Column: The story of stuff — and why it has to change
Published: Thursday, December 4, 2008 - 10:54pm
Gargoyle assistant editor
Posted Thursday, Dec. 4, 2008
I REALLY LIKE Thanksgiving. The spirit of friendship, the coming together of family and friends, the lounging about, cooking and great food is pretty cool, not to mention the break we have.
Unfortunately the bargain-hunting ritual known as Black Friday always brings me down a little from my high.
People's behavior on this day amazes and disgusts me. Shoppers line up in the dark weather-infested streets for an entire night to buy something that will undoubtedly have little value a few weeks later.
Ugly shopping scenes have become commonplace on Black Friday. This year a Wal-Mart worker in Long Island was trampled in a stampede as mobs ran to their bargains!
Maybe this could have been avoided if Wal-Mart had bothered with crowd control. How could they not foresee a "riot"? Because they don't care. Despite the fanfare about great deals for customers, the bottom line is always the business' profit. Customers are nothing but a necessary evil.
Black Friday is followed by Cyber Monday. Again, the suggestion exists that you can beat the system by buying things on the right day. No — you are being manipulated.
I'm not saying that I don't like a bargain. And in spite of the fact that I prefer an ascetic lifestyle, even I fall in love with stuff.
I barely got my iPod Touch when the pretty, colorful new iPod Nanos came out, and I began daydreaming of ways to replace my four-month-old, already uncool iPod. In my more reflective moods this attitude really bothers me.
It seems like we can't help ourselves. We are brought up in a consumerist society where unabashed capitalism rules.
The headlines about the economic crisis show there is something seriously wrong with our economic system. Our economic institutions have failed, not only financially, but also socially and environmentally.
But crisis and opportunity are two sides of the same coin. It is time to re-evaluate the priorities of our economy. Progress should be measured differently, and superfluous consumption should be reduced.
Excessive consumption is pushing Earth’s ecosystem into collapse, and it is immoral. We have a new president who plans to grow the economy from the bottom up. This will be a substantial improvement over growing the top at the expense of the bottom.
Given the economic problems and a new set of leaders taking charge soon, this is the ideal time for us to act responsibly and be more critical about the stuff we want and the stuff we give.
Our current economic system of making, transporting, selling, buying, using and disposing of things is trashing the planet. It doesn't have to continue that way.
"The Story of Stuff," one of my favorite viral videos, illustrates the consumption chain. Watch it. You can thank me later, because when you see it, you will understand why it is essential to aim for a sustainable and equitable economy.
Teaser No. 1 for "The Story of Stuff" (used with permission)
Teaser No. 2 for "The Story of Stuff" (used with permission)
Teaser No. 3 for "The Story of Stuff" (used with permission)