The 21CN has established consumerism as a significant cornerstone in social and economic development. It has been identified as a key global growth factor and as such is widely adapted by veteran capitalism countries, as well as many of the new emerging world forces in China and India. Sadly, the negative effects it has on the environment and sustainability are widely documented , and so is the damaging impact on our well-being, such as from the institute of well being or from consumercide (The New Politics of Consumption: Why Americans want so much more than they need). The observer from March-2010 quotes a research from the Economic Journal by Curtis Eaton and Mukesh Eswaran:
There is another downside. As people yearn for more status symbols they have less time or inclination for helping others. This, the authors argue, damages “community and trust”, which are vital to an economy because they ensure the smooth running of society. They conclude: “Conspicuous consumption can have an impact not only on people’s well-being but also on the growth prospects of the economy.” The theory may go some way to explaining the public backlash against the louche lifestyles of the UK’s footballers, bankers and politicians.
So, to counter those harmful aspects, organizations such as Ethical Consumer have put their mission to offer alternatives.
As far as my contribution, perhaps looking slightly at a bigger picture, I will outline in this post, 7 consumptions sins: seven things you don’t really need. Yes, really. No, you don’t need any of those.
With no particular order:
- Branded Clothes – From Naomi Klein‘s “No Logo”, to stores that sell unbranded clothes, this phenomenon is not new. You want to belong, and be unique, so you buy your jeans at Levi’s or Diesel, and feel you achieve this balance. You should know better and perhaps join the scouts, and likely learn more about sharing, teamwork, togetherness, and being part of something bigger than you; while still having lots of fun in the meantime. So have clothes you like and can afford, and I did not even start to mention they will often be more comfortable. Let’s get back on track –
- Latest and Greatest (aka Gadgets) – If you are one of those people with iPad considering an upgrade to iPad 2, this is a must read for you. You may ponder on this – coming form a Technology guy or at least one pretending to be such, it may initially sound shocking. In fact, it shouldn’t. I know that from any 10 new ideas I have, 8 tend to be on the rubbish side, 1 is OKish, and one may be worthwhile (I flattered myself, I know). Your percentile may vary, but you get the idea. Sometimes to get to the quality, you need to keep the flow of quantity running. When I did copyrighting school, the most important lesson for me was the association game: throw more and more ideas into the room, zoom in and out, play with them preferably with a team, gather the ones that best fit the brief, make it happen. Sometimes combine few, sometimes you will inspire others, or be inspired by others. The floor will be full of walked on garbage ideas. So, what is that all nostalgia reminiscence? Maybe, instead of throwing the shitty gadgets you are bound to be buying acquiring all those latests, don’t get them to begin with! You can always get later the ones that stick around, that really make an impact on your life, that make a difference to your relationships, to people that matter to you. Use the passing time to your advantage and get proportion. Indeed, you may want to be first, so you can have those bragging rights. Alas my friend, bragging is another thing you don’t really need…
- Bragging Rights (and Show Off in general) – Whenever you need something external to make you feel good about yourself, halt. You are doing something wrong. This may be the part of your Ego that is not helping you. You give one of your best assets, the control on your happiness and well being, to something you do not control. It’s often a big mistake. It will lead you to reliance upon that external substance. Something that can be taken away from you. Replace it with inner strength. Easier said than done, I agree. But a good clue is to avoid any bragging, any show off, any status symbols, anything that smells “I’m better because I have it and you don’t”. You are very important because you mean a lot to the few people that care about you. Nothing else. And while we are on external substances…
- Alcohol, drugs, cigarettes and other addictions – Unless your name is Jane, those are a no no. They take away your second vital asset: short span of time you were given by mighty ____ (feel up based on your religion or beliefs). Some even take your free will so in the name of freedom you willingly take yours away, dominate your thoughts (e.g. getting more of the substance) and replace your needs with new illusions of perceived needs. Do you really want perceived needs when you already have real ones? RIP Amy.
- Gambling – A close relative of above, as a common addiction – but with a slight addition to being evil and destructive: it is mathematically proven wrong doing, manipulating lots of hard earn cash to make profits for those that already have too much sins commited. It is sponsoring criminals and Mafia. Who else needs a Wonga.com paying 4200% interest for 400 GBP (max) for a month, if not a mind-stolen gambling junkie? Evil services from the dark side, even Darth Vader would fear.
- Guilt & Greed – “What’chu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”. Well, slightly beyond the scope for this post, we sometimes carry those emotional feelings, in as much as we carry fear, lack of confidence, envy – to name just a few. To a certain extent all of those are not needed, but they do serve as some kind of a warning sign, and in moderation can turn the wheel in your favour and have positive outcomes. Fear can direct you away from trouble, and envy can perhaps give you motivation for initiative. Even guilt, a voice from your conscious, or greed, an act of ambition, can sometimes drive you to the right track. The reason I chose carefully guilt and greed, is because they have a dimension directly linked to buying things. Guilt often causes you to compensate. And compensation is not as pure, and as fitting, as the original causality. Buying excessive toys to kids because you do not spend any time with them, is an example of the former. Greed is the fundamental drive causing you to need things you do not need. So eliminating one bird, will cause the whole tree to fall. Or something like that. I’m pretty sure there was another bird somewhere, originally. But we don’t need it either.
- Big Weddings – Something that is almost a plague in my homeland. And I do not mean, to those that can afford it. It is those couples that struggle to have or rent a home, do not get a lot of help from their parents, their current work income is hardly sufficient to their basic needs, yet they spend a fortune inviting 600-800 people some of which they hardly know, with expensive catering, bar (in my country it is usually free for the guests – here in UK that is almost suicidal…), exquisite scenery and location, music, dresses and cloth, flowers and décor, invitations, party theme, lavish car to pick the newly wed, a top photographer… it is endless. In the name of “our life are going to be tough so at least we make one day perfect”, the young couple throws themselves down many a steps in the ladder, they will than need few years just to get back to where they were. Extremely short term satisfaction never lasts (if at all, many a times it is another case of bragging, hiding the real situation, or pseudo-satisfaction meaning external show off rather than a real intrinsic one). I’m all for experiences in general, and they prove to be more valuable to ones long term mental health than consuming things, but this is more about consuming artificial commodities in the experience. You can make a lifelong shining experience, by focusing on the things you do need in your wedding: relations, friends, party atmosphere, fun. Everything can be reconsidered to fit your budget and needs, helping you to start your life as a couple on a positive note (and positive balance). Your real friends will want this for you as well.
- Bonus – Too long posts by people that tell you what you need and what you don’t need – they make me sick. In fact, I’m sick. I wonder why.