How Consumerism Affects Society, Our Economy and the Environment

 

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see how evils of consumerism affect society.

How Consumerism Hurts Society, Our Economy and the Environment.

Why
Overcoming
Consumerism?

Imagine yourself dwelling in the following world:

You live in a safe pleasant and unpolluted community where you actually know your neighbors and interact with them, be it a small town, a suburb or even a city neighborhood. You can easily walk, bicycle or take effective mass transit to your nearby job, giving you time to think or read as you get there.

The work that you do improves our future, benefits your community and means something to you and those with whom you interact. You actually look forward to Monday. The longer that you are employed the more you learn and the more valuable you become to your employer with an increasing level of pay.

Your work schedule leaves you sufficient time to enjoy your friends, family and outside interests. Money isn't a controlling influence in your life because your needs are easily met. Your possessions are few, yet of high quality, thus allowing your home to be small, neat and inexpensive to own or rent.

You're connected to your surroundings, rather than just dwelling in them, your backyard, for example, provides most of the produce you might need plus a surplus that you can trade with neighbors. You have a stake in your community and participate in local decision making at the Town Council, P.T.A. and other grass roots organizations.. You buy what is necessary in nearby establishments whose owners are known to you and live in your community. If you have children, they walk to a nearby well-funded neighborhood school in safety and then learn authentic social skills as they interact with a community of honorably employed adults when away from school.

Occasionally you need to travel to a large store on the edge of town. You do this on a free shuttle bus or perhaps in a simple, older vehicle, the use and costs of which you might share with others or a car that you rent only when you need it, thus preserving for yourself the weeks or months that it takes to earn the thousands of after-tax Dollars that owning a new car would take away from you each year. Your interests, the things that you really like to do with your mind and your hands, all the possibilities of your life, are there to be explored because you have the time, energy and money to do so.

"But this is America, you say, all this is possible."

"Not anymore it's not".

(Editor's note: that was first written in the 1990s when this page was posted.

You know what's happened to the economy and our country since then)

There are growing forces making this way of life almost impossible to attain or maintain, even for the wealthy. If you are among the lucky few who still have the kind of life outlined above, these same forces threaten you. Whether you live in an isolated small town or prefer your anonymity as well as the multiplicity of things available to you in a big city, these same forces will are eroding your security and ability to make choices for yourself.

Do you think what's outlined at the beginning of this page can only occur in some mythic long-past small town? Before the hegemony of consumerism and bottom-line Wall Street economics, you could do all of these things anywhere, including in our cities. There is no reason that we cannot live like this again if sufficient people work to identify and disempower the forces that promote and profit from limiting our social and economic horizons.

 These forces are manifested in our lives as consumerism. People voluntarily hand over their soverignty as Americans and citizens in exchange for things and conveniences that sap and paralyze our ability to fight the forces that are weakening our real economy and our ability to affect change in it.

The process began innocently enough. At first they were a growing number of pleasant conveniences for housewives in the 1950s, then a car for everyone with the gradual and inevitable erosion of mass transit, then the ubiquitousness of things and chemical products technologically unimaginable a few decades earlier.

With this came a growing a availability of consumer credit and debt to make things available, the over-dependence on labor-saving devices, total dependence on the car and absolute necessity of full time work, the two income household to pay for more and more, then the importation of cheaper and cheaper goods and the disappearance of manufacturing jobs, the commodification of labor and the discarding of loyalties to our citizens and taxpayers and now the decline of service work with professionals next to be downsized....The ongoing disenfranchisement of people from our own community, replaced by commercial transactions with distant strangers...where will it end? When America looks like some faded Third World fragment of the old British Empire? An overpopulated wasteland of pollution, eroded landscapes, worn out infrastructure and hungry people digging into landfills for salvageables? With real unemployment above 20% and manufacturing being outsourced at new levels, this vision is looking more and more tangible. The Middle Class is dying.

We shouldn't allow this to happen. Things may be starting to turn around in our favor. But it takes work and time and attention to details and a willingness to try new things for our own and our children's benefit. There are serious changes ahead. We can control some of these for our benefit or we can just react to them after they have happened--or worse yet, ignore the changes and pretend that they do not matter.

Simply stated, there is a lot of money being made and a lot of power being gathered by the people that promote consumerism. You pay for it in gradually limited economic mobility, pollution, threats to your health and a declining standard of living, as measured by the things that really matter.


