In the western world, the accumulation of wealth has become the ultimate symbol of success. According to the new documentary Escape! From the Cult of Materialism, this unquenchable thirst for more has made slaves of us all, and suppressed the most basic human virtues of decency, solidarity and compassion. A mosaic of inventively edited stock footage, animations and clips from various popular films, this enlightening documentary provides a brief but sweeping overview of materialism’s origins, and its continued clutch on society today.
It all starts with simple desire. The drive to attain greater resources is understandable from a survivalist’s perspective; after all, more sophisticated tools allow us better access to food and protection from nature’s harshest elements. But over the years, this need has been manipulated by the corporatized machine of materialism. We no longer know where our food is coming from, and that impersonal relationship is making us sick and weakening our once harmonious relationship with the environment.
We purchase goods and services that don’t nourish us, and produce an endless stream of pollution-inducing waste as a result. Our children die in wars that fatten the wallets of big industry. Even in the face of the 9/11 tragedy, Americans were urged by their president to respond by going shopping. Marketing is the platform for mass seduction, and we’re entranced by its central message that possessions increase our personal value and social status.
The film argues that materialism’s influence is all-consuming and unsustainable. The United States contains 5% of the world’s population, but uses 25% of the Earth’s resources. What will become of the planet when more populated countries like China and India begin to produce and consume at this scale?
In addition to illustrating the destructive brainwashing tactics of modern consumerism, the film also offers practical steps we can take to curb its ongoing dominance in our daily lives. These include a renewed reliance on local farmers and craftspeople, limiting our exposure to mass media, and banning the swarms of advertising from the vicinity of our schools.
Handsomely assembled and narrated with articulate insight, Escape! From the Cult of Materialism is an intelligent and thought-provoking film.