MERRY CONSUMERISTMAS!

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Black Friday Picture

Having just witnessed the madness of Black Friday sales here in the UK, where we don’t actually celebrate Thanks Giving, a day dedicated to gratitude, and instead simply jump straight into the ‘buying’ part, (now also followed by ‘Cyber Monday’, the online equivalent), it got me thinking about why we actually do this to ourselves and how this thirst for a ‘bargain’ can continuously be quenched in the long run.

How many more ‘sale’ days can companies actually come up with? Following Black Friday we have Boxing Day, when we can get all this rubbish for even less money. Then comes New Years, Valentines, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Birthdays, End of season sales, Mid-season sales, Halloween, Guy Fawkes etc…the list is endless. If retail companies could, I’m sure they would add extra days onto the year just to create more ways to shift their stock as quickly as possible. The Christmas month has long become a commercialised, frantic time of year when people stress about buying presents that nobody needs and take out pay-day loans to pay for it all. All simply because we are made to believe that this is normality and that it will make us and our children happy. Most children I know are happy playing with a cardboard box and don’t really care for the latest toy until, of course, they are presented with the idea on television.

In fact retailers are investing most of their time and money in keeping our society as ‘consumerised’ as possible. And let’s face it, it’s working! We as a society are brainwashed and always hungry for more cheap products we don’t need and probably shouldn’t buy. Constantly being confronted with adverts wherever we go is bound to have an effect on our behaviours. Believe it or not, there is actually a whole science behind this. “Watch your brain and watch your wallet,” says Ian Cook, professor of psychiatry at UCLA. It is estimated that the average American saw 560 daily advertising messages in 1971 and by 1997 this number increased to over 3,000 per day (Shenk, D., Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut, 1997). That’s 6 times the amount! I wonder what that figure looks like today, 17 years on? Thinking about it I now almost feel abused. I have to be honest, if I didn’t see that new pair of shoes in the magazine, I wouldn’t have wanted to buy them, because I don’t actually need them. Today we even have bloggers advertising for companies, seemingly for free, because people will actually read stuff about stuff. Ironically, many of these bloggers actually make money through…you guessed it…online advertising and affiliate marketing!

All of this doesn’t just affect our brains or our wallets, it also affects our environment. In fact, 99% of what we buy is thrown away within 6 months as highlighted by ‘The Story of Stuff’ project (check out their very informative video). Something’s got to give when we are living in a cycle of buying and discarding, buying and discarding. Most of the materials to produce this stuff are sourced from poorer countries because we have actually run out of them ourselves. For example the US has less than 4% of its original forests left (Brown, L., Renner, M., Flavin, C., Vital Signs, 1998) and according to the book Natural Capitalism (P. Hawken, A. Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins), in the past three decades, one-third of the planet’s natural resources have been consumed. How could our planet ever sustain this? Plus, it’s not only the environment that is suffering. One of the main reasons that these products can be sold so cheaply and still make a profit is because companies are exploiting cheap labour from people who have no other choice but to work for pennies, people from countries where the average person simply can’t afford to ‘shop till they drop’. All this is called, Inequality of Consumption.

Inequality of Consumerism

These figures are shocking but who is to blame? I guess, people like me who allow themselves to be brainwashed not knowing or being ignorant of the effects it has on the rest of the world. On top of this, our own governments largely support and promote consumerism because they themselves depend on it in order to keep up this image of economic ‘growth’, promising us happier and better lives through increased consumption. But do you actually feel like you have a better life when you consume more? I can tell you that I myself do not obtain long term happiness by buying that pair of cheap shoes, especially when knowing that someone has been paid a fraction to actually make them and that the very thing I physically depend on, our planet, is being destroyed in the process. We hear so many people comment on how they long for a ‘simpler life’, yet in the end, most actually want to let go of the ‘luxuries’. But does a simpler life mean a worse life? We don’t have to go back and live in ancient times, surely.

What do you think the solution is? Here are some examples for why we should minimise our consumption. Can we change our society for the better and promote a more sustainable way of life? I would be really interested to know what you think about this and what the answer might be. So let’s share some knowledge (without making money!) and post your thoughts in the comments section below. Thank you!

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3 Responses to “MERRY CONSUMERISTMAS!”

  1. sianericadavies Says:

    Recycle – up-cycle – don’t buy what you don’t need and don’t go into debt. Only 3% of all money is in circulation. The rest is just a series of digits in a computer. 97% of money doesn’t actually exist. If we all paid our debts off tomorrow and stopped using credit there would be no money left – the banks would go out of business and capitalism would collapse. Simple!

  2. victoriaevbuomwan Says:

    sOP TILL YOU DROP SYNDROME IS CLOSELY EMBEDDED IN THE BRITISH WAY OF LIFE. AND MAJORITY OF THE MONEY SPENT BY THESE SHOPAHOLICS ARE FROM THEIR CRDIT CARDS. NO WONDER BRITIAN IS STILL IN RECESSION

  3. victoriaevbuomwan Says:

    BRILLIANT BLOG

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