This is what this site is about, identifying these forces and showcasing opportunities to lessen or eliminate their control over your life through the completion of everyday things, that in the aggregate, fight the big battles. We're not suggesting that you pick up guns and start blasting away. What we advocate does far more damage than bullets to these forces and the people behind them and makes life much more enjoyable for you while it returns to you the possibility of living the way that you choose. We cannot rely on politicians because if they have any true power they have been bought and paid for and if they haven't been bought and paid for they probably don't have any real power. (with a few notable local exceptions).

In addition to the everyday things that you can do, there are concepts that need to be discussed and not just in a trite way. The mantra "Reduce, Reuse and Recycle" is pregnant with meaning, and reflects worthwhile goals, but it hardly contains solutions to the real integral problems of the world. For example, why doesn't America have decent mass transit? We provide links further along in the site to allow you to see what we once had, what happened to it and what can be done to bring it back. (Image: after General Motors bought up many of America's streetcar lines and replaced them with diesel busses the streetcars were burned so that they could never return to the street to compete with less efficient busses.)

How this page is laid out:

How consumerism affects society, the economy and the Environment.

Economic costs of consumerism

Environmental costs of consumerism

Getting away from consumerism

 

How
consumerism affects society,

the economy and the Environment.

Consumerism is economically manifested in the chronic purchasing of new goods and services, with little attention to their true need, durability, product origin or the environmental consequences of manufacture and disposal. Consumerism is driven by huge sums spent on advertising designed to create both a desire to follow trends, and the resultant personal self-reward system based on acquisition. Materialism is one of the end results of consumerism.

Consumerism interferes with the workings of society by replacing the normal common-sense desire for an adequate supply of life's necessities, community life, a stable family and healthy relationships with an artificial ongoing and insatiable quest for things and the money to buy them with little regard for the true utility of what is bought. An intended consequence of this, promoted by those who profit from consumerism, is to accelerate the discarding of the old, either because of lack of durability or a change in fashion.

Landfills swell with cheap discarded products that fail early and cannot be repaired. Products are made psychologically obsolete long before they actually wear out. A generation is growing up without knowing what quality goods are. Friendship, family ties and personal autonomy are only promoted as a vehicle for gift giving and the rationale for the selection of communication services and personal acquisition. Everything becomes mediated through the spending of money on goods and services. Human beings who cannot spend become worthless.

It is an often stated catechism that the economy would improve if people just bought more things, bought more cars and spent more money. Financial resources better spent on Social Capital such as education, nutrition, housing etc. are spent on products of dubious value and little social return. In addition, the purchaser is robbed by the high price of new things, the cost of the credit to buy them, and the less obvious expenses such as, in the case of automobiles, increased registration, insurance, repair and maintenance costs.

Many consumers run out of room in their homes to store the things that they buy. A rapidly growing industry in America is that of self-storage. Thousands of acres of land good farm land are paved over every year to build these cities of orphaned and unwanted things so as to give people more room to house the new things that they are persuaded to buy. If these stored products were so essential in the first place, why do they need to be warehoused? An overabundance of things lessens the value of what people possess.

"You work in a job you hate, to buy stuff that you don't need, to impress people that you don't like."

- Fight Club

Malls have replaced parks, churches and community gatherings for many who no longer even take the trouble to meet their neighbors or care to know their names. People move frequently as though neighborhoods and cities were products to be tried out like brands of deodorant.
Consumerism sets each person against themself in an endless quest for the attainment of material things or the imaginary world conjured up and made possible by things yet to be purchased. Weight training, diet centers, breast reduction, breast enhancement, cosmetic surgery, permanent eye make-up, liposuction, collagen injections, these are are some examples of people turning themselves into human consumer goods more suited for the "marketplace" than living in a healthy balanced society.

Ads

Read
The National Clearing House of plastic surgery statistics.

Tidbit:"Breast aumentation, 289,000 procedures in 2009." "

The mindset of humans as consumer objects triumphs when women, failing to meet the standards dictated by the availability of the above "services", are traded in for a "newer model". This same way of thinking allows parents to justify entering their little girls in beauty contests as though they were prize livestock.

Here's the affect that unobtainable good looks have on the happiness of the "average" person:

Why beautiful people create an ugly mood by Robert Uhlig

BEAUTY makes the world an unhappier place, say two mathematicians who have calculated the ideal way to match lonely hearts to their soulmates. Conventionally good looking people such as Kate Moss, George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Lopez, may be pleasing to the eye, but their very presence in our midst makes the world a less contented place, the research suggests. At fault is the so-called Vogue factor, a measure of how much influence beauty has in society. The higher the Vogue factor, the mathematicians said, the more dissatisfied and miserable we are with our sexual partners...

