Monday, January 21, 2008


It rocks my world when good questions get asked, and once in a while when I peruse the blogosphere I get inspired by other people's stories, especially when they involve potentially embracing a significant paradigm shift.

Case in point (with thanks at JMGB at Lulliloo), I noticed that a woman named Lisa via her Not Buying It blog is beginning a journey and asking questions about how she spends her money and what constitutes a want versus a need. Inspired by the book "Not Buying It: My Year Without Spending", by Judith Levine, she is starting to journal about how and why she makes certain consumer choices in her life and is trying to make some changes.

This is an important discussion, and like many of us who have families and who live in this consumer driven culture it is important to learn how to live sanely and consume ethically and not be totally sucked in by the current paradigm at the same time. Here are a few of my thoughts, based on what I left in Lisa's comment section;

For me, having kids has caused me to reevaluate the want vs need paradigm in my own life. Also, I am motivated to examine how my own consumer habits send different signals to my kids around what values shape our lives and how we relate to the world. I am starting small, and for example I am choosing not to shop at Wal-Mart due to the destructive business practices that it engages in.

Asking questions and examining one's motives is a sane and reasonable way to start making changes. This simple act of engaging in an internal dialogue each time you contemplate a purchase is a radical notion in and of itself, as the consumer driven culture we live doesn't promote critical self-reflection in such matters. Re-examining the validity of long standing, though rarely question patterns is a healthy endeavor, though it doesn't happen over night.

Just look at the current concerns about the economy in the U.S. and throughout the world presently. There is this destructive notion that if people simply just get more money via tax cuts in their wallets they will spend more and thus keep the wealth flowing for all. Though true in purely economic sense, there is a disconnection from the far reaching consequences of this framework and the over all cost that excessive consumption has on our personal lives and on the planet.

Its quite the balancing act being part of this culture but not wanting to be totally sold on all of its unquestioned constructs. Perhaps the want vs. need discussion will be one of the most important discussions throughout this young century. I certainly hope so.

Anyways, its a long journey and I am but one traveler. I would love to hear other people's thoughts on this. Come walk beside me!


Jeremy Barker said...

But if we don't shop, the terrorists win, right? ;)

Lisa said...

Oooo, how very cool to receive your comment, click to your blog, and then see myself mentioned in a post! Wow!

I appreciate your thoughtful comments and look forward to walking along with you via our blogs through this crazy journey of life.

Here's to a great cup of strong, dark-roast organic fair-trade coffee :-)


Dean Wormer said...

Kids do make it hard. Not only do you have to deal with your own conflicts with societal expectations but then you have to deal with their own self-image as measured by their peers. We can only hope that we raise them to be self-confident enough to deal with that.

OTOH I'm addicted to Guitar Hero III on the Wii so who am I to talk?

jmgb said...

i am glad we are all thinking...

Westcoast Walker said...

Thanks all for your comments!

Jeremy - yeah, its amazing how consumerism is so tied in with our culture of individualism as some sort of inherited right.

Lisa - cheers to you as well, a good dark roast in your honor! I look forward to further exchanges.

Dean - having kids does make it challenging. You want to teach them to think critically without sucking the joy out of life at the same time. The guitar hero thing sounds fun indeed and playing together is important, and like everything it has its place. The peer issue is big as well, and don't get me started on insipid advertising (that's another posting!)

JMGB - thinking is a good place to start and I need to do it more often!

Comrade Kevin said...

I have boycotted WalMart for years for this very same reason.

As a Quaker, one of our founding principles is that of Simplicity. What it means varies from Friend to Friend, but I interpret it to mean living simply, not beyond ones means, not being ostentatious, and taking into account that material possessions in and of themselves are not the ultimate goal.

It will take a massive shift in thinking to change that perception, particularly because it's so intrinsic in Western Society--the idea that somehow possession and gain is equated with social standing.

jeff cothren said...

I'm with you on this one. I almost fell off of my chair when I heard W was going to throw tax cuts our way after that ridiculous attempt at "jump starting" the economy a few years ago. Yes, they would be a great help if my mortgage were only a quarter per month and college didn't cost the price of a small island.
Consumerism consumes, that's what it's designed to do.