Consumerism & Individualism: Community as an endangered species.

I’m having a hard time at the moment with the reality of consumerism. I would award consumerism as being the number one reason why people in the West are unhappy. This week, I read an article about a woman who’s opened up a shop where you can pay for cuddles, affection and conversation:

Professional cuddler Samantha Hess has opened a pro cuddling shop, where for $60 customers can get an hour’s worth of spooning and “the level of human contact that we want or need in order to be our optimal selves.”

Located in Portland, Oregon, the shop is called Cuddle Up To Meand is already very busy.

“This business has taken off,” Hess told Fox 12. “I’ve gotten as many as 10,000 emails in a week.”

Hour-long sessions cost $60 dollars and include hair strokes, hand-holding and a plethora of different cuddle positions.

Hess says the business is in no way adult-orientated, and that she got the idea for it during a low point in her life. Samantha Hess previously cuddled at customers’ houses. 

“I was at a place where I thought paying someone to hug me and not have ulterior motives sounded like a great idea,” she added. “I decided why can’t this be a thing that we can easily and safely reach for?”

Sessions are taped to ensure the safety of both cuddler and cuddlee.

“After meeting Samantha Hess, I feel so much better,” said Steve from Vancouver in a testiominal on the Cuddle Up To Me website.

“Our cuddle time gave me a different outlook on life. I had no idea what I was missing. I am a big fan now and look forward to our next session. She is encouraging, kind and sincere.”

The shop is open Monday to Saturday. Talking is optional and pyjamas are encouraged.

Original Article taken from The Independent

We have changed and moulded society so much to suit our individual lives that we have forgotten one of the most valuable traits that makes us human – community.

Instead, we’ve replaced community with consumerism and individualism. This isn’t meant to sound like a new, emerging communist manifesto. It’s meant to be a rallying of the troops to start to defend an endangered species. But it’s not any endangered species. It’s a species like the bumble bee – without it, we will die.

And there are hints of the terminal illness of consumerism-individualism everywhere. For example, in the last week I’ve been struck by

  • The article above – people paying for affection and “friendship”
  • The fact that I cannot get my TV repaired and so have to buy a new one (after being charged £35 call out fee by the TV repair man who says modern TVs can seldom be fixed.) -the throw away society is a byproduct of a consumerist society.
  • The fact that social media websites are not (in my opinion) driven by social factors. They’re driven by numbers… How many likes? How many friends? How many views? How many shares?… If we took these things out, would anyone bother with social media?
  • The fact that we are being told to pursue the sciences because it’s better for career prospects, as opposed to studying the arts, such as music, drama, religious studies etc. The arts, in a very particular sense, are all founded on community and promote mutual understanding and collaborative learning. I’m not saying that the sciences don’t do this, but this isn’t their main purpose.
  • The cuts in funding for community based activities

At Trinity College Bristol, where I’m training for ordination, we’re very keen as a College to do things together. Here’s what Emma Ineson, the Principal of Trinity says about community:

The truth of the Good News is judged by the quality and integrity of the community which proclaims it. The quality of community at Trinity is something we expend effort on with good reason. Our relationships with one another reflect and influence our relationship with God. AlthoughTrinity is not a ‘church’ in the full sense, as a Christian community, our relationships will have a powerful effect on the kind of leaders we are shaping and becoming. We look at students as holistically as possible: high quality family life is important for those who are married, so we seek to offer support to spouses and children through Connect (our spouses’ group), our on-site nursery and pastoral/context groups. Likewise, the place and welfare of single students is important to us with responsibility for singles being shared by two faculty members. We have also developed specific approaches to supporting ‘commuting’ students, who return to their home and family for weekends. Good communications is vital for community, so we prioritise communication between students, faculty, governance and wider families as a matter of great importance. We also have chaplains who engage with the wider student and  staff body.

Long ago, we were told by God ‘not to build walls around this place’ – so our relationships with the wider community in Bristol and its churches is lived out in the way we engage, as staff and students, with the churches and people around us. We seek to be accountable to one another, to the wider community and – together and through one another – to God.

Community is becoming increasingly novel in our society and this is a serious problem. If we’re not careful, we’ll end up like the Capitol in The Hunger Games. I mention The Hunger Games because I went to see the new film in the cinema last night. What do I mean by this? The author wrote the book in an effort to warn society of the dangers of consumerism and individualism.

The Capitol of Panem is a technologically advanced, utopian city where the nation’s most wealthy and powerful live. The Capitol is also the colloquial name for the ruling government of Panem. As the seat of power in Panem, the nation’s thirteen districts are ruled from this city, and the Hunger Games are organised and celebrated inside it’s walls- a games where two “tributes” from each district come together to fight to the death. The Capitol is a tyrannical dictatorship, led by President Snow (before his death), and holds total political and economic dominance over Panem, enforcing its rule through an army of Peacekeepers, capital punishment, propaganda, and the Hunger Games.

In order to have a good time at a party and eat as much as they want, Capitol residents drink a special liquid that causes them to vomit, thus providing enough room for more food. The residents seem almost oblivious to the fact that although they go through lots of food and still have plenty left over, many of the districts’ residents are starving. Similarly, they enjoy personal entertainment and indulgence – they’re obsessed with their body image, love a good drama (no matter how wrong or bloody it is) and seem oblivious to their greed and materialistic ways.

It seems to me that we’re awfully close to this reality. The question is whether or not we’ve eroded community to the point where people don’t care, and are actually starting to embrace this change.

Dean Roberts

Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre. Read More @