As a part of the Generation Y, we are prone to be sucked into the culture of consumerism. In a Buzzfeed article, Gayatri Jayaraman in 2016 highlighted the unnerving trend of the “Urban Poor” phenomenon: "...the metro-dwelling twentysomethings who've internalized the pressures surrounding them, and spend a majority of their salaries on keeping up the lifestyles and appearances that they believe are essential to earning those salaries."
According to Jayaraman, the root causes for the emerging trend of Urban Poor is our existing consumerist tendencies to spend a great deal of our money to gain some social values that are considered “essential” to our jobs, or even to our lives.
We tend buy the things we don't need, pretending that their superficially expensive prices will enhance our quality as urban citizens. The moment we end up putting aside our priority over our desire to appear prestigious, it's the moment when we are bound to be a part of a consyouthmerism.
Overpriced coffees, overpriced sportswear, overpriced gadgets, overpriced make-ups – more than instant gratifications, they end up being inevitable necessities in order to uphold our social status.
Some of us even justified our actions as a “personal right” to spend as much money as we want on the things that makes us “happy”. But by thinking so, we materialize our happiness. By thinking so, we limit our capacity to attain happiness through “expensive” circumstances, which may not always be attainable to us.
I don’t want to be hypocritical. I also find it hard not to buy the things that I don't need. In fact, I have my own consyouthmerism moments. The one thing I have personally tried is at least gradually reduce my “tertiary spending” and channel it for the things I need in the first place. But first we must realize our own ignorance when it comes to unnecessary spending and try our best to end it.
Above all, as youth who are barely economically stable and independent, we really need to start stepping on the consumerist brake and stop the mass-manipulation that has been feeding our ignorance to build the culture of consyouthmerism.
Wake up, young people. Soon we will be strangled in debts and we will lose our freedom to the shackles of consumerism-driven capitalism. It’s not like you are asked to revolt to topple down capitalism overnight. You just need to stop and reflect before you spend your money on anything. Do you need it because you want it, or do you want it because you need it? To add even more thoughts into it, are you sure that your money will be spent on something sustainable for the environment and free of any kinds of cruelties against humans or animals?
At the end of the day, before we reach for our wallet or swipe our cards, there are a lot of questions we must ask ourselves to ensure the urgency and the responsibility of our spending. What we want is not always what we need.
Instead of feeding our own indulgence, we can help to fulfill the need of other people in our surroundings. Instead of spending money on overpriced, luxurious stuffs, we can try to be more humble and appreciate small, family businesses around us that are struggling to survive. By suppressing our desire and strengthening our self- and social awareness, we will realize that we are luckier than we thought we were.
Margianta Surahman Juhanda Dinata is an International Relations graduate from Paramadina University. Aside from being a sucker for movies and free stuff, he has been engaged in some activities in regards to tobacco-control and human rights issues, particularly children’s rights.
*Illustration by Margianta Surahman Juhanda DInata