"Even if the more beautiful players have a larger satisfaction by far, the general dissatisfaction in the system increases." With television, cinema and magazines such as Vogue bombarding us with images of beautiful women and good looking men conforming to a standardised concept of beauty, overall levels of dissatisfaction were likely to increase.

Working with Andrea Capocci of Fribourg University in Switzerland, Dr Caldarelli updated the stable marriage problem, a mathematical puzzle first examined in 1962 by two University of California researchers.

David Gale and Lloyd Shapley's 1962 study found that provided the criteria for choosing partners - wit, beauty, intelligence, wealth or whatever - had no intrinsic value in society, then everybody should end up with a partner with whom they were reasonably happy. New Scientist reports today. "The result of this makes distressing reading for the plain and ordinary. With beauty on the scene, you're now much less likely to be matched with your number one choice, unless you happen to be one of the beautiful people yourself."

http://www.unifr.ch/econophysics/articoli/dtelegraph.html

And the following from the Wall Street Journal

"Each year an estimated 1.5 million Americans choose to have nose jobs, tummy tucks or breast enlargements. Many of these people would be unable to afford these vital surgical procedures if it were not for the public spirited efforts of loan companies like Jayhawk Acceptance Corporation, a used car lender that has turned to covering the booming demand for elective surgery. Lenders in this field face an unusual challenge," explains the Wall Street Journal: "A lender can take a used car but can hardly repossess a face lift." Consequently lenders like Jayhawk have to charge a slightly higher interest rate, up to 22.5% to be exact. Says Michael Smartt, Jayhawk CEO, "We're capitalizing on America's vanity."

Consumerism's standard for  the new women.

Click on the link below to read Real Beauty Tips on what to buy and how to use lots and lots of (the advertisers') products. i.e. "check out new cleansing waters that do the job with the swipe of a cotton ball-no real water required"! human_commodity_magazine
From "human commodity" Magazine. (Actual name changed to protect the guilty)

IF you don't look like this- well then they say that society thinks that you're ugly!


It is impossible to win a war against yourself or your uncontrolled desires.


A good example of this is the simplistic materialist psychosis of the bumper sticker:

"He who dies with the most toys wins"

Is psychosis too strong a word to use here? Appreciate the following line of reasoning:

"I can imagine it, therefore I want it. I want it, therefore I should have it. Because I should have it, I need it. Because I need it, I deserve it. Because I deserve it, I will do anything necessary to get it."

This is the artificial internal drive that the advertisers tap into. You "imagine it" because they bombard your consciousness with its image until you then move to step two, "I want it...etc. " This is one of the things that allows people to surrender to consumerism. As a society we have gone from self-sufficiency based on our internal common sense of reasonable limits to the ridiculous goal of Keeping up with the Jones then to stampeding for the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, or at least as far as our credit limit or home equity line allows us to go.

The
New Road Map Foundation illustrates with cogent statistics the dichotomy between things, happiness and the health of the environment.

Happiness can't be purchased in the marketplace, no matter how much advertising tries to convince you of it. Market driven forces have ursurped the role once assumed by family, home, common-sense and community. We have been programmed to believe that we should pursue more money to spend on more things offered in the marketplace, to be living mannequins for the material adornments of the hour, our worth determined by what we have or don't have, rather than what we are, what we do or what we know.

Consumerism, already having captured death as a consumer obligation whereby sadness and regret are quenched by spending lots of money, now turns major life events like weddings and births into consumer events with their own hierarchy of demands for the things which assume a life of their own. For example, the bride's dress and accessories assumes far more significance in the telling than the bride's state of mind. Baby shower gifts take precedence over helping with the baby.

Consumerism has crossed the last frontier into memories. Underemployed people all over America are buying supplies to start their own 'business' selling scrapbook supplies so that people can gain the 'appropriate' access to their own history.

Recreation has become commercialized. Special leisure clothing, sporting equipment and attendance at expensive sporting events rife with advertising and corporate sponsorship are the manifestation of consumerism in recreation. Oakland, California, a community with high levels of unemployment and poverty has banks that are now creating special loan categories so that people can get personal lines of credit to buy season tickets to the taxpayer-financed stadium.

