Materialism in the 21st Century

One only has to be in contact with children these days to see that quality time spent with parents seems, in many families, to be a very rare commodity. Both parents are usually working full time just to pay the bills and with the amount of time spent in traffic commuting to and from the workplace it stands to reason that juggling work and family time is a constant battle. At the end of the day it is much easier to give the children material gifts instead of trying to fit in reading a story to them, or chatting to them about the events of their day.  The majority of children from middle to upper income homes all seem to have access to the latest technology such as mobile phones, tablets and computers as well as having no shortage of up to the minute clothing – brands such as Nike or Adidas being firm favourites. Even very young children are demanding clothes with Disney or superhero logos on them, all of which are more expensive than the no-name items. So, materialism and the desire to have more and more belongings can begin very early in the home.

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Obviously the above observation is very general, but it is now accepted that children are communicating with each other via their mobile phones, and even youngsters barely out of nappies are allowed to play games on their parents’ devices.  Travelling with young children can be very challenging and it seems to be quite normal to settle them in the back of the car with headphones and a choice of entertainment on tablets or i-pads. What happened to talking to them and playing games such as spotting certain makes of car or animals in the fields or a game of I spy with my little eye something beginning with the letter ….?

Obviously sending youngsters to crèche or nursery school does alleviate a certain amount of the guilt feelings which parents may have due to their rushed lifestyles. However, even these institutions seem to foster the whole concept of materialism. I have seen that it is customary for children as young as 2 who are at crèches or nursery schools to be expected to come dressed in costumes for events such as Valentine’s Day, Halloween, or Superhero Day.  The poor overworked parents now have to conform otherwise their child is going to be the odd one out. The world really has gone stark raving mad! All these extra demands which are being made on the parents always result in purchasing things such as dress up items which really don’t have an awful lot to do with education when all is said and done. This whilst many millions of children worldwide are living in abject poverty. Somehow the more we are made aware of the desperate situation of millions of people all over the world, the more we are hammered with adverts to buy this, wear that and drive the other! Definitely, the first world as well as developing nations are constantly being succoured in to the ego-driven world of materialism. Sad, but true!

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If one looks at the way in which our parents or grandparents managed to survive without the trappings of modern day materialism and compare our lives today, we see just how things seem to be spiralling out of control at an alarming pace. In years gone by, life was tough for the majority of people and children had very few belonging. Clothes and footwear were often hand me downs  and the only toys may have been home-made playthings – a far cry from today where everything in the modern world is geared to spend, spend, spend and then more!

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Nowadays the leftover Christmas turkey has hardly been devoured when shops are advertising Valentine’s Day gifts. After that it is the Easter eggs which are on the shelves alongside appealing fluffy bunnies. Hardly time to take a breath then it’s (in certain countries) Mother’s Day, followed by Father’s Day and the last one to hit the money grabbing retail outlets – Halloween! Where is it all going to end? There is definitely a move towards once again creating instead of buying a mass produced product. Examples are young women learning to knit and crochet after years of such pastimes being scorned by many. Another avenue which has taken the world by storm is cooking and baking.  One only has to channel hop on television to come across yet another cooking competition and these have certainly inspired many people to attempt to cook or bake instead of buying ready-made food.

Maybe, there is some light at the end of the tunnel.  If there is a concerted worldwide effort to try to educate our children to appreciate the little things in life, which perhaps are far more important than material belongings, then things may change for the better. There are so many organisations involved in saving the planet, preserving endangered species, and caring for the less fortunate, which can be a means of making children aware of the importance of social responsibility. Education leads to knowledge and knowledge is power. Therefore educators as well as parents and family members can all help to improve this materialistic world before it implodes on itself due to mankind’s ignorance and selfishness. One can but hope and hope is what keeps us humans continuously carrying on regardless!!!

“It is the preoccupation with possessions,
more than anything else, 
that prevents us
from living freely and nobly
” – Bertrand Russell

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