As many experience high petrol prices, higher living costs and job loss, demand for iPads and Nintendos remains very high
As over 250,000 demonstrated in London over the weekend against the government’s program of cuts, there was an equally impressive demonstration and passion for another cause as many people formed long queues along Oxford Street (one of the major shopping streets in London) and simultaneously in many shopping streets around the UK. They queued for the Apple iPad 2, which sold over a million on its first weekend. Many more thousands lined up overnight outside hundreds of shops from Slough to Sheffield trying to get their hands on the latest Nintendo 3DS (games console), with Street Fighter 4 and Nintendogs + Cats leading the games rush.
This is in the same Britain where hundreds of thousands are loosing their jobs in the coming years including teachers, doctors and many other public and private sector workers due to government cuts aimed at trimming the state and reducing the deficit. The same Britain where the price of petrol and the general cost of living has risen in the last few months. The same Britain where many are angry, gloomy and demonstrating due to the economic squeeze.
Are there two Britain’s? That of cuts and that of huge spending on designer goods, and games consoles – amongst all levels of society? The iPad 2 costs between £399 and £659, depending on the fancy features you need (and apparently 25% of those buying it also bought the iPad 1 only a few months ago). The Nintendo 3DS retails for around £229.99 (minus street fighting or other games).
Are the tens of thousands rushing to buy these gadgets all bankers and highly paid Premier League football stars? No. In the queues, you will find students and all other sorts of people. Some – especially those buying the Nintendo gaming console – were ordinary mums and dads squeezing out a few hundred pounds to make sure their kids had something to boast about at primary school as they compare gadgets with other kids.
So while the West recently endured a recession, and while there continues to be a squeeze on most people’s personal finances, the population finds money for Ipads and games consoles. The now ancient precursor to the latest Nintendo 3DS sold a global 145million over the years and the Nintendo 3DS is set to do even better. Research says it’s what all kids “must have”. So it’s what all parents have to buy – along with a smartphone, a Wii, and an iPad 2 (before the latest gadget arrives and knocks it off the list). This isn’t some entirely voluntary option, it is now regarded as a test of a parents “love”. It is a necessity. A necessity which leads some to incur debt in order to keep up.
It’s about status, children, love and the consumer industries ability to manufacture new must haves. It is about a constant redefinition of wants which parents, workers and all have to keep up with no matter the strained economic circumstances. It is about something deeply rooted in the secular capitalist culture and its values of constant gratification through consumption. Sadly, this culture has been exported to the world and the same demands can be seen from Dubai to Durban.
As the world talks about issues as diverse as global pollution or the huge personal debt incurred by individuals trying to acquire these new ‘wants’, the world would do well to question this western export. As Muslims struggle to establish a society built on Islamic values, the Khilafah, many in the world will welcome an alternative set of values where consumption takes place but is not the be all and end all or a main means to status or a child’s love.
The mutual rivalry for piling up of worldly things diverts you, until you visit the graves (i.e. till you die). [TMQ At-Takathur 102 v1-2 ]
Media representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Britain