Converting from Consumer To Citizen

Glendale, California
Sunday, August 25, 2019

Converting from Consumer To Citizen

Digital marketing experts estimate that we Americans are exposed to some  4,000 to 10,000 advertisements each day.

Each and every day!

What do these advertisements ask of us?

To consume.

Therein lies the origin of that awful word, consumer. To the hundreds of international corporations, we are no longer human beings with needs, wishes, hopes and dreams.

We are, instead, customers, buyers, persons who consume.

Doesn’t it seem kind of insulting?

I’m all for capitalism, as well as it’s well controlled by government regulation.

Nonetheless, to be deliberately manipulated, i.e. Amazon Prime Day, digital ads tailored to your search engine use, produce placement in check-out lines, etc, seems, well, nasty.

As you know, these corporations increasingly invasive advertising campaigns are age-adjusted.

When you’re young, the ads for cars, houses, furnishings, jewelry, and clothing dominate.

In the news lately has been the deliberate intention on the part of vape-smoking manufacturers to lure young adolescents into buying their poisons. They target that population by demographics and also by offering sweet-flavored tobacco products.

It’s pretty near evil.

As you grow older, you notice the still-insulting but painful change. Medications come to the fore with their lengthy, tragicomic warnings about side effects— liver damage, heart failure, death. The voice-over artists speak so rapidly that you’re less horrified by the side-effects they describe.

The invitations to consume are, literally, endless.

If you see 10,000 brands in one day, imagine how many you see in a week, a month, or a year?

American life, even for the underprivileged, offers considerable freedom. With freedom, as the saying goes, comes responsibility. And, if one accepts the responsibility, one becomes more citizen than consumer.

The ways to become a responsible citizen are as long as the list of advertisers. Here are two categories for you to consider if you wish, as I do, to battle efforts to reduce you to consumer. Even passive ways offer options for taking responsibility for citizen-hood.

For example, simply reading more diverse sources of information facilitates your transitioning from passive consumer to active citizen. The US broadcast news has pathetically become nearly all propaganda, but there’s always the BBC if you’re into TV. It stands out as an excellent source of national and international information. After watching even just a few minutes of CNN or MSNBC, and then switching over to the BBC, I’m often struck by:

Oh, yeah, that civil war in Syria still rages, Yemen’s a mess, climate change literally threatens our survival, and Boris Johnson sounds like a mini-Trump.

I just learned this morning, from a dear friend who feels traumatized by the news (as are many others), that he reads, The Weekly. 

I plan to look into it.

Apparently, it summarizes news and opinions from various sources. I like the Economist and, please note, I’ve never had even one course in economics in my life. I consider it an excellent overview of the news from a mostly-objective perspective. It’s like a more intelligent and international version of Time or Newsweek.

Make sure to read the more thorough and legitimate journalistic outlets, in print or online, wherever you find them. Also, consider multiple perspectives when it comes to opinion pieces. One of the best way to hone your own opinions is to become familiar with the opinions of those who differ from your own.

Any positive change in your own behavior will impact others. Sometimes it will be surprising. You’re sharing reading The Weekly, for example, will influence others. That just happened to me just this morning!

Because we are such social animals, and also sport so-called “mirror neurons,” we tend to behave in a herd-like way—like it or not. I have one friend who’s buying an electric car just because I have one.

Completing the theme of passive citizenry, think of the many other minor changes you can make that will influence those around you. Composting, recycling, taking public transportation, talking to friends about the Amazon burning, and so on will definitely influence others.

No one wants to be left out.

With few exceptions, people want to be in the herd.

The advertising industry knows that, and uses it to manipulate us.

Resist the temptation.

The potentially active means of engaging your rights as a citizen, and to achieve positive change, are innumerable. I should clarify now that by, citizen, I really mean global citizen. It’s an entire other Oprah to talk about citizenship in terms of individual countries. Frankly, I consider it too late for that. If we individuals fail to take active measures to prevent it, we are essentially committing homo-sapiens-suicide through climate change alone.

The active measures exist on a continuum from minor to major. Minor ones would include writing to your congressperson, volunteering for a political party or organization, or becoming active in an organization like Greenpeace, devoted to ecology, or Amnesty International, devoted to freeing political prisoners and ending the death penalty. These activities might take you several hours a week.

If you really want to empower your right as a global citizen, more action is required and, with it, greater time commitment. Consider just this one organization, Climate Strike, which works to set up strikes for students and workers throughout the world. Their website reads, in part:

The adult generations have promised to stop the climate crisis,

but they have skipped their homework year after year.

Climate strike is a wake-up call to our own generation.

And it is the start of a network that will solve the greatest challenge in human history.

Together. We need your hands and hearts and smarts!


Imagine how our own country would begin to address frightening themes like climate change if, say, 30 million people stopped working on Fridays!

You’d see legislation introduced and passed like crazy.

Like most of you readers, I lack the time or, sadly, the devotion to quit my work and take responsibility, on a full-time basis, for positive change.

But shouldn’t we all be doing something rather than just consuming?

Read more broadly, write a letter to a politician, or sign a petition. Whatever you do, please don’t sit by passively and scan for the latest sales at Amazon or iTunes.

Threats abound like never before since the mid-1930s—from fascist governments to raging forest fires, from racism to anti-semitism, from immigration to poverty.

Solzhenitsyn wrote:

Responsibility is the antidote to tyranny.

Any act of responsibility, whether as minor as watching the BBC or as major as striking for climate change, sloughs off the passive invitation to consumer-hood and empowers you to global citizen-hood.

(If you like this blog, please tell your friends, family, and pets to subscribe by opening up alankarbelnig.com, clicking on any blog, scrolling to the bottom right, and signing up. Like any selfless writer, I always seek more readers. Thanks so much! – Alan)

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