Did we really evolve to screw ourselves over?

mental illness consumerism documentary photo
Video screen capture Journeyman Pictures

Some time ago, I posted about a documentary comparing consumerism to a collective mental illness. Consumed, directed by English film maker Richard Heap, is now available free to view online via YouTube, and it's well worth watching—if you can cope with an overdose of retro advertising stock footage that is.

Much like the acclaimed documentary The Corporation, which explored how publicly traded corporations are structurally set up to behave like psychopaths, Consumed is not just saying that consumerism is contributing mental illness, but rather that consumerism taken to its extremes is a mental illness, in that it is driving us to value the admiration of strangers through the accumulation of things—rather than to value the relationships with friends, family and our community which keep us happy, healthy and secure.

Given my previous posts on the need to rethink our allegiance to GDP and to value a deeper notion of true economics, it's no surprise that I find a lot I agree with in this thesis. The use of evolutionary theory to explain these developments is also helpful, moving the conversation away from a "top down" conspiracy foisted on the masses, and instead looking at it as a collective state of being that we need to work through together.

Exactly how we work through this remains to be seen.

Living with less, reconnecting with nature, learning to truly love your stuff, embracing 100% clean energy, and designing for durability and resilience are all pieces of the puzzle.

But to understand how we put that puzzle together for our future, we need to understand how our evolutionary nature has delivered us to where we are today. Consumed provides a valuable contribution to helping us do just that.

Did we really evolve to screw ourselves over?
One documentary maker uses evolutionary psychology to offer a critique of consumerism.

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