but today every ‘Lazarus’ wants to smell good. Since the demand for perfumes has increased tenfold, new ways of producing them have emerged as well, some appropriate and others dangerous.

Synthetic materials now replace the usually dependable raw materials collected from animals and plants. In the perfume industry, language use is creating the idea that, without perfume, women and men are not attractive and desirable.

The product they are rushing for harms their health and the environment. Perfume manufacturers rely heavily on women’s magazines to promote their products. Adverts for perfumes use outgoing discourses aimed at persuading people to buy what should be viewed as toxic, environmentally-damaging and ultimately, unnecessary. Some words and phrases inscribed on perfumes are ‘fragrance of love’, ‘journey of love’, ‘magic romance’, ‘eternity’, or ‘darling.’

Who would not want to be associated with these words, especially among youths? By buying and wearing the fragrance, buyers believe it is a short-cut to satisfying their deepest needs and desires.
Since shopping has become the greatest national pastime, we should be calculative and exercise greatest care in our choice of the products we buy.

Some people do it out of ignorance while others want to impress, and for some it is both. In the interest of our personal health and love for the environment, it is important to make informed choices in order to avoid long term repercussions.

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