On People As Consumer Goods

The state of human relationships in our modern world is simply abysmal. Loneliness has reached epidemic proportions, even with social media to (allegedly) keep us connected with each other. This was a problem even before the government decided to force people to stay in their homes ‘for their own good’, although lockdowns, social distancing, and mask mandates have certainly made it worse. It seems odd at first that in an age of unparalleled communication technology, transportation, and leisure time, people would be increasingly isolated from each other. The problem isn’t a lack of time or technology, rather, it comes down to our attitude towards relationships. The modern perspective on relationships is extremely self-centered, to the point of being a little bit psychopathic. For all its protestations about human dignity, our society teaches us that people are consumer goods, to be used and discarded at our convenience. This view of people has tainted most, if not all, relationships in our society.

If you’ve made the mistake of looking on the internet for dating advice, you’ve almost certainly heard that you should make sure that you are ‘getting your needs met’, the obvious implication being that if your needs aren’t being met you should yeet your erstwhile partner to the curb and find someone who will meet your needs. If that sounds pretty selfish, that’s because it is. This view of relationships puts yourself as the most important one, and makes the other person’s value to you contingent on what they do for you. When this attitude gets carried forward into marriage, which it will if you think this way, well, you might want to have a divorce lawyer on retainer. No wonder the age of first marriage keeps rising.

It’s not just dating and marriage that we view this way, but children are viewed as a commodity or a luxury good, rather than people to be cared for. Why do I say this? The daycare industry, for starters. Daycare is not designed to benefit children, in fact it has been shown to be detrimental to their mental development. Daycare is designed so that adults can have a place to warehouse their children when they are inconvenient to the parents’ schedule, then the parents can take them back when it’s convenient. If that weren’t enough, the entire fertility industry has morphed from helping couples overcome medical obstacles that prevented them from having children, to selling women (married or not) the idea that they can have a child whenever they decide they want one. The flip side of that is, of course, the abortion industry which offers to kill a woman’s children before it can interfere with her career aspirations. Children are about on the level of a fancy car in modern society. You bring it out to show to your friends, and lock it away in the garage when you’re not using it.

The most egregious example of human commodification, and by far the most damaging, is the porn industry. This entire industry is devoted to treating human beings as objects to be debased and degraded to line the pockets of lazy degenerates. The message that the women (and men) who create this stuff are putting out is that people are just objects to be used and abused for pleasure. This has had profound effects on our society, not just on men, but on women as well. The effect on the men who consume this trash is pretty obvious, they come to view women as mere objects to be used, rather than people, in addition to becoming twisted and perverted in their appetites. The effect on women is evident in how they dress in such a way as to draw maximum attention to the body, which shows that they view sex appeal as their most important attribute. The porn industry teaches men and women that a person’s value lies solely in their sexual appeal and the gratification that they can provide. It is perhaps the most venomous and sinister manifestation of the people-as-consumer-goods mentality.

All of this results from the sinful attitude of putting ourselves first in any relationship, the exact opposite of Philippians 2:3-4.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility consider one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Unsurprisingly, when you don’t do things God’s way, they go horribly awry, with unpleasant consequences. The cure to our messed up relational landscape is as simple as doing what the Bible says: considering one another as more important than ourselves, and looking out for their interests. One of the best environments to do this is in your local church, which was the context Paul had in mind when he wrote the book of Philippians. In a local church you’re around people every week who you can help in one way or another, and can be helped in return. It doesn’t have to be anything major, even something as simple as small talk can encourage someone after a hard week.

Christians don’t value people because of what they can do for us. We value people because they are made in the image of God, who we love, and because we are being made more like Him, who ‘so loved the world that He gave His only Son’. For this reason, although it doesn’t come naturally, we need to stop being so concerned with what others can do for us, and concern ourselves more with how we can serve others. While this must be done wisely, it stands in stark contrast with the worldly attitude of putting your own needs first. It may seem counterintuitive, it will certainly be uncomfortable at times, but it’s what God said to do, and you won’t regret it in the long term.

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