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Fast Fashion and Our Loss of Soul

In our previous three posts, we looked at some issues related to fast fashion. Deep down, the real underlying issue concerning fast fashion (and really fast “everything”) is a spiritual crisis, which manifests as compulsive shopping, yet feeling empty and dissatisfied. It is interesting to note that in the Greenpeace survey on fast fashion shopping habits, people in China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan) showed an even more alarming trend of compulsive shopping than Germany or Italy.

China overtook the USA as the world’s largest digital market in 2014, with fashion the biggest e-commerce category.

41 percent of all Chinese consumers are found to be excessive shoppers, showing traits of compulsive behavior.…42 percent in Hong Kong and a staggering 46 percent in China admit that they often buy more clothes than they can afford.… Young people are most likely to be excessive shoppers.

[W]hile 39 percent of Germans feel excited after shopping, a staggering 76 percent of Hong Kong people and 65 percent of Chinese sense a feeling of satisfaction after buying something.

While people seek happiness and self worth by shopping, the survey results show that they are deeply ambivalent about their own behaviour. Stating guilt and shame, people often feel bad about their own useless purchases and overspending habits.

“After the Binge, the Hangover” Greenpeace International Fashion Consumption Survey (greenpeace.org/detox/fashion)

Compulsive shopping, which fast fashion encourages and promotes, is very disturbing because it is really about a bankruptcy within. When Jimmy Carter was president of the U.S., he once gave an address in 1979 that most Americans did not want to hear. It is interesting that although President Carter was talking about social problems in the U.S. at the time, those problems have only gotten worse—far worse. And those problems are in every culture and in every nation.

Below is an excerpt of President Jimmy Carter’s 1979 address. I urge you to read it without bias; it applies to ALL of us, regardless of country, race, or religion.

The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.

The confidence that we have always had as a people is not simply some romantic dream or a proverb in a dusty book that we read just on the Fourth of July. It is the idea which founded our nation and has guided our development as a people. Confidence in the future has supported everything else—public institutions and private enterprise, our own families, and the very Constitution of the United States. Confidence has defined our course and has served as a link between generations. We’ve always believed in something called progress. We’ve always had a faith that the days of our children would be better than our own.

Our people are losing that faith, not only in government itself but in the ability as citizens to serve as the ultimate rulers and shapers of our democracy. As a people we know our past and we are proud of it. Our progress has been part of the living history of America, even the world. We always believed that we were part of a great movement of humanity itself called democracy, involved in the search for freedom; and that belief has always strengthened us in our purpose. But just as we are losing our confidence in the future, we are also beginning to close the door on our past.

In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.

The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are all around us. For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next five years will be worse than the past five years. Two thirds of our people do not even vote.…

[T]here is a growing disrespect for government and for churches and for schools, the news media, and other institutions. This is not a message of happiness or reassurance, but it is the truth and it is a warning.

These changes did not happen overnight. They’ve come upon us gradually over the last generation, years that were filled with shocks and tragedy.…

Looking for a way out of this crisis, our people have turned to the Federal Government and found it isolated from the mainstream of our nation’s life. Washington, D.C., has become an island. The gap between our citizens and our government has never been so wide. The people are looking for honest answers, not easy answers; clear leadership, not false claims and evasiveness and politics as usual.

What you see too often in Washington and elsewhere around the country is a system of government that seems incapable of action. You see a Congress twisted and pulled in every direction by hundreds of well financed and powerful special interests.

You see every extreme position defended to the last vote, almost to the last breath by one unyielding group or another. You often see a balanced and a fair approach that demands sacrifice, a little sacrifice from everyone, abandoned like an orphan without support and without friends.

Often you see paralysis and stagnation and drift. You don’t like it, and neither do I. What can we do?

First of all, we must face the truth, and then we can change our course. We simply must have faith in each other, faith in our ability to govern ourselves, and faith in the future of this nation. Restoring that faith and that confidence to America is now the most important task we face. It is a true challenge of this generation of Americans.

We are at a turning point in our history. There are two paths to choose. One is a path I’ve warned about tonight, the path that leads to fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others. That path would be one of constant conflict between narrow interests ending in chaos and immobility. It is a certain route to failure.

All the traditions of our past, all the lessons of our heritage, all the promises of our future point to another path—the path of common purpose and the restoration of American values. That path leads to true freedom for our nation and ourselves. We can take the first steps down that path as we begin to solve our energy problem.…

The energy crisis is real. It is worldwide.

President Jimmy Carter address “Energy and the National Goals” delivered on July 15, 1979

The social decay that President Carter describes is at the root of the compulsive lifestyle habits that are destroying our planet and each other. It is ironic that in the face of societal collapse due to inaction on climate change, cybercrime has been ramped up with the aim to destroy democratic institutions, country by country, however, dysfunctional those democracies may be. We as a global people need to stand up and say “no” to the destruction of our planet and ourselves, and say “yes” to our moral obligation as ethically and ecologically responsible global citizens.

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