Call me anything you want, just don’t call me a consumer
An invitation to call me anything, except the ‘c’ word…how’s that for opening myself up to being called every name under the sun. If I was a social media ‘influencer’, or cared about the opinions of strangers, I might be worried about the trolling and name calling. Alas, I am neither.
Why the strong aversion?
When I think of the word ‘consumer’, I think of buying without thinking about it. Buying for the sake of it. Buying because it’s a habit to go to the shops on a Saturday. Or a habit to do online. Buying because it seems to be ingrained into the DNA of our society since the industrial revolution.
It’s an addiction that’s ramped up by never ending in-your-face (or in-your-scroll) unethical, emotive and largely unregulated advertising, the IG influencers and the over-inflated worth of data. Our habits, our everyday movements, our thoughts anticipated so that we can be sold to.
And it’s all a distraction from who and what we really are — humans with deeper needs that won’t be satisfied by instant gratification or distractions or any kind of numbing activities.
Including buying relentlessly.
The ‘ism’ that isn’t helping climate change
A person should not believe in an ‘ism’, he (she/they) should believe in him(her/them)self. Ferris Bueller
When I look at the meaning of those three little letters lined up in that particular order, anything with an ‘ism’ at the end becomes something more nuanced.
Sticking ‘ism’ on the end of ‘consumer’, turns it into something even more sinister.
According to Cambridge Dictionary ‘ism’ is defined as:
a set of beliefs, especially ones that you disapprove of used to form nouns that refer to social, political, or religious beliefs, studies, or ways of behaving.
This is in essence why I don’t want to identify with or be labelled as a consumer. I don’t wish to be a part of a society that’s driven by consumerism.
When I’m labelled as a ‘consumer’, within the wider context of consumerism, it makes me feel like I’m being robbed of my humanity, my freedom of choice and makes me feel like a commodity.
I accept I need to buy things in order to live and I often enjoy buying things I want. But I refuse to be a pawn in the game of consumerism.
Does that make me a conscious consumer?
The contradiction of the ‘conscious consumer’
My friend, ex-mentor and highly respected sustainability advocate and leader used the term, ‘conscious consumer’ in a recent LinkedIn article. When I commented that I was writing this article, she said she believes the term is not as bad as we think. Perhaps she’s right. And maybe I’m being an over analytical pedant.
But maybe I’m not.
I don’t believe prefixing ‘consumer’ with ‘conscious’ or ‘green’ or ‘ethical’ or any other nice word is enough for me. It feels like a juxtaposition. And those prefixes are open to interpretation.
We’re being bombarded with very sophisticated greenwashing and kindwashing — it’s everywhere. Messages like “this can be recycled”, “#bekind we donate to mental health charities”, are giving the green light to consumerism to carry on regardless.
Just this week I realised how I’ve been caught out (pun unintended). Even though I consider myself aware and conscious, aside from having some knowledge of over fishing, unethical shark fin soup and the tuna industry specifically, until I watched Seaspiracy, I too didn’t give much thought to the monstrous industrial fishing industry. I would buy ‘sustainably sourced’ or ‘dolphin friendly’ thinking I was doing ok.
If I considered myself a consumer, I probably wouldn’t care. But as a human being, I do.
Until we live in a world that’s free of climate change, pollution, waste and corporate lies, ‘consumers’ can try to be conscious or green or ethical. But chances are, even when we think we’re making better choices, we’re having the wool pulled over our ever so slightly opened eyes.
Consumers don’t drive change — humans do
Consumers, and all those who benefit from people being labelled as consumers of any kind, are keeping the wheels of the current economic model turning. An economic model that continues to benefit the few. But requires the many to survive.
Corporations want us to be consumers more than they want us to be human. They’re even trying to make us believe we’re being ‘conscious’ or ‘green’ or ‘ethical’ when we buy their stuff as they make tiny shifts towards being a little bit better. It’s a very dangerous narrative that could create more problems than it solves.
From the issues raised in docufilms like Seaspiracy, the continued existence of the fast fashion industry, to buying unseasonal fruit and veg, as consumers — conscious or not —are we really in a position to drive change?
Isn’t real, effective change the job of engaged and connected human beings?
I want to live in a world where first and foremost, we are humans. We are connected to our humanity, to the planet, to our being. I want a world where stuff is made and bought with consideration for how it contributes to the enhancement of everyone’s life, for the benefit of all and the world around us.
Until that time comes, you can call me anything except the ‘c’ word. Because the only ‘ism’ I’d like to be part of when it comes to my buying decisions, is conscious humanism.
Language is powerful.
Stay conscious, Jaxx