As a (totally) amateur cultural commentator and observer, I’m been fascinated by the phenomenon of cultural distress and its impact on society. The rise of consumerism and the obsession with material wealth have given birth to a culture that is heavily focused on avoiding social pain and discomfort. This has had some serious consequences for our wellbeing and happiness.
But we are living, in a material world, and I am…
Companies have realized that selling an easy and convenient way to avoid social pain is a nearly boundless formula for growth, and so they have been actively promoting this message to the masses. They do this by creating invented narratives about cultural distress, and then, once people buy into them, they discover that it’s still there. [credit Godin] Kind of like that empty feeling some people complain about before splurging on a little retail therapy… but that feeling only returns.
Consider the self-care and wellness industry, which has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry. While there is certainly nothing wrong with taking care of ourselves, the problem arises when companies exploit our insecurities and promote the idea that happiness and success can be bought through their products. This not only leads to cultural distress, but it also reinforces the notion that our worth and happiness is tied to our material possessions.
Calm down. Here’s a scented candle.
The impact of this cultural distress is widespread and far-reaching, affecting not only individuals, but also our communities and society as a whole. People with a lot of resources are still unhappy, despite all their wealth and privilege, because they succumb to these invented narratives and end up buying into the idea that they can escape social pain and discomfort through material goods. This only perpetuates the cycle of cultural distress and reinforces the belief that materialism is the key to happiness.
Maybe better if we focus on building strong, meaningful relationships and cultivating a sense of purpose and fulfillment that goes beyond material goods.