"Sports is another crucial example of the indoctrination system . . . It offers people something to pay attention to that is of no importance . . . It keeps them from worrying about things that matter to their lives that they might have an idea of something about . . . People have the most exotic information and understanding about all sorts of arcane issues . . . It's a way of building up irrational attitudes of submission to authority, and group cohesion behind leadership elements, in fact its training in irrational jingoism . . . That's why energy is devoted to supporting them . . . and advertisers are willing to pay for them."

Noam Chomsky from Manufacturing Consent

Pro-sports contribute next-to-nothing to communities economically yet they are sucking public dollars that could be better spent on parks, schools and public services into millionaires/billionaire's pockets and deluding a whole generation of at-risk youth into believing in the possibility of an "athletic career".

Sports Still No Ticket Out Of The Ghetto

Professional sports are are just an example of synthesized and packaged reality designed to enrich people already rich, subject the observer to yet another layer of advertising, and to maintain the intellectual impoverishment of those watching.

"College-sports any better? Football is the S.U.V. of the college campus: aggressively big, resource-guzzling, lots and lots of fun and potentially destructive of everything around it. Big-time teams award 85 scholarships and, with walk-ons, field rosters of 100 or more players. (National Football League teams make do with half that.) At the highest level, universities wage what has been called an ''athletic arms race'' to see who can build the most lavish facilities to attract the highest-quality players. Dollars are directed from general funds and wrestled from donors, and what does not go into cherry-wood lockers, plush carpets and million-dollar weight rooms ends up in the pockets of coaches, the most exalted of whom now make upward of $2 million a year. . .College sports now consists of a class of super-behemoths -- perhaps a dozen or so athletic departments with budgets of $40 million and up -- and a much larger group of schools that face the choice of spending themselves into oblivion or being embarrassed on the field." N.Y.Times Magazine 12/22/02

Take all the mental and sometimes physical energy, the money and the time that the average American spends on professional and college sports and divert it to the care and maintenance of local public schools; we could be the best educated people in the world! Notice how recent talk about revitalizing our schools revolves around the purchase of computer equipment rather than raising teacher's salaries and spending more money per pupil?

Local sports teams and activities like Little League and Youth Soccer are healthy and wonderful. There is however, a tendency of the ongoing commercialization of even these IF people allow it.

 The constant cycle of work and consumption is destructive enough of values, but when extra hours must be worked to maintain the same level of consumption, or when insufficient work, or no work at all is available, and a family goes into debt to accumulate more things, or feels worthless because of a lack of the "right" possessions, consumerism is slow societal suicide.

Time, the precious shrinking commodity of our lives, is exchanged for money to buy things that there usually is little time to enjoy. What time is left after work is often devoured by television, basically a series of ever-more mediocre filler programs inserted between ever-more-spectacular commercials whose purpose is to stoke further desire for more things. When these insatiable material desires fail to be satisfied, people grow unhappy with their lives and in extreme cases riot and loot to get that they have been "programmed" to want.

People become used to the intrusion of advertising into their consciousness in the form of television or the massive bundle of advertising pulp that masquerades as a Sunday newspaper and and so they fail to protect themself, or worse, their children from being seduced by it. Convinced that their self worth is based on $500 athletic shoes or designer clothing, children are already on the road to spiritual dissatisfaction and resentment as well as a perception of diminished self-worth. When they become adolescents they are probably not going to be happy or productive even were they provided with an endless supply of things that few parents could afford. An extreme example of this is when some, usually poor adults, who could often better use the money for education, nutrition and improved housing, demonstrate their self worth and strength of character by turning themselves into human billboards in plastic clothing advertising millionaire's sports franchises. Their children may, to the detriment of education, pin all hopes on an athletic "career", i.e. lots of money for endorsing consumer items. This is nation building?

Where once parents shared the home with their adult children, acting as baby-sitters and providers of wisdom and tradition, we now have corporate owned day care and rest homes. This preservation of nuclear family ties is one reason that some immigrant groups are still able to excel economically until the second generation (usually) becomes affected by consumerism, abandons its parents' values and then often goes overboard using material objects as a means of self-identification with American society.

"Quality Time" has become a commodity unto itself. Unfortunately, there is no marketplace for quality time, you have to preserve it for yourself. Why not use the time in your life, skip the money and the taxation and go straight for the happiness that usually comes from the non-material? This process is part of overcoming consumerism.

