The spirit of the times is characterized by a different type of consumerism. In ancient times people consume products via barter. A farmer grows wheat and then he goes to his neighbor who happens to be a fisherman and they exchange goods. A lumberjack would do the same, he would offer his service or sell lumber in exchange for a sack of salt or a sack of flour.
But in the 21st century consumerism is no longer dictated by the needs of men but by the influence of marketers, advertising agencies, writers, artists who have the power like the Pied Piper of Hamelin. These are people who can make you do things and buy stuff without even knowing why you are driven to do so. It can be simplified as doing it out of the backend or in other words they create the market even before the actual product.
A good example is the phenomenon of the Harry Potter franchise. It began as an idea in the head of J.K. Rowling the author. At first, no one had a clue as to what she was trying to say. Those who are familiar with her rags-to-riches story know that many publishers rejected her manuscript. In other words no one wants to know. It was only after one publisher took a gamble and her books became a bestseller when people began to notice.
A short while after that the spirit of the times kicked into high gear. J.K. Rowling was approached by film producers to buy the rights to her book so that they can turn it into a movie. The moment Rowling signed the dotted line the wheels began to turn in Hollywood and the marketing blitz began.
The first thing they did was to hype the best-selling book. The second thing they did was to hype the author’s sudden rise to riches and fame and then they made the movie. By the time the first installment of the Harry Potter movie series came out even those who have not read the book wanted to see the film.
The interest to the movie was of course driven by the fans of the book and of course their parents, their friends, and then the web grew bigger and it did not come as a surprise that the movie generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.
But what came next was a testament to the spirit of the times there were products that were created as a direct result of the success of the book and the movie. There are T-shirts, toys, and video games. In order to sustain this marketing frenzy J.K. Rowling had to write a few more books. Then cycle repeats itself. The movie producers buy the rights to the books and create the next sequel to the first one.
The rest of the industry built around the Harry Potter franchise continues to work at a frenetic pace as well because the demand for more of the Harry Potter merchandize. Millions were being sold all over the globe. It has brought the whole Harry Potter industry into a new level. The brains behind the astute marketing of the books, movies, and other products were able to create a demand that a few years before did not exist.
The spirit of the times is all about consumerism that goes beyond the basic needs of man. In the past it was all about food, clothing, and shelter. In the present the same thing applies, people still need food, people still need to be clothed, and they still need to have a roof over their heads. But this time around those needs are easily satisfied and therefore it is no longer enough to have basic commodities, these products must be enhanced. Therefore, the fried chicken must be packaged and sold together with a toy from a popular movie.
Man requires clothes but this time around the T-shirt has the face of Spider-Man or Wolverine printed on it. Man requires a home but this time around the home has to contain gadgets and gizmos. The gadgets should be a multi-tasker, able to make calls, provide the news, tell the time, behave like an alarm clock if needed, provide a map, and even order pizza.
There are many who object the crass commercialism that defines the age that we live in. But there seems to be no way out. It has been ingrained into the social fabric of this country. The next generation does not know how to live without the stimulation that these products can give. It will continue as long as the formula keeps on working. Shrewd businessmen controlling all forms of media will always find a way to exploit this weakness.
The spirit of the times is all about creating a demand, creating hunger and then satisfying that need. It is bizarre in the sense that man can live without it and yet after a series of marketing campaigns people are convinced that they needed to acquire the latest iphone, the latest laptop, an expensive watch, an expensive shoe. The brains behind the marketing campaigns were able to create a deep-felt need and then turn around to produce the remedy for that longing and desire.
Another good example of the spirit of the times is the Star Wars franchise. The producers of the film capitalized on the success of the first three installments of the movie and then they turn around to create a demand by saying that there is a prequel to Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. It can be argued that these three movies are already perfect and there is no need to explain what happened to Luke Skywalker when he was a boy and the reason why Darth Vader became the villain.
A simple prologue and epilogue would have sufficed and the audience will still be satisfied with the story of the first three movies. However, the marketing geniuses at Hollywood began to work their magic and they succeeded in whetting the appetite of the movie-going public by telling them that it is imperative that they should go watch a movie to know more about the life of Luke Skywalker. As a result the fans of the Star Wars trilogy had to endure long lines and to spend money just to watch the prequel.
The negative impact is clearly seen in the accumulation of expensive toys that clutter the home. These things are made of plastic and paper and this means that these are not durable goods. It will only take a short time before people will see their favorite toys in the trash bin.
In less than a year a game console will lose its appeal or worse it would break down. Another wave of demand will be created first Batman then Spider-Man, X-Men, Harry Potter and Iron Man. Every change of season and every change of mood will increase the stockpile of rubbish but the producers and the manufacturers of expensive but disposable items will continue to make profit.
This cannot be helped because humanity has evolved into a species where the attention span is less than five minutes and yet requiring stimulation. Boredom is a word hated by children, teenagers, and adults. There is constant need for distraction. Gone are the days when a teenager is contented to sit on a corner and read classics.
The whole planet operates at a much faster rate and everyone should keep up. It is no longer enough to focus on the basic needs for a long time ago man already understood that man does not live on these things alone. This realization did not come from years of meditation; it was the advertising agencies and the marketing experts who were able to create a demand before the actual product. It is difficult to understand but it is everywhere. The evidence is seen in homes, the schools, and offices all over the world.
The spirit of the times is more than crass commercialism it is the creation of demand in the minds of the general public and when that idea becomes a desire the companies and individuals who worked hard to create such impact will then benefit from the demand.
Interestingly the demand for a product was non-existent at first but then those who want to sell it has succeeded in creating that hunger that desire. It may seem harmless at first but a closer look at the toys, gadgets, and products that were manufactured to satisfy this demand one will realize the amount of money wasted on these things.
However, the desire to acquire and to experience something has been created in the hearts and minds of individuals that they will not find rest and peace until they can have the latest gadget, watch an overly-hyped movie, buy a game console etc. It will take sometime before people began to realize that they are wasting time and it is time to go against the status quo.