Let’s think a bit about consumption. By definition:
- devour: eat immoderately
- serve oneself to
- spend extravagantly
- destroy completely
- use up
- engage fully
(And of course, another name for pulmonary tuberculosis: involving the lungs with progressive wasting of the body, it “consumes you from within.”)
So, why is it we, as a body of people, are not deeply offended by our politicians and businesses referring to us human beings almost exclusively as consumers–ones who are fully engaged serving ourselves to devour, spend, destroy and use up?
So, quite by accident I didn’t buy anything on “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” and I’m feeling like maybe this makes me single-handedly responsible for the impending recession. I’ve been thinking about my role as a consumer–one who consumes.
It’s hard not to sound like a big prissy flag burner to say I feel uncomfortable with the completely unsustainable trajectory of our consumerism. In times of crisis, such as after the 9/11 attacks, we were given a priority edict from our political leaders to go out and buy and fly and start spending “normally.” (read: heavily). Our economy is extremely dependent on heavy borrowing and heavy spending–the crazy ride on the markets right now is driven by debt-driven consumerism, holiday retail orgies, mortgages, student loans and oil consumption.
Because the markets are so dependent on consumption, we are actually encouraged by our president to show our love of country by spending, we will thereby show the markets that the retail sector is healthy so we can avoid a pitfall in consumer confidence (already on the decline with a new report out today).
In contrast, our prophet counsels us to save our money, to avoid debt, to put aside what we want today for what we may need tomorrow. To do without. Sister Beck said in October, “Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world’s goods in order to spend more time with their children, —more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing, and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all.”
I don’t think this is just about not going out and getting a job so you can have fancy stuff. I really do think it is about learning to value and treasure the things of most value that money can’t buy.
But what would happen to our consumption and debt-driven economy if everyone obeyed the prophet and so unpatriotically started to save, get out of debt, and not buy, buy, buy? I don’t know, as an daily Marketplace listener, I have the impression the house of cards may unravel faster, but individual families would be safer in the fallout.
Now I’m the last person in the world worthy to preach on financial matters, but I’m committed to make this holiday one heavy on what is truly good, but modest on the goods. I’d like for me and us to be seen by our political leaders and the world at large as more than ones who consume.
That said, maybe this is the rant of someone who is simply bitter that they don’t have piles of money to consume with. Who can say?
Judgy Judgerson III