Economic
COSTS OF CONSUMERISM

The more consumerism spreads, the weaker is the incentive to manufacture long-lasting, quality products, and the greater the likelihood that cheaply made products will instead be imported from the lowest-wage, environmentally unregulated overseas manufacturer that mobile capital, ever seeking the highest return, can find.

 

The nationwide loss of manufacturing jobs leads to a corresponding growth in unemployment and the number of welfare recipients, less personal wealth, a shrinking tax base, fewer public services, and greater public and private debt, hopelessness for job seekers and a growing negative balance of trade. Americans can't really afford to buy the house next door but guess who has lots of dollars to spend here because of the money that we're exporting to buy their cheap junk?

By facilitating the sale of whatever is advertised and sold, without examination by the purchaser of quality, origin, environmental degradation or traditions of manufacture, Consumerism fuels the destruction of the productive economy. That was written in 2002. So how's that Global Economy doing for you and your family now?

What about the argument that "we are in a global marketplace and exports (and therefore imports) create jobs?"

The flood of spending on imports creates a need for compensating export earnings. This quest for export earnings turns the U.S. into a traitor to principles that this nation supposedly fought for in several recent wars, and generates an eagerness to embrace potential export markets, no matter what the human rights or environmental records of these countries may be, or how much damage this does to American workers. Another part of this attempted juggling act of trade balances is to justify the further strip-mining of our own natural heritage in order to gain further export earnings, i.e. Redwood logs from our ancient cathedral forests are sent to Mexico to be milled on machinery that once was tended by well paid Americans in the U.S. or Alaskan oil drilled in wildlife refuges is sent to Japan. The boots and uniforms worn by US soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq are made in China.The Keystone Pipeline from Canada to Texas that is being considered will create incredible pollution in Canada, along its route through the breadbasket of America and in Texas. It will produce bottom of the barrel sludgey diesel that will be exported.

Imports may create a few loudly touted jobs , but their main product is quiet but spectacular profits for transnational corporations that export our employment while importing low quality products and selling them here for a slight or no reduction in price.

"Free trade" laws are promoted so that American corporations can export pollution finally regulated here and import tariff-free goods back into the US from their foreign subsidiaries in whatever Sweatshop Republic they can find the cheapest workers. NAFTA is a codified example of this policy carried out at a national level. More recent attempts at promoting other free trade agreements have been thwarted by citizen activism.

Some of the corporations behind nafta Here's a little historical tidbit from the link:

"Both GE workers and the community of Fort Wayne got swindled. In 1988, the employees had agreed to a $1.20 per hour wage cut to prevent their jobs from being moved to Mexico. Then in 1992, GE managed to squeeze a $485,290 tax cut out of the local government, claiming it was necessary to defray the cost of new machinery needed to preserve jobs. Once NAFTA passed, the wage cuts and the tax breaks were not enough to keep those jobs in Fort Wayne.[they went to Mexico] As one longtime GE employee put it, "You give them all your life, and this is what they give you. "


Looking at the joblessness and poverty sweeping Indiana now it's no wonder that people were upset. Too bad they didn't prevail.

(Wonder if he and his family and friends will actively boycott G.E. products and services? We hope so.)

The following came into our mailbox.
 
Maytag: Hecho en Mejico

"They want Americans to buy their products, but they don't want to put Americans to work making those products."

Published on Tuesday, December 31, 2002 by the Chicago Tribune

The Big Lie About Free Trade

Turns out it's American workers who are waving goodbye to

their jobs

by Bernie Sanders

Though I am a congressman from Vermont, it outrages me that Maytag Corp. will shut down production at its refrigerator factory in Galesburg, Ill., and lay off the plant's 1,600 workers by late 2004. Maytag is using the North America Free Trade Agreement, which I opposed, to move its plant to Mexico. In Mexico it will be able to hire workers at $2 an hour, rather than pay the average wage of $15.14 earned by workers in Galesburg. And the Newton, Iowa, appliance manufacturer is closing its Illinois plant despite recent concessions from the union and substantial sums of corporate welfare given it by city, county and state governments. 

Illinois citizens should have no illusions that what is happening in Galesburg is unique. I can tell you that the same thing is happening in my state. In fact, it's happening in many regions of the country. In Vermont, in recent years, as a result of such disastrous trade policies as NAFTA, most-favored-nation status with China and permanent normal trade relations with China and other trade agreements, we have lost thousands of decent paying jobs in Shaftsbury, Newport, St. Johnsbury, East Ryegate, Island Pond, Randolph, Orleans, Bennington, Springfield and Windsor--among other communities. 

