Conscious Humanism: Do we need to move on from Post Consumerism?
Updated: Mar 28
If someone were to ask you, “do you think the human race is the most intelligent species?” What would your answer be? I imagine the answer might divide us. Like we need more of that in today’s climate. The human race has only been on this planet for a tiny percentage of the time the earth’s been spinning (according to the gods of Google - 0.0044%). So isn’t it safe to say that we could not possibly be the fully evolved intelligent beings some might like to think we are?
There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that we are indeed still evolving as a species . And then there's the fact we’re in, and the cause of the sixth mass extinction; that we appear to still be addicted to fossil fuels and even in the 21st Century, wars, famine and inequality still exists. Then there's the reason for this article – that we still appear to be very much in the grip of consumerism .
A Brief Definition of Post Consumerism
the policy and practice of gradually moving beyond society’s addictive consumerism and toward the satisfaction of enough as each person defines it.
postconsumer.com also gives a very lovely description of what ‘post consumer’ is.
“Postconsumers generally believe that