Ben’s Consumerism Essay

Our son Ben (12) is now officially being home schooled, and he loves it.  We have been studying consumerism this week, and I set Ben a task of watching the documentary “What Would Jesus Buy?” which I wrote about in this post many moons ago.

After he finished watching it, I set him an essay to write with the question, “What is the main reason for the rapid growth of the consumer culture?

Ben wrote one of the best essays I have ever read for a lad his age, and I am not being biased at all 😉  He said that I could share it all with you.  So here goes:

“On the 25th December Jesus was born and this day became known as Christmas.  Christmas was all about love and family time, but with the invention of advertising everything changed massively, which means people are no longer happy just being together.

The effect of advertising has overcome most of us and we are consuming too much and shops are being taken over by industries like Wal-Mart or Disney and hardly anything is being made local, it now comes from places like India and China. 

People are starting to think that Christmas is all about buying lots of expensive gifts for each other and confusing this with love, but this is not the point and people don’t understand.  Advertising is getting out of control; you can see advertisement basically anywhere like magazines or television or even bill boards, this is making people shopaholics!  People are wasting a lot of money and they should really try to spend their money wisely and get the most out of their money.  Another bad thing that people are doing is using credit cards to buy lots of things on them, but they are getting into debt and this causes other problems like having no money to pay for their normal household bills. 

I honestly think there are five points that make ads draw you in:

  • Detailed words
  • A picture showing a product
  • Good value (because it’s imported)
  • Adjectives: such as “You must have” “The new craze” “get it and it will change your life”
  • And most of all, its purpose!

Let’s talk about cheap labour now and to explain this lets begin with China for example poor people are working in sweat shop making toys or clothes. If people knew how much abuse and work it takes to make these things people might finally switch to buying local things!
Another thing about cheap labour is that they put so much work into something they then send it off to America or somewhere else and the shop charges more money for it, like $10 while the person in China only gets paid like 30 cents which is very sad.  Another sad thing is that people are getting killed by shopping because people are rushing into stores and pushing just so they can get limited edition or things that are nearly out of stock or on sale!

My summary of this story is to return Christmas the way it use to be, people need to stop spending money and maybe they should start making local things instead of buying Chinese toys/TVs/Clothing which breaks very easily and are often thrown away which then causes more pollution. 


Please leave a comment to let Ben what you think of his essay.  I bet he would love some feedback.


  1. says

    Ben, you are very wise and your essay is well written. We receive 4 channels on our television through our antennae. After not watching TV of any kind for close to 5 years, I am appalled at the ads. They are horrific! As we don’t focus on “what we are going to get for Christmas” our kids are totally flabbergasted at how often they are asked this question while we are out and about. We homeschool as well and love that the kids have more time to learn about the things that REALLY matter in life and your essay proves just that. Well done! :)

  2. Anonymous says


    I ran across something I’d written when I was 10 1/2 and traveling to my Grandmother’s house for the summer. It was pitifully embarrassing.

    I wish I’d been as smart as you. Your Dad is proud. Yep.

    brenda from arkansas

  3. Sarah R no. 2 says

    i like your line Ben, “your stuff won’t love you back.” I think people do put an emotional investment into their belongings and find it hard to resist to not buy more things. You are right that it is more important to concentrate on the relationships with the people whom we love. Lovely essay.

  4. Anonymous says

    Hi Ben

    Reading your essay I was reminded of a picture in The Age a month or so ago which featured a cargo ship laden with containers filled with cheap imports to satisfy our Xmas buying frenzy. How can we justify our materialism on the back of poorly paid workers and ever diminishing natural resources. I think that one day you will write a book on this. Well done!

  5. says

    Thanks everyone for the feedback and encouragement for young Ben. He was chuffed to bits yesterday that his essay had reached so many people with over 200 page views in one day! It has really given him confidence that his writing style is sound and want so learn so much more about sustainable living. Chip off the old block!

    Gav x

  6. says

    Well done Ben! Sobering words which ring so true in today’s rampant consumerism where gifts are mistaken to equate to love. How far from the truth that is. The fact that at the tender age of 12 you’ve already come to understand this is a wonderful thing.

