Opinion

Consumerism

As I walked to the cafeteria last week, I realized that I was wearing over $400 worth of clothes and accessories. You read that right: $400.

I was not even wearing a coat or boots, which can be rather expensive. I was just wearing a shirt, cardigan, jeans, moccasins and a leather purse. Of course, I did not pay full price for any of those items, but if I had, it would add up to over $400.

When I realized this, I was a little surprised, and to be completely honest, a little disappointed in myself. Although I did not spend the full $400, I felt like I should have done something more significant than buy clothes with that money.

I started to think about how much I could do with $400. I could buy groceries for several months, pay for a couple of textbooks or donate it all to charity. But a little voice in my head told me that I could justify owning those expensive clothes. After all, I will be looking for a job soon, and everyone says I need to dress to impress.

Unfortunately, it is incredibly easy for middle-class Americans to buy things: clothes, electronics, the list goes on. We live in a consumer culture, and there is really no way out unless we move into the mountains and become hermits or join a hippie commune.

As a student, I know I will have debts upon finishing college, will have to start paying for my own insurance and, if the current economic situations does not improve, I will probably not make much more than minimum wage at my first job. But I will still be a major consumer, even though I foresee a lot of trips to Goodwill and several cases of Ramen noodles in my post-undergraduate life.

Yet the ironic part of it is, while I continue to label myself as a poor college student who loves all things free, I am still considered one of the wealthiest people in the world. According to globalrichlist.com, I am in the top 1.03 percent of the richest people in the world by income. That means that there are over 6 billion people worse off than me.

So what does this have to do with our consumer culture here at John Brown University, or more generally, here in America?

There have been a few guest speakers in chapel this past month discussing global poverty, like Michael Miller and Tita Evertsz. It is convicting to hear of so many people in need, yet here I am, at my $30,000 a year private school in my $400 outfit with $600 worth of textbooks in my backpack. What can I do to help?

There are many aspects involved in the fight against poverty, but the first step is awareness. If I had not been shown how well-off I am compared to billions of others, I do not think I would be as passionate about curing chronic poverty.

So I encourage everyone to realize how incredibly blessed we are, and if you feel compelled to do something about this problem, spread the word, get involved and fight.