"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

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Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Shopping to Drop



So we have a hike in our UK VAT rate to 20%, the highest we have known. People have rushed to the shops, seduced by retailers promising to absorb the increase, not passing it on to the customer for the time being. But how much more stuff do we want? Are we shopping for personal need or greed? There is one easy way to avoid the increase in VAT. Don’t shop!
One of the joys to me of going away is not being cluttered up with possessions. It is amazing just how comfortably one can live out of a small suitcase, or in a basic tent, surrounded only by what we really do need. Alice Thomson said just this in her Opinion in The Times on 5th January, only for her the realisation came when the plane took them her and her family away on holiday without their suitcases, left languishing in the snow at Heathrow and they were forced to buy the basic essentials when they arrived at their destination.
What is it about us that we are obsessed with shopping? It is a national pastime. Why do we eat too much, consume too much? Mass consumerism is a disease of our overly comfortable Western lives. It is as if we are always feverishly looking for something to satisfy us, to fill some kind of hole in our lives. And the media are far from blameless. Driven by profit motives, they shamelessly exploit us in advertisements and articles to pamper ourselves, to treat ourselves, to have whatever we want at all times. This fuels greed rather than need. Competitions reward us with a supermarket trolley dash: the winner fills a trolley with as much as possible from the shelves in a frenzied grab over a given time. Color supplements publish glossy images of items we must have. Surely the fostering of pure self-indulgence is an affront to our humanity while so many starve and suffer elsewhere in the world.
That is not to say that we should deny ourselves an adequate standard of living. But neither should we live extravagantly. We should strive to live responsibly and sustainably. We should minimize our own footprint and always have regard for the needs of our fellow human beings as if they were living with us under our same family roof.
‘We need an expression,’ mused Alastair McIntosh to The Honorable Sir Maxwell MacLeod of Fuinary and the Isles as they shared a car journey in Scotland back in 1992. ‘We need something that describes the way people mask their misery by going out shopping.’ ‘How about,’ Maxwell pondered, ‘how about ‘retail therapy’?’ And that, according to McIntosh in his wonderful book Soil and Soul, is the origin of the phrase now so widely used today across the globe.

2 comments:

fiction-books said...

Hello Eleanor,

You voice and sum up so succinctly, what my husband expounds to me on an almost daily basis.

The only problem that most of the developed world really has, is over-consumption.

I regularly complain about the amount of recycling and packaging that I have to deal with and he is quick to point out that it could all be avoided, if only we consumed less.

But can we ever go back to a world where the simple things of life really matter, where we don't need all the mod-cons that we all have in our homes and where all that electronic gadgetry is consigned to the museum shelves?

Eleanor said...

Thank you for your comment. You know I think we can recover some of that lost world. I could not give up my dishwasher, washing machine and tumble dryer probably any more than you can, but we can all pause before we buy and think "do we need this?" and we can all go for quality not quantity, avoid plastic wrapping, mend not replace, go for simple cheap outdoor pleasures, grow our own vegs (even in a window box or grobag on the patio,)go for energy efficiency in everything, find time to walk or cycle etc etc. We certainly don't need the latest in TVs, computer games, etc. If we all did just one small thing everyday towards that simpler life - we'd be happier and the world would be that bit better.
And I think from looking at your blog you will enjoy this book blog: http://hannahstoneham.blogspot.com
all the best

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