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Politics and Music: Consumerism on our Windowsills

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There is no denying that we live in a consumerist culture and in a nation with an arguably intrusive government. Trying to escape the consumer culture, many millennials are going minimalist. “Windowsill” by Arcade Fire captures the feelings many people have regarding the inescapability of our own culture and their disgust with that fact.

To refresh on some high school social studies, consumerism is the promotion of consumers’ interests, relying on the idea that an increasing consumption of goods is economically desirable. Buying things is important to our economy, indubitably, but consumerism can ultimately be psychologically harmful. Amitai Etzioni, in this article for the Huffington Post, draws upon Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (so much high school review.) There are some things that need to be purchased simply for survival, like clothes, a house and a car. Farther up the pyramid are higher needs like self esteem and self-actualization.

When people start buying things that are beyond their means or unnecessary in order to attempt to satisfy the higher needs, consumption becomes consumerism and consumerism becomes “a social disease.”  

In “Windowsill,” Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler sings, “Don’t wanna hear the noises on TV, Don’t want the salesmen coming after me… Don’t want it faster, I don’t want it free”. Very obviously he is recognizing the issue of our consumer culture and is expressing that desire to escape.

Millennials are being said to resist the pull of consumerism, in contrast to the generations before them. This article by Postconsumers claims the ”laziness” many baby boomers think millennials have is simply their refusal to slave away at a job for more money, choosing instead to prioritize happiness. Many millennials are going minimalist and choosing to declutter their lifestyles, seeking to spend money on experiences, not things.

Not only are millennials changing the baby boomer tradition of consumerism, they are extremely unhappy with and distrustful of federal government. According to a 2015 poll by Harvard’s Institute of Politics, 83 percent of millennials don’t have any faith in Congress, while around half don’t believe in our justice system. Additionally, 57 percent of respondents said they trust scientists, a much higher number than the 11 percent who trust the media.

All throughout the song, Butler repeats the phrase, “Don’t wanna live in my father’s house no more”, I interpret this to mean America and the culture of our parents.

In the second verse, with a swell of horns, Butler sings, “I don’t wanna live in America no more.” I know that in this frankly absurd political climate, many young Americans feel this way. It’s hard to find the positive right now; everything we haven’t wanted to see on our windowsills has arrived.

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