I Consume ,Therefore I Am
I was reading something just the other day, and it struck me that the current trend of hyper consumerism is a fairly new one. Just two generations ago frugality and saving were seen as virtues. Our not-too-far-back ancestors (grandparents even) darned socks and mended furniture. They expected home appliances to last almost a lifetime; and it was a sin to waste food, even a crust of bread. I remember the fridge, washing machine and stove that parents had bought soon after their wedding that were in use in our home when I was a teen, 20 years after purchase. I remember being given a glass of milk to dip my bread crusts in so as not to waste them…does this sound like aeons ago?….no… a mere 35 years ago… not quite one generation. So what changed? Why this quantum leap in such a short time? My answer is simple – Capitalism – the singular goal of every corporation is to grow, expand, increase. Capitalism and frugality do not mix well. Corporations keep producing new products and they need buyers to fuel their never-ending need for more. And so the marketing circus begins. Billions are spent convincing us that we need products, that having these things will make us happy, popular, admired. We are told we deserve them. We are made to feel uncomfortable for not having them. We are told we need them now, we must have them now, waiting and saving up is just not good enough. And so the world spends, and learns to want instant gratification. And before we know it we can no longer afford all we want, and banks (also corporations, by the way) respond by offering credit… at a cost. Fashions change so fast, technology becomes outdated in no time at all, and we respond by replacing outdated clothes after a season, changing cellphones every year at most…and find ourselves endlessly paying clothing accounts, cellphone contracts, car instalments, credit card debt. Another interesting topic is the health industry, we are sold on the concept of convenience food – fast food allows us to spend more time sitting in front of our television, device in hand, being fed even more marketing propaganda. Cooking from scratch is so last season! I remember an ad for frozen vegetables saying “we are far too busy for chop chop chop”. We commute, sit behind desks, sit in front of the television or device…and suddenly the world is collectively fatter than it has ever been. Clever corporations are just too happy to respond with a profit generating solution… the diet industry is currently one of the biggest and fastest growing industries. Billions are spent on diets, gym memberships, tablets, classes….the list of options is endless. Billions are spent each year yet our per capita weight continues its gradual incline. My question is are we happier for all of this? Is what we are sold true – that all of this “stuff” makes us happier? My belief is no. We have to work to pay for everything we own, then we have to work harder to have more. We spend less time at home, less time with family, more time at work, more time stressing. The picture we are painted is suddenly not so bright. I believe there is a solution, it’s simple really, but at the same time radical and revolutionary. The first step is consciousness – “life is so busy, I hardly have time to think!” – we have all said or heard this statement – and that’s exactly the plan. The plan is that we absorb, spend, accept what we are fed, not that we think about whether this is our best life, or whether there is another way. Conscious living means actively evaluating your actions, decisions and choices. The choices you make become deliberate, and based on your values and your personal truth. Taking time to define your true values, and measuring every decision against those values is the first step towards concious living. Step two is choosing a simpler life. How does it make sense to sit on the side of the road and watch someone wash our car when we could spend a few calories to do it ourselves, and maybe even get our children to help? We drive our dogs in a non-renewable resource fueled, carbon emitting car to get washed, when we can do it at home. We buy a few leaves of herbs packaged in an excessive amount of plastic at an exorbitant price when they could grow on our windowsill. Cooking from scratch and eating real food is an act of revolution that helps save our planet in more ways that I have time to mention here, tilling soil and cultivating a small food garden could change the world. Spending real time with our partners and children, giving children chores and responsibilities will change the face of future generations. Dinner served at a table and enjoyed without devices in hand is a simple act that can keep a family together. Our planet is more sick than she has ever been, and cannot sustain us on this tragectory. Humans have never been as unhealthy, stressed and depressed as they are now. The family unit is more broken than ever before. Surely it is clear that what we are sold as happiness is not so at all? Surely the time to make a change is now….