  7. says

    Hello Ben, Thank you for your essay and for sharing it with us. It is a pleasure to read of a young man who has a good idea of what consumerism and advertising is really about. I talk to my children about all these things and think it is great that you and your dad are exploring these important issues. Please share more of your findings and thoughts with us in the future for no one is every too old to learn something new or to be reminded of what is important in life. Your Dad has certainly made a contribution to me and my family and our outlook on life.

  8. says

    Hi Ben, everyone else has said what I would have said about your content, so I’ll comment on your writing style. You get an A for English expression. Your writing is clear, well structured, and engaging. I read right to the end with interest.

  9. says

    well done Ben, there are still people who are 4 times your age who dont get it.
    maybe Ill forward your essay to them, and then they will understand.

  10. says

    Ben wrote:
    “the person in China only gets paid like 30₵ which is very sad”.

    Yes it is very sad Ben – and what makes it more sad is that we want the cheaper products that can be provided through this exploitation.

    Cheaper prices are so important to us that we are willing to deny others the same kinds of pay that we demand as a right.

  11. says

    Hi Ben,

    The truth daren’t be spoken by grown ups. We don’t have the wisdom or courage of youth any more.

    Well written. Beautifully expressed. Have an amazing Chritsmas as I know you will.

  12. Anonymous says

    Welcome to your new education, Ben – enjoy the slower lifestyle and the time to indulge in learning for as long as you want, wherever you want! We’re into our 11th year of home schooling and the opportunities are endless.

    Your essay is timely and thought-provoking – glad your dad put it up on his blog to share.


  13. says

    That’s a great essay Ben, good to see you’re thinking about these issues.

    Some other references that I have found useful on this topic are The Story of Stuff (, which explains that this consumerism was designed to stimulate the American economy after WW2 (ie it didn’t just happen, it was intentional) AND another book that I read called The Capitalism Delusion, which explain how free trade has killed local production (ie if we had import tariffs, imported goods wouldn’t be cheaper and we would be more likely to buy locally made goods).

    The important thing for me is that this culture didn’t just happen, it was designed, and that means that we can redesign our economy to support local jobs and vibrant communities, as soon as we stop believing that economic growth is what we need to improve our “standard of living”.

  14. Dawn says

    Well Done Ben! You really thought through this whole issue of consumerism and gave a great explanation that anyone could understand. It’s one of the most important things you can ever learn – how to explain what you know or think or feel – and the fact that you write so clearly at the ripe old age of 12 is a good sign! Have a great Christmas with your family and your feast!

  15. says

    Good work Ben!

    We’ve been homeschooling our 13yo daughter for this past year and it’s made such a difference to her education. Good luck with Ben’s schooling – it’s a huge change in lifestyle and is just so worth it.

  16. says

    Well Ben, you are spot on! And you are right, people need to go back to what is important. How many people stress at Christmas time because of shopping and money?! What a great essay!

  17. says

    well done ben, so true. I am making lots of gifts for my step children. we will then spend the day together. Its really neat watching them open their gifts and not much money has been spent only my time.
    I like that saying you wrote “stuff will never love us back” that pretty much sums it up nicely.
    hope you have a wonderful xmas

  18. says

    Ben – Great essay. you, know, when I look back on all the stuff I got as a kid, I can’t even remember it all. It’s a blur.

    But I remember singing carols with my friends, and Christmas dinners with my family, and the first time I donated some of my old toys to charity – I must have been about ten – and how good it felt.

    Stuff will never love us back. I think that’s what we need to remember at Christmas.

    Have a great Christmas!

  19. Sarah R says

    Great essay, Ben.

    I think you’ve really got to the bottom of what really matters and what’s going wrong with consumer culture. My family are only giving home made gifts this year – that way we know where they came from and what’s in them. Best of all, they will all be made with love.

    Keeping thinking outside the box – it will be a very valuable skill for you.

  20. says

    Ben – what a very thoughtful and thought provoking essay. I’m so very pleased your Dad chose to share it with folks like me who read your Dad’s blog.

    I hope you have a happy and very peaceful Christmas.

    I’m looking forward to taking over my parents’ kitchen as I cook for them over my 2 weeks of holiday – the veg will be from Dad’s garden.

    Sending care and huggles to you all, Michelle over in Wellington, NZ

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