I'd like to be a satisfied unconsumer. I've given up on the prospect of ever becoming a satisfied consumer since consumerism in itself is reliant on the consumer always wanting more. I'd like to get more joy from things that don't cost anything and to a certain extent I do. The problem is that our society is so focussed on making money and spending it that it's hard to ever feel satisfied however much you've got.
Being satisfied with what you've got is bad news for economy. The ethos of the retail industry is to not sell goods that make you feel satisfied, but goods that leave you wanting more. From food that makes you want more food to electronics that are designed to be obsolete in a couple of months, many products are meant to leave you unsatisfied. In Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's Good Omens, Famine (of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse fame) is a business man specialising in food production whose bestseller CHOW™, a synthetic foodstuff that contains no fat or sugar or indeed any nutrition whatsoever, causes the consumer to starve to death. However much I would like to be free of the desire for material goods, there are certain things that everyone needs, and so we are all part of the system of consumption. As Paco Underhill says in Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping,
The first principle behind the science of shopping is the simplest one: There are certain physical and anatomical abilities, tendencies, limitations and needs common to all people, and the retail environment must be tailored to these characteristics. In other words, stores, banks, restaurants and other such spaces must be friendly to the specification of the human animal.
I work from home and my main motivation for leaving the house is to buy something. This feels very wrong. I'd wish there would be less of a focus on making money from people and more on the people themselves. A social system without money has been proposed (such as the Venus Project's Resource-based Economy) but would ultimately depend on the eradication of greed to be achievable. The current economic system purports that goods are manufactured, used and discarded. If you look at it, this is a preposterous idea that ignores the stark reality that Earth's resources are finite and that the employment of this system is turning more and more of the planet into a garbage dump.
It's not realistic to think that we will all stop consuming, but less of excess spending would benefit your personal economy, the planet, and really everyone except the already very rich. I'd like to see more alternatives to buying things new (second hand shopping, swapping, borrowing), but most of all a change in attitudes to consumption is needed. I don't want to be told how unsatisfactory my life is without the particular product a company is trying to push on me. Let's face it: you will never have everything you want. However, you don't need everything you want, or indeed everything you have. Rebel a little in your everyday life. Be content with what you've got. Because you're worth it.
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