"Consumerism" refers to two quite different things. One is a movement to protect consumers from the negative effects of decisions made by corporations interested only in profit. The other is the tendency of people in affluent societies to devote ever more attention to buying things, to the detriment of religious commitment, tradition, art, community, political involvement or the effort to build a better world. Consumerism in this second sense and environmentalism, both powerful in Western societies, do not coexist comfortably.
Today's cartoon, by American David Horsey, has fun at the ex-pense of both. To get the point of the cartoon, you need to recall the story of Moses in the Bible: At God's command, Moses leads the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt. They arrive at Mt Sinai, which Moses ascends to commune with God. He tarries; God has much to reveal. The people below conclude that Moses is not returning. They persuade Aaron, the brother of Moses, to make them a statue to worship. Coming down from the mountain with the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments are written, Moses discovers the Hebrews feasting and dancing around the idol of the Golden Calf. He is, to put it mildly, not pleased.
In David Horsey's cartoon, Moses represents the environmentalists. He comes down the mountain with one commandment: "Thou shalt conserve." It is addressed to Americans, who are notably given to waste, not conservation. Their Golden Calf is "consumerism" - actually a very mature Golden Cow with udders of abundance, reclining in a very laid-back pose. All around is a riot of gluttony and wickedness. Many of the women are wearing fashionable Egyptian clothes. This is not a crowd likely to heed the admonitions of an austere old man ("You don't need so much stuff!") - and from the expression on Moses' face we can see that he knows it.
The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day are by far the biggest shopping period of the year in the US. This year, even though there are many grounds for economic worry, Americans are buying like crazy. Some economists think they are crazy; others are thankful that they are keeping the US economy from slippingsintosa second recession. Thesgroupsof the day is "Shop till you drop!" Environmentalists looking on this orgy of consumption can only be appalled. (W. D. White)