I am a Consumer
And I don’t like that I am, to be honest. I wish I wasn’t, and I’m trying not to be. It’s one of the reasons why I teach about it. It’s one of the reasons why I read books about it (I just started this journey about two years ago and have only began to understand the depths of my madness, this collective American madness).
Allow me to give a brief (and perhaps over-simplified) history of consumer culture, as far as I can understand it. After WWII, America was the superpower of the world. We kicked everyone’s ass, and we were now the rulers of the land. So our boys come home and make babies with the ladies. We have the Baby Boom. All these people need homes to live in–but not just homes. Structures to fill with the latest and greatest stuff. We were manufacturing kings as well (this was before NAFTA, this was before outsourcing, this was before globalization in general). We were global heroes without being connected to the globe.
But from what I can tell now, since we are globally connected, we (let me make it personal…) I have benefitted from being able to purchase a $5 shirt from a fast-fashion store, for example, made by women in Bangladesh who don’t make enough each month to be able to pay rent so they live 7-deep in a two-room shack (if they’re fortunate). But I can have whatever my heart desires because other people, and other environments, have paid the price for me.
Avarice is a sin, by the way. It’s an evil that Christ condemned in the New Testament:
And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
James, the brother of Jesus, condemns those who make consumer culture their primary aim:
Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you. (James 5:1-6)
I’ve been on a journey to simplify my life: clothing (the lean closet movement is part of this), products, food, entertainment, and consumer culture in general. So part of this blog will be part of that. Who knows what else it will consist of, but that’s some of it.