Today I heard this:

“Infants are like consumers.”

It got me thinking. I’m probably going to make some assumptions here and use lots of faulty logic to make some points.  Please forgive me and read this anyway.

Now I recognize that even if this is true, it is not a given that there is any truth in the corollary “Consumers are like infants.”  One doesn’t necessarily follow from the other, even if we want it to.  And I really want it to.

Instead, I’m forced to think it through and make the case all by myself.  I’ll attempt to do so by harnessing the the three energies that make infants so incredibly remarkable.

Eat. Sleep. Poop.

I propose that consumers, like babies, are defined by these three core competencies.

1) Eat

All babies have to eat.  For our purposes, it is the most obvious parallel to consumption.  They eat. Consumers consume.  It doesn’t take an incredible amont of mental prowess to make this connection.

To take it farther though, babies are voracious eaters.  It is almost as if they’re desperate for nourishment, that if they don’t eat at exactly this moment, they will disintegrate into a puff of baby powder.  And it is no secret when they’re ready to eat because they’re incredibly vocal (did I mean to write obnoxious?) about letting you know.

They need to eat.

Consumers consume voraciously too.  In a way, our economy depends on it, but we don’t spend money as a act of patriotism.  We buy things because we have some real or fabricated need to have those things.  We buy things because to deny ourselves would be to risk disintegrating into a puff of moola.  And it is no secret when we’ve procured something new because we’re incredibly vocal (same question) about letting you know.

We need to consume.

2) Sleep

Babies sleep a lot.  Sure they need to, but they can only do so when their other needs are met.  Babies won’t sleep if they need to eat. They have priorities.  Assuming that their bellies are full, and they’re in a safe, quiet environment where they don’t have any other concerns sleep is most likely what you’ll find them doing.

Consumers also seem to sleep well at night.  We surround ourselves with safe surroundings that block out all of the noise outside.  Not just the sounds of passing cars and sirens and trains.  The noise of those whose voice has been compromised.  Those living in poverty whose voice isn’t loud enough to be noticed.  Those having to endure dangerous circumstances because we have drowned them out.

Like babies, we sleep well at night.  I wonder: those times when we wake up at 3:00am because we thought we heard something, did we actually hear something?

3) Poop

Our consumption comes stinky, revolting waste – the kind that we’ve seen in our children’s diapers.  We try to find ways to make it manageable in the same way that humankind has been inspired by the disposable diaper.

Amazingly, it seems uncontrollable.  For consumers AND babies.  There’s just a lot of waste that goes along with being a kid.

So, I wonder what all this means for consumerism.  Are the biggest consumers among us less advanced, less grown up than those that are less bourgeois?  Is it a less advanced state to be obsessed with acquisitions?

If this is in fact true, how does the comparison hold up when we make the observation that no one wants (or chooses, for that matter) to remain a baby for their entire lives?  If the natural thing to do is to become more advanced, to learn more, to progress, to “grow up”, what does that mean for our consumer culture, and our individual materialism?

As important (and fun) as eating, sleeping, and pooping is, there comes a time when we all have to grow up.