Why the riots happened

October 13, 2011 § Leave a comment


Image from the Guardian online. Photograph: Lewis Whyld/PA

‘People are pressured to consume in order to ‘be happy’, while simultaneously being denied the means to do so.’ Darian Leader, founder of the London Philosophy Club, on the riots. Taken from Psychologies magazine, November 2011.

Why is happiness based on consumerism? Is that just the assumption – is that really true for most people? Is it just those without the means to consume excessively that believe it’s the key to happiness? Perhaps those who do have the means believe happiness lies in something else?

I am middle class. I have never believed that if I had more money I would be happier – except when it becomes hard to pay rent. When you have enough money to pay rent and eat, after that, I don’t think more money makes me happier. It allows me to go out more which can make me happy, but I am not actively unhappy with regards to money unless I am seriously worrying about it.

I don’t go out for restaurant food that much, and I rarely go shopping for clothes or presents for myself. However it seems that there are people on the dole that do just that. This seems unfair. Why should they not work and get these privileges? Despite sometimes having a more consumerist lifestyle than some students have, they still rioted. (I’m assuming it was those on the dole that were rioting.) Perhaps a reasonably wealthy lifestyle seems within reach to me, but not to them. Though I don’t have much spending power now, I sort of know I will in the future. I believe my career will earn me enough money to be content. They don’t have that belief in themselves and their future.

But the belief they do hold is that they need to consume, to buy into all the advertising thrown at them, to be happy, to be worthy. Just like in The Story Of Stuff. Perhaps they hold that belief more strongly than the people that have the means to consume.

Maybe not. I don’t believe that conspicuous consumption is going to make me happy, but perhaps people in the same situation as me don’t share my views.

In conclusion, I think our understanding of how we can be happy varies through our society. I would like to find out if this is really true, and find out how the different types of people believe they can become happy – and also if it’s really happiness they’re after or meaning of life.

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