I guess one could make an arguement for walmart as being good for offering cheap stuff and giving people jobs, but there's always another side. There's a lot going on behind the scenes. A lot of their products and many products sold in the U.S. are made in factories that exploit people and the environment. They make a lot more profit than they need to off of most of this stuff. And its easy not to care when the effects of this process are hidden from us. Most of the damage takes place in other countries where we can't see the people being exploited, or in the air and water all over the world. It's a matter of perspective. When you get a different perspective, a more accurate perspective than the majority American media will show us, it's hard not to care.
The damage of consumerism is also taking place in our minds though, another place we can't neccesarily see, but it hits closer to home. The average american child now has anxiety levels equal to those of children in psychiatric wards 50 years ago. That scares me, and I think a lot of it is due to the dumping of massive amounts of consumer information into our society. As Marilyn Manson said in Bowling for Colmubine–people buy out of fear, and marketers know that and take advantage of it. Kids and adults alike are being manipulated and it is having real effects. Sometimes there is a long cascade of consequences that makes it easy to lose sight of the real problem, but it all fits together.
The overwhelming majority of the crap being marketed stuff that people dont really need, but are brainwashed into buying. People of all classes fall into that category. We need to look out for each other in this respect. One thing that I have noticed is how rare it is for one person to say to another it is a good idea NOT to buy something. I think people have a bias towards affirmation when someone asks them 'hey do you think i should get this?'. A lot of times we like to hear yes from our friends to justify buying and they like to make us happy. If i say my goal is to buy a new car for example, very few people that I know would tell me that's a foolish goal and I should just save my money and keep the car I have because it works just fine. They want to be supportive. It works the same for a sweater or gadget or anything else. There's and attitude of 'hey you deserve it' that marketers have really promoted and taken advantage of. We have to fight back.
Then there's the fact that its just habit to buy stuff instead of spending time w/ people. There's a lot of people we feel obligated to buy crap for, even though they are relatives that we secretly cant stand and wouldnt want to spend any time with. I don't know the answer to that, but that accounts for a lot of the consumerist folly at least in my family.
I agree that the system of buying and selling things is going to be near impossible to avoid, and that we even may need it. People to make stuff we need, people to buy it, jobs created by this etc. But don't you think it would be nice if they didn't have to destroy so much in the process. There are manufactures out there, though few and far between, that have a conscience. They can make products and employ people without expoitation and destruction. When companies get as huge as walmart or gap, they inevitably become evil, and they only get that big by cheating and hurting others to begin with.