You many have already come across this video below. It’s called The Story of Stuff and it is about exactly what it says it’s about, the story of stuff, the production and consumption of consumer goods. Now before you roll your eyes in boredom and leave this site to check your Twitter updates, note this: this video has been watched over 6,000,000 times online! A twenty minute video on economics is almost as popular as the Star Wars Kid, what’s going on?
The video was made by Annie Leonard, a former Greenpeace activist, who apparently spent
ten years traveling the globe getting her head around our modern consumerist society. What results is a video highly critical of capitalism and consumerism. It is highly critical and as I mentioned, highly popular. The video is very cleverly made; simple, engaging and clear. But I don’t think this explains its popularity. Instead, it appears to tap into a deep sense within our culture of environmental angst and a growing dissatisfaction with the failed promises of mass consumption.
Not surprisingly the video has caused quite a controversy. Leonard doesn’t see any positives with capitalism, it is entirely exploitative and destructive. Corporations are portrayed, for example,as bloated men with Top Hats and dollar signs on their back; hardly a neutral symbol! My feeling is, in throwing out the bath water Leonard let go of the baby also. While recognizing the very real, and at times overwhelming, problems of current market practices, as well as the spiritual and emotional flabbiness that a consumerist mentality seems to encourage, I want to ask whether there is a way to use the immense power of capitalism for good? Or is it, as Leonard suggests, fundamentally flawed?
I’ll let you decide. Feel free to comment.
Below is the video and links to some of the debates surrounding it.