The astronomical growth in the wealth and cultural influence of multinational corporations over the last fifteen years can arguably be traced back to a single, seemingly innocuous idea developed by management theorists in the mid-1980s: that successful corporations must primarily produce brands, as opposed to products.OXFORD, Ohio (ZP) -- I'm not what anybody in their right mind would consider to be a man driven by consumerism.
In fact, I'm quite the anti-consumer, especially when my infrequent forays into luxury spending are weighed against the downright gluttonous behavior of a good portion of my countrymen at the hog trough of reckless capitalism.
A few DVDs, books, the occasional magazine or candy bar.
Yup. That's about it.
Not that I'm bragging or talking shit - that's not my point. I've always been like this. I've never really seen the point in spending money on things - often junk - that contribute nothing to my well-being or to that of my neighbors.
I don't buy clothes for anything as silly and bourgeoisie as style; I consume my basic wardrobe of jeans and tee-shirts as thriftily (often second-hand or in the form of gifts) as possible, based on need, digest them slowly over years until the fabric's threadbare and the holes in the pockets can no longer be restitched.
That's right. I said restitched. I'm lousy with a needle and thread, but I know at least how to sew on a button of fix a tear. I see no sense in wasting that which I have so carefully digested.
Hell, my Baltimore Orioles baseball cap - the "lucky" one (not for the Os, obviously) my parents bought me at a game at the old Memorial Stadium - is roughly the same age as my last girlfriend. And, as ratty as the damned thing is, I'll probably keep wearing it until it rots into oblivion, or I do.
I'm a notoriously cheap fucking bastard. Emphasis on the fucking bastard.
And on top of that, I'm not to big a fan of wasting natural resources simply because some advertising agency generated market trend tells me I won't fit in if I don't conform.
My anti-consumerist behavior doesn't stop with my wardrobe, either. Roughly 90 percent of all of my apartment's furnishings were either found on the street, inherited from somebody, of acquired at yard sales. The rest? Bought on clearance or off the scratch-and-dent racks.
I own no video games or consoles. I don't have cable. My microwave was stolen from the curb and the dresser in my bedroom used to belong to a Super Bowl quarterback.
Hell, I'm writing these very words you're reading right now on an Ubuntu machine, using open-source software.
My electric bill - with electric heat in a region that experiences single-digit temperatures at night occasionally - hasn't topped 80 bucks in more than two years. Thermostat's set at 53 degrees in the winter - if you're cold, grab yourself one of the half-dozen second-hand sweaters that don't fit me anymore that I keep on hand for guests.
And I don't use air conditioning. Period.
Cheap. Fucking. Bastard. I say it loud, say it proud.
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For one thing, well, it's better for the environment, better for the planet. It fucks rampant unchecked corporate greed in the ass with a greener chainsaw and keeps extra cash in my pocket.
And it's become a comfortably sustainable lifestyle.
Yes, not the media buzzword version of sustainability, not the White House teleprompter versions touted in speeches in Copenhagen or Kyoto.
We're talking My Ecological Footprint is roughly one-third that of other 30+ single males living in North America sustainable lifestyle.
Sustainability requires one to be just about as conservative as possible in resource consumption, especially of that which the consumer has few controls over the means of production, to be minimalist and marketing-resistant, consciously frugal in both purchase and usage, to make compromise not over what one needs but over what one does not.
Why give more money to the same multinational corporations that already own our politician and media outlets, defecate in the very global market capitalist buffet they feed upon, and, hell, already take my money without my consent through government bailouts and state contracts?
Sure, they naturally get some of my paycheck. I have to, after all, buy foodstuff and toiletries somewhere, still have to have a provider of laundry detergent and of consumable goods. And in rural parts of the US, like here in Oxford Fucking Ohio, some of my consumables are either purchased in the local-employing Big Box Stores or small locally-owned businesses, since it'd be, well, a waste of about a half-tank of gas to shop in the nearby cities.
But, seriously, who pays full price for such things? Wait for the sales. If such businesses are to get chunks of my paycheck, why not simply wait until I can rob them blind by binding my time for clearance markdowns?
And like I said, I'm in no way bragging. It's just how I live my life, and its not a perfect model.
I forget to recycle. Often. I drive a late-model pickup like a Los Angeleno, hitting the road for any trip longer than to the mailbox, despite being a avid hiker, out of sheer laziness. I forget to wash out old plastic containers for reuse, forget that only a hypochondriac needs plastic produce bags for a few avocados or oranges.
It's a work in progress.
But at least I'm trying.
* * * *
Which is more than I can say for a lot of people, probably the majority of that undefined bulbous mass called the Average US Consumer.
You know. That mass that supposedly holds the fate of the global economy in its "consumer confidence" indexes and other measurements of the perceived movement of wealth?
Take a trip to any large in door shopping mall, into any major retailer, even into your neighborhood supermarket. Look around you. Look in every shopper's cart, at stuff you know they're buying that they don't need to actually improve their lives.
Listen to the squeals of fat kids begging for name-brand candy and proprietary-code video games, the sounds of obsessive sports fans drooling over hi-def televisions they'll only enjoy a handful of Sundays out of the year. Watch men and women stop by clothing racks adorned by celebrity endorsements yet still made for pennies in places like Bangladesh or, worse, in conflict areas.
Or maybe, if you're lucky, you'll catch a middle-aged woman adorned in the bling of African blood diamonds and gold, lugging a rat terrier in a purse, as she shops for the latest cosmetic product tested, probably, on animals just like her precious pet.
These shopping habits? All lifestyle choices.
You will see consumption of things, many glorious gluttonous things, that are not so much bought for need but for image, to maintain the fallacy of "Free" marketplaces that dictates freedom in terms of who can acquire the most junk.
And what you'll see is in no way sustainable. Eventually, natural limits are reached beyond the ability of one to purchase them, scarcity leads to higher prices, higher prices leads to panicky conservation and state intervention. So long as consumption of resources is tied to image or brand instead of actual human need, sustainability is but a wet dream in a capitalist society.
Yes, I'm really just a cheap fucking bastard.
And the scary thing?
No matter how bad the economy gets, how much the numbers are doctored and the shady accounting sold to reflect recovery in terms of bullshit measurements like "consumer confidence," my lifestyle will rarely be affected.
Me and, well, the Amish.
Some things in life are bigger than one's lifestyle. Sometimes, there's a conscience behind such choices.
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