An observation and a personal anecdote on a potent modern day behaviour.
I currently reside in an area of Taiwan called QingPu (青埔). It is, for all intents and purposes, only known because this is where the Taoyuan high speed rail station was built. Part of the attraction to this station is the attached Gloria outlet mall, one of the few of its kind in Taiwan. It is armed to the teeth with American style outlet shopping, ready to seduce passersby with the glitz and glory of the finest the West has to offer — at incredible outlet prices, no less!
The Taiwanese love it here. Anyone would. I can’t fault them. The Gloria team does an incredible job marketing this place, decorating every corner with overwhelming aesthetics. Every pop-up serving as a photo-op for the Instagram horde. On this particular day, the theme of the season was festive. Narrator: It was Christmas. Dangling Christmas lights, machines that pumped out bubble imitating fake snow, all amidst a floor plan seemingly designed to contain and trap shoppers in a dizzying array of options and pathways.
I almost fell victim.
On a basic mission to the local 7–11 to retrieve a mail package with Alssa (my girlfriend for the uninitiated), we decided to detour through the mall on the way home.
It was my idea.
I wanted to walk through it “just to see what’s up” (More on this later). A routine walk-home that should have taken 5 minutes ended up to be almost an hour.
We were downright seduced by the siren song of consumerism (or more accurately, economic materialism), on several occasions drawn into different stores, picking up several literally unneeded items, and somehow rationalizing in our brains that we may need it, either right now, or at some point in the future. The truth was, we had almost everything we needed. Whatever we wanted to buy would have been a petty upgrade, or just an unnecessary purchase to satisfy an insatiable retail itch.
We were lucky to make it out, having only been tempted by the toxins, but not succumbing to it.
This is the crux of our shopping generation. We are sirened into unconscious spending. We are lured into the sense that what we have is not good enough. We are perhaps just one purchase away from completion, one more thing away from happiness. We are overwhelmed with so many choices that we are left with no choice but to consume. It is a scary reality that this is weaponized against our collective and individual consciousness so effectively. It can happen either in a mall, or from the comfort of our own beds, but it works all the same against our psyche.
Don’t get me wrong. Every once in a while, maybe a purchase here or there is necessarily justified. Maybe injecting our hard-earned [devalued] money in an increasingly inflated economy may be a worthy cause (a totally different conversation that is worth having). But I simply offer up that we necessarily must become conscious of these deeply ingrained retail habits. We are strategically mesmerized — summoned into a rat laboratory where our willpower is constantly bombarded against.
I doubt a majority of the shoppers at Gloria that day understood that they were walking through a maze designed specifically to keep them lost, disoriented, and staying “seated at the slot machines”. The truth was, they were most likely there because “shopping” is now considered an integral component in the modern lexicon of wholesome family activities. Their faces betrayed innocence and hope, and I am betting they were operating on the misguided belief that their happiness was just the next shopping tote away (or in Asia’s case to the detriment of the Earth, the next plastic bag ).
In hindsight, my “just to see what’s up” may have been a conditioned response. Maybe it was my retail addiction, summoned from the depths of my unconscious, drawing me into Gloria. And that is scary. Fucking scary.
Hey! If you actually made it this far into my article, then thank you from the bottom of my heart for your consideration, patience, and love for reading so much of my work. Words cannot express how much I appreciate it.
They say ‘writing = clear thinking’, so I am on my own journey to crystallize my thinking (and thus my writing). If you enjoyed this article, you can find more of my work on Medium here. I also occasionally make long form blog-style posts on Instagram here. You can also find me blabbering on Twitter here.
Finally, have you ever experienced the effects of weaponized consumerism on your willpower? Let us know in the comments!