The simple truth is that our nation's manufacturing base is collapsing. As unemployment rises, more and more Americans are searching for non-existent jobs. In the past two years we have lost just under 1.8 million factory jobs nationwide, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and, at 16.5 million, we now have the lowest number of factory jobs in 40 years. 

As the U.S. produces less and imports more, we have developed a huge trade deficit of more than $400 billion, including an $80 billion trade deficit with China. Millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages, many of them at part-time or temporary jobs with minimal benefits. And yet, despite all of this, President Bush, almost all Republicans and many Democrats in Congress continue to spout the corporate line about how wonderful unfettered "free trade" is. And the establishment media continue, in editorial after editorial, to repeat that big lie. 

The simple truth is that American workers cannot, and should not, be "competing" against desperate workers in developing countries who are forced to work for pennies an hour. This is creating a horrendous "race to the bottom." Aaron Kemp is a Maytag worker in Galesburg. He expressed a lot more understanding of our current trade policies than most member of Congress when he told a reporter; "This is heartbreaking. This is one of the most unpatriotic, most un-American things I can imagine a company doing. They want Americans to buy their products, but they don't want to put Americans to work making those products." 

Clearly, we need fundamental changes in our trade policies. If the American economy is going to survive, if our workers are to earn a living wage, corporations are going to have to start reinvesting in the United States. 

In Washington, everybody knows what the story is. President Bush and many members of Congress have received hundreds of millions in campaign contributions from the corporations that benefit from our free trade policies. They have taken those donations--and sold out American workers by giving their support to a trade policy that is destroying our economy. If the U.S. is going to survive as a great economic power, we must rebuild our manufacturing base and create jobs that pay workers a living wage with decent benefits. 

Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is the only independent congressman in the House. 

For purposes of review. We encourage you to subscribe to newspapers like this that print real news like this.
Copyright © 2002, Chicago Tribune
 
Here's a contemporary example of the kind of poverty that this deindustrialization is causing among the formerly Middle Class:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/04/middle-class-no-more-fami_n_450045.html

"Last August, construction-worker Troy Renault, his wife Tammy, and their five children were living in a comfortable, three-bedroom home in Lebanon, Tennessee. Mike Osborne reports for Voice of America News that the family now resides in a donated trailer on a local campground, having downgraded from about 1900 square feet to about 215. The Renault family's slide into homelessness started nearly two years ago when Troy lost his construction job. Troy Renault told Osborne that when the money got tight, the family started having to make some difficult choices. "You wind up starting to think to yourself, 'Okay. Do we go ahead and make the house payment and keep a roof over our head but have no lights and no water, or do you go ahead and keep those utilities on and forego the house payment, and hope that you can get it caught up?' And it just kept going where it got further and further behind until we wound up losing the home."

 

The actual manufacture of products becomes almost a nuisance for conglomerates anxious to grow their capital and maximize profits through buying and closing factories, raiding pension plans, firing workers and using the paper losses to offset profits made elsewhere. That's what slaves in foreign countries are for. BUT, how will Americans buy thier products if they no longer have jobs and if they do have jobs why shouldn't we go out of our way to boycott these job destroying companies? After reading the above story we will do everything we can to encourage everyone we know to boycott all Maytag products. According to the highly respected and non-commercial Consumer Reports Magazine they were never that good to begin with. (based on hundreds of thousands of subscriber surveys detailing the strengths and weaknesses of consumer goods)


Even service jobs are now also vulnerable to export. Some companies are now using
low wage workers in Ireland or India to staff their technical-support and order-taking phone lines or do insurance underwriting. There is no technical reason why any person answering a telephone or sitting at a keyboard has to be physically located in the U.S. What we're talking about is you calling a softwear or warranty line and talking to someone making $1.10 a day in India or China. Nor are professionals immune from this. The same blind, unquestioning acceptance of consumerism will allow the export of even these service jobs if the companies that attempt this are not challenged by consumers.

 

Environmental
COSTS OF CONSUMERISM

 

Consumerism causes the wasteful use of energy and material far above and beyond that needed for everyday living at a comfortable level.

Money is not the only way to measure the cost of an item. When one adds up all the raw materials and energy that go into the goods and services consumed over an individual's lifetime, the toll on the environment is staggering. When this cost is multiplied out over the lifespan of families, cities and countries, the proportions are incredible.

An example: 220 Billion cans, bottles, plastic cartons and paper cups, are thrown away each year in the "developed" world.

"Disposable" items exemplify this. Rather than compete on quality or reliability, products are made for a one time use. "Fun" is a catchword discarding notions of inherent value, longevity, and the environmental consequences of manufacture and disposal of the product. Buying quality products that are warranteed against failure or wearing out, learning about the materials that things are made of, their national origin and the conditions of the workers that make them, are some ways of resisting consumerism and waste.

While there may be some new appliances and cars that are more productive and energy efficient, discarding the old often leads to an almost total waste of the energy and material already invested in these products. This alone may more than nullify the energy savings of the new.

 

Getting
AWAY FROM CONSUMERISM


Having fewer things means enjoying what you have more and actually getting to use it, thereby raising its intrinsic value. The less clutter that one has in their surroundings, the fewer distractions there are from the essentials such as family, friends, food, nature and study. With less clutter, one needs a smaller space in which to live comfortably and thus needs to work less to pay rent to store things. If you haven't used something in the last year, how much likelihood is there that you ever will use it?

"The most important assets are brands.
Buildings age and become dilapidated.
Machines wear out.
Cars rust.
People die.
But what lives on are the brands."

Hector Liang
Chairman, United Biscuits

"Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind."

-
Walter Landor
Industrial Designer

 

"When people have lost their authentic personal taste, they lose their personality and become instruments of other people's wills."

Robert Graves

 

Can brands survive ecosystem collapse or the fall of our government?



Making do with less allows one to distance themself from the tendency of the victims of advertising to self-define according to the material objects possessed or not possessed, driven, drunk, worn, used, seen with or abused.

You usually see people thus affected in public places, lurking around a piece of machinery, such as a car or a boat. They bask in its radiance, act respectful and imply knowledge about its quality and providence. They act as they feel that they should act, making sure that others see them acting this way in the presence of the thing. They can only communicate with each other through the medium of the object, the cold piece of metal, in the presence of which they feel that they can speak to each other and actually show some emotion and interact.

The thing, the product, becomes a longed for goal, a means of justifying their existence, a way of envisioning themself in a different world with possession of the thing being the key tenet. Particular speech patterns often develop around things to the exclusion of the personal qualities of the speaker, as in

"I used to have a....."/"Yeah, friend of mine, he's got a "57.....", "last night I drank two....and a six pack of....","she was wearing..."," we did two....then a ....have you seen the new...""...how about those Forty-Niners?..." "Look what I got...""what do you think about American Idol?"

Empty, hollow words, bespeaking a personal void filled by the pursuit of things. Getting away from need for things is at least a start in allowing people to communicate and then once communicating, beginning to solve real problems in their home, community, nation and the world.

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This then is the problem. Are there any personalities that are responsable for the negative influence of consumerism? All of us of course-how can any one individual be at fault in this? There IS one man who bears inordinate responsability for this, as a sidebar to this page we would like to introduce you to a little known man who took the techiques of his uncle, Sigmund Freud and turned them into tools to sell to, demoralize, impoverish some people while enriching certain others: here is his story:

http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/the-century-of-the-self/

Bernays invented the public relations profession in the 1920s and was the first person to take Freud's ideas to manipulate the masses. He showed American corporations how they could make people want things they didn't need by systematically linking mass-produced goods to their unconscious desires. Bernays was one of the main architects of the modern techniques of mass-consumer persuasion, using every trick in the book, from celebrity endorsement and outrageous PR stunts, to eroticising the motorcar. His most notorious coup was breaking the taboo on women smoking by persuading them that cigarettes were a symbol of independence and freedom...

There are a growing number of people who are aware that these aspects of consumerism are some of the main obstacles to living in a pleasant safe community, seeing their children well-educated and living long healthy productive lives, without squander and waste. The following pages offer many different tools to help facilitate this:

Next Link What DOES overcoming consumerism accomplish?

See the
Educational Resources... section for a large series of effective reform organizations and resouces.



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Overcoming Consumerism Index      |  Consumerism's bad effects  |

O. C. Accomplishes?     Active Resistance      Hands on methods

2 Families compared       our personal consumer choices

consumption chart      resources to overcome consumerism

radical anti-consumerism      cars

  How to raise food     How to raise trees    

eliminate polystyrene foam products

Corporate officers and their interlocking interests

e-mail :  

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