Out-Growing ​Consumerism 1:
What Should Never Have Been for Sale

​4 minute read | Part 1 ​of a Series​ | Also published at PermacultureNews.Org

​There’s a subtle mantra playing in the background that we’re so accustomed to, we no longer notice it:

​“Consume something. You’ll feel better.” 

Having monetized everything else, in order to keep growing the consumer economy now needs to monetize the space inside your head.


We’re immersed in a sea of marketing and propaganda that’s both extremely subtle and extremely effective. It's designed to direct our attention away from the long-term consequences of our choices and towards the ​quick fixes and instant gratification that drive the consumer economy.

“From early childhood our … minds have been flooded with images and messages that undermine our identity and self-esteem, create false needs, and teach us to seek satisfaction and approval through the consumer choices we make.”

Groomed to Consume

​Billions of dollars are spent [on] … ​powerful messages telling you that you are not adequate and that the only thing that will satisfy your inadequacy must be bought.”

Our discretionary income is up for grabs by who-ever can capture our attention and hold it long enough to get us to click on the buy button.

And it’s a lot bigger than just who gets to pocket our discretionary income.

How has this happened?

The consumer economy feeds upon every aspect of our lives.

"You are not capable of taking care of your family's health/educating your children/providing for yourself without expert help.”

That’s what we’re told, and we’ve swallowed it. Hook, line and sinker.

(“And even if you could do it yourself, you’ll need a law degree to get you through all the red tape, so don’t even bother trying.”)

We have become reliant on experts, institutions, and corporate providers for EVERYTHING. Housing, nutrition, health care, education, entertainment, social connection, even our sense of identity. All monetized. 

As for our sense of purpose and meaning in life? Severely eroded or lost completely.

How has this happened?

There are profits to be had

This didn’t happen by chance.

There is enormous profit in convincing entire populations to hand over responsibility for everything that was previously taken care of within families and communities.

The Bigs – Big Agriculture, Big Food, Big Pharma and Big Industry, to name the ones at the top of my head, ​thrive on our assumption that experts and large organizations can do things for us better than we can do them for ourselves.

​Influencing human behavior

Modern marketing is the One Big Industry that powers all the other big industries.

When I say “modern marketing,” I’m referring to the increasingly sophisticated, manipulative, and intrusive strategies ​used to influence human behavior and keep the growth economy ticking along. 

They include data collection – harvesting information about us and identifying patterns and tendencies that can be exploited for profit1, and social engineering – controlling the information we get to see2.

The new oil

Control over our attention, choices, and decision-making habits has become a commodity – more valuable in the global economy than oil3.

​Data collection has become a mega-business. Information about us is harvested, bought, sold, haggled over. It's prized because of its usefulness for, among other things, predicting how we are likely to behave under a given set of circumstances and how our choices can be nudged in profitable directions.

Our choices about what to eat, what to buy, who to vote for4, what pharmaceutical drugs to use5, and more, are all seen as fair game for manipulation.

​​By using the media, we become the instruments of our own imprisonment.”

Internet monocultures

Monocultures don’t only occur in industrial agriculture.

Just five giants control most of the internet: Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple.

If you ever log in to anything, unless you are incredibly well-informed, vigilant, and willing to by-pass many common conveniences and entertainments, you are handing your data ​one or more of these five entities6.

​​Everything modern psychology knows

Designers of marketing programs, social media, and digital entertainment make better ​use (well, more clever and inventive use) of what is known about psychology and human behavior than those who work in mental health fields.

We're influenced ​so skillfully, so subtly, that we're unaware of it.

... The largest companies online all specialize in getting and then keeping your attention by delivering rapid-fire, easy-to-consume content... algorithmically tailored to push your buttons.

... Teams of data scientists use billions of data points, gathered from all our connected devices, to learn exactly what it takes to get us hooked. 

If you think you're not affected by this, then they've definitely got their hooks in. So deep, you don't even remember what it was like not to be addicted and distracted.

Shane Melaugh, Focus and Action

​​Coming up next

This was Part 1 of Out-Growing CONSUMERISM. Part 2, "​An Act of Subversion," is ​here.


  1. “…Data-driven marketing has become the fuel on which … [the] free market engine runs.” A Peak into Surveillance Valley
  2. “90% of news media are controlled by six corporations. … The vast majority of what you read, see and hear is part of a carefully orchestrated narrative created and controlled by [profit-driven] special interest groups.” Media Manipulation, Mercola.com
  3. The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data, Economist.com
  4. Cambridge Analytica has been accused of creating a system to profile individual U.S. voters using “improperly gleaned” data from tens of millions of Facebook users to target them with personalized political ads during the presidential campaign. Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica in major data breach, TheGuardian.com
  5. “In June 2018, Google [changed] its algorithms about which information gains preference on its pages. … At a stroke, all information about alternative and natural health disappeared or was relegated to back pages. … Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has set up two pharmaceutical companies … [By manipulating its search results] in this way, Google can essentially harvest [patients for its pharmaceutical companies].” When Big Brother Went High Tech, Lynnemctaggart.com
  6. “Google and Facebook’s … harvesting of your personal information goes far beyond what most people realize is even possible. … Google is … the largest monopoly in the world [and] the world’s greatest artificial intelligence (AI) company, which facilitates [sorting] through all your data with deep learning algorithms to detect patterns that can be exploited for profit.” What Kind of Information does Google and Facebook Have on You?
  • […] We live in what Shane Melaugh calls the attention economy. Tech companies today invest billions in working out how to capture and hold your attention. (I wrote about this in more detail, in "What Should Never Have Been for Sale.") […]

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