How modern consumerist culture fails us.

BY EDITORIAL BOARD. GRAPHIC BY MEGAN MCKINNEY, ’22.

Fashion changes dizzyingly fast these days. The hottest trends can go “out of style” in seconds. When they do, many of us are apt to get rid of old clothes and start the buying process anew, scrolling endlessly through apps like Depop. We rush, without aim or end, through the endless cycle of fashion and unfashion, rarely stopping to consider the consequences of our habits. In partaking in this 24-hour cycle of fast fashion, we let ourselves be held captive to what celebrities and other trendsetters think is fashionable, denying ourselves of our very individuality.

More importantly, fast fashion has disastrous consequences on the environment. The carbon footprint in creating, shipping, distributing and selling a single article of clothing is incalculable. To not let that piece of clothing live its full life is nothing short of wasteful, and therefore we, as global citizens in the 21st century, have an obligation to consume responsibly.

One effective way to counter the excessive wastefulness of fast fashion is going thrifting—yes, in person. And don’t stop there: you can maximize your impact by also donating old clothes to thrift stores. Simply put, don’t be afraid to reject the culture of consumerism that we see all around us. You can be a trendsetter within your own community.

This is another area that we seem to want fast, and with effects that are just as pernicious: we want fast relationships with those in our community around us. We settle into our routines, rarely branching out to meet our fellow students outside the confines of our classes, clubs and sports. And with social media, our social interactions are often flattened into scrolling, liking and commenting. But getting to know people outside of our normal cliques or “friend groups” and doing so in a meaningful way can be edifying. This year, we are fortunate to have 20 minutes set aside each week for this purpose. Bear Connection is an opportunity to get to know our peers and connect with them on a deeper level. It’s a way to be grounded to our broader school community, interacting with those of different backgrounds, beliefs or interests.

Besides fashion and our sense of community, this “gimme-now” culture also manifests itself in the academic process at UAHS. Many students chase after grades, seeing them as the “end-all, be-all,” putting them above the learning process itself. It’s easy to feel satisfied when you earn a nice grade after a late night cram session. But true mastery of a topic takes time and dedication. This “fast learning,” like fast fashion, has obvious appeal and is easy to get addicted to. But, also like fast fashion, it’s not sustainable, nor is it conducive to the real learning that we should strive for.

It’s easy to dismiss all of this as regrettable yet natural and immutable, but our generation doesn’t know a different world. We came of age right as our culture was becoming even more materialistic. On the flip side, that means that it’s on us to pave a more sustainable, responsible future.

How, then, do we do that? Start by rejecting the materialistic culture that pervades fashion and other areas of life. Try to find roots in the community around you by engaging with your Bear Connections group. Take a moment to smell those proverbial roses. Focus on what matters. This may sound like a string of peppily moralizing commands that won’t change things. It’s fashionable, as it were, to blame the massive corporations or governments that undergird much of modern life for these issues. But, while institutional change is surely crucial, these corporations only act as they do in response to our demands as consumers.

That’s why we, the Arlingtonian editorial board, truly believe that change starts small. We, as the students of UAHS, all have the power and duty to improve our culture for the better, be that in the form of sustainable fashion or something else entirely. We, as people of the world, can make a difference. And we can start by acknowledging that, fast culture notwithstanding, good things come to those who wait.