Critics often point out the hypocrisy of people who live and encourage others to live without shopping or without money, and then try to sell you a book about it (i.e. people such as Judith Levine and Mark Boyle). While I don’t dispute the contradictory messages being sent out by this, it’s easy to see that the sale of the books don’t invalidate the ideas in them. In fact, books encourage the spread of good ideas, open people’s eyes to more interesting ways of living, and provide a creative outlet (and income) for people who reject the dull existence of 9 to 5.
Any kind of belief system or even an individual’s personal morality is bound to contain contradictions. We shouldn’t pretend that they aren’t there; we should celebrate the occasions for debate. It isn’t good for you to live your life in black and white.
Take shopping for example. It is fairly widely accepted that that those of us with a social or environmental conscience should not enjoy it. However I do, and I can’t help that. But actually, the rejection of consumerism shouldn’t necessarily have to be a rejection of buying things. In fact, it would be hypocritical to suggest that. A lot of people who advocate not shopping advocate creativity instead – crafting, writing, building. But for artisans and poets to exist somebody needs to buy their work. To create a society in which production is sustainable and people can make a living from what they enjoy, we need to be supporting them with our money. Or as Samara Leibner has put it, “help these people to quit their day jobs.”*
Granted, we need a shift from the rampant consumerism that capitalism and the advertising agencies promise us will make our lives better. We need to shop not as a stress-reliever but to acquire objects that we need. But we need to celebrate beautiful objects, not dismiss them as unnecessary or judge those of us who enjoy searching them out. We need to shop less, but not not at all. We need to reject consumerism, but celebrate craftsmanship. We need to buy less, but think more. And, for the same reason that diets never work, we need to stop punishing ourselves for what we enjoy or we will fall of the wagon completely.
*as seen in New Escapologist Issue Four.