Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The End of Consumerism

I know that I just wrote about Americans and their stuff, and my Facebook friends are divided between those decrying consumerism and pushing for Buy Nothing Day, and those ready to spend Thanksgiving night in the parking lot at Best Buy, but, actually, the decision to decrease American consumerism has been taken out of our hands. Or our consciences.

I read an interesting Citibank prospectus, from a few years ago, telling investors that there was no money to be made in selling to so-called "middle class" (actually workers with higher wages or salaries) anymore. They're calling it the hourglass theory, with the very rich able to afford goods and services, and the very poor able to afford only a little, and no one really left in the middle.

It's like the old joke where the kid is selling lemonade for $100 a glass, and someone tells him "You're not going to sell much lemonade that way, son". And the kid says "I only have to sell one!"

Luxury items are selling well. Cruise lines are advertising to the rich now, and not so much catering to the buffet-eating masses. On the bottom part of the hourglass, Dollar General is doing well. One woman was quoted as saying how much she preferred Dollar General to WalMart, because she didn't have to dress up to go there.

And now Time magazine has made it official. I quote from the Oct. 31, 2011 edition, which lays it out in Time's usual cheery fashion - "If successful, the shift to consumer spending will take a good chunk of the weight of the global economy off the shoulders of American consumers and make China a gotta-be-there market for everything from video games to surgical tools to potato chips".

Let me translate that. Americans no longer make enough money to interest capitalists looking to sell consumer goods. Or health care items. As if the insurance companies we're going to be forced to pay tribute to are actually going to pay for surgery! No, out of 7 billion people on this planet, there are enough elsewhere to keep profits flowing without the participation of US consumers. So, bye buy!

And if we all switched to a simpler lifestyle, the way my family has been doing for years, (Live simply, so others may simply live), it wouldn't be so bad.

I mean, shoes that light up when you walk? Cards that sing when you open them? Four-wheelers? Disposable everything? All ending up in the landfills, polluting the water supplies?

But, as usual, the cutbacks are spread unequally. More and more people are living in tent cities, students are preyed upon to put them into eternal debt, and 21% of American children live in poverty. (Because we're a child loving nation!)

I'm hoping that the OWSers don't start petitioning the 1% for a return of a wider section of the US population to the resource wasting consumption of the past.

We live on a finite planet, with finite resources, much of which we've already wasted. We need to move forward, not back to the US version of the late 20th century.

Forward to a sustainable population living in harmony with each other, and the ecosystem on which we depend.


Anonymous said...

Tomorrow, I'll go to yet another large Thanksgiving dinner.

Should I say another word about Peak Oil, Bradley Manning, or the "personhood" of corporations?

In the past, I've been called a "downer," I've been taken aside and asked "what is wrong with me?," I've been threatened with "not being asked back."

Once, I was called drunk.

On the otherhand, if I say how great the iPhone 4 is, everyone will like me.

God help us; they don't know what's coming.

wagelaborer said...

I'm a downer, also. Or so I've been told.

Why can't I look on the bright side?