Sunday 15 July 2012

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Musings on Consumerism...

I like to be organized, I can be messy but still there's order in my mess. How so ? am not quite sure, but this is what I like to tell myself.

So part of my "organizational" skills is to save receipts. My way of filing receipts in shoving them in shoe box,  with a label : receipts + the year. They are untidily "filed" but you got to admit there's a sense of organization there.

Anyways, this pile of shoe boxes started to really irk me. I decided to do something about it, throw them in the garbage. But the receipt hoarder in me argued - what if you need that particular receipt ? you never know who can come along and make a fraudulent claim, surely you must go through each shoe box, and check them out one by one before chucking them away.

Well these receipts have nothing to do with real important stuff. It's not a rent, electricity or phone bill receipt, it's just a bloody receipt like - Supermarket x, 25.2.2007 . Why would anyone keep a supermarket receipt ? Or sandals purchase Pretty Woman shop, dated 3.6.2008, and so on and so forth...

I opened each shoe box, the ink had faded and frankly I could not be bothered checking every single receipt, I just took them bundle by bundle and threw them in a garbage bag.

And while doing so I castigated myself rather severely for succumbing to non essentials, a shirt here, a scarf there, a dress in between, a lipstick here, a perfume there and so on and so forth all mixed with receipts for cucumbers, milk, tomatoes, toilet paper and soap. But still, I assure you am organized.

And while I was on the verge of some heavy handed self flagellation (Iraqis are good at that, well some are), and while angrily tearing each receipt cursing myself, I started pondering about consumerism...or the act of buying.

I do realize the ethos in consumerism is not limited to buying but is rather more complex, but for me this is what consumerism boils down to - buying in order to ---- (fill in the blanks)

In between -- did you really need those sandals back in 2008 and my politically/economically driven reflective mode, I asked myself the following question - what if every adult stopped buying non essentials. The essentials for me being:  food, soap, toilet paper, detergents, shampoo and a few more things. Assuming of course that every adult already has the bare essentials - a roof over their head, some furniture, a stove, a fridge, a toilet/bathroom, enough clothes to cover their bodies, shoes, electricity and running water.

Assuming every adult on the face of this earth already has these basics, what if every one stops buying. Just stop. No Books, no clothes, no CDs, no gadgets, no cars, no jewelry, no cosmetics -----(fill in the blanks).

And what if every adult only bought what they would consume or use in the immediate - what would happen then ?

Obviously a deadly blow to consumerism : to retail shops, to market chains, to restaurants, to the leisure industry, to TV and radio networks, to industry in general, except maybe for food and agro-business, since people have to eat. And maybe a few shops that would sell the same clothes and shoes for everyone. Imagine - you need a pair of shoes, sure thing, you only get to chose the size. We will all be dressed the same a bit like Mao's uniforms. Quite dull I must add.

But then my train of thought took me further than this first deadly blow, if we stop consuming/ buying, shops will close, plants will close, and who will suffer most ? those who are made redundant. The man or woman on the production line, these are the ones that will be the hardest hit. Now we are talking of millions and million of unemployed men and women. What will we do then ? How will we create jobs for them and who will employ us ? Unless they/us forcefully take over the "means of production", we are all screwed. But what if no one forcefully takes over the "means of production", what then ? Because this is what happened in the great depression, no one took over anything, people just took over their lives - suicide.

So I kept tearing away at these old useless receipts, thinking to myself, let's turn this around girl. How about you stop flagellating yourself and look at the "positive".

For starters I kept a few workers in their jobs, ok granted maybe the boss made the greatest chunk of the profits, but at least they had a job, and I sort of contributed to it by buying that shirt, or this book, or these pair of sandals.

Now this is no license for extravaganza, nor is it a license for bulimic consumerism, but there is an ancient wisdom that says when you let it circulate, everyone benefits. I know it sounds rather simplistic to some, particularly if you are a political economist hell bent on some radical revolution in the name of this or that ideology, but at the end of the day, I believe that whatever the system, there will always be a seller and a buyer...and there will always be someone who is making a profit, maybe not as savagely as now, maybe more moderately, with more "ethics" but frankly am not holding my breath.

And by the way no more shoe boxes for me.