Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Avoiding excess.

After MEtC picked me up from work today, we went to run some errands, including a stop at Old Navy. I've been known to buy quite a bit of my clothing there- it's inexpensive, and you can look reasonably presentable. In poking around though, I found that my attitude towards the place has changed greatly. I just couldn't bring myself to buy anything.

Part of this stems from just not needing to dress for anything but comfort lately, I know this. Working from home affords a certain luxury in this regard- lots of pajamas, showers at lunchtime, the works. But I've also been feeling the crush of hyper-consumerism lately. This was evident in my reaction to visiting Meijer a couple of weeks ago too. The feeling that I get walking into one of these stores now, and being surrounded completely by all of this cheaply constructed STUFF that has been shipped in from countries with atrocious labor practices, is a combination of horror and illness.

There's a role for this stuff in our society as it is today, I admit. People are working one or two jobs for a far smaller wage than they used to, and they are spending far more on the essentials. So when it comes to clothing yourself or your kids, places like Old Navy look like a freakin oasis. And it just keeps moving in this never ending circle- people want cheaper goods because they earn less, so companies keep moving their factories to countries where the wages are lower and lower, taking more and more jobs away so that Americans have to find even cheaper goods because they're making even less.

In my heart of hearts, I hope that some day this cycle ends, and everyone gets a living wage, and everyone can get what they need at a reasonable price. But that's not going to happen anytime soon. And that's why I am heartened by the sudden remergence in the public conscience of the labor union. Corporations will never lessen their greed- they are bound by contract to create the greatest return possible for their shareholders. It's up to the workers to bind together and draw the line and say "this is all we will give you".

This country has bowed to the fear of corporations moving overseas for the last 20 or more years. But we're getting to a critical point where we have to instill some fear back in the corporations- they need to understand that they're going to run out of third world countries to exploit eventually, and by that point, at the current rate, no one in this country is going to have a job with which to make money to buy their products.

We consume a lot as a country. Corporations need to be told that they are in eminent danger of losing their best customer base if they keep it up. The automakers are already seeing this: people don't have the free capital to buy a new version of their crappy product year after year. And so they've started reacting to the market instead of trying to drive it. There are still too many automakers and too many autos. But now at least they're working to make a better product, instead of just a cheap product.

To all of my American friends, have a happy Thanksgiving. Give thanks for what you've got and for your health and your family and friends. It's not about some group of european invaders or getting ready to shop on Black Friday, it's about being thankful- it's right there in the name. So relax, watch some football, and remember to Buy Nothing on friday.


Anonymous said...

i hate shopping on black friday and tend not to do any then. people are just mean and it's too crowded. i hate crowds. and it used to be you could get some really good deals that made it worth it. not any more.

i feel that mass consumerism thing too. on the one hand i like to shop. on the other i hate the way companies work these days...chain stores, bulk sizes when you don't need so much, etc.

michelle said...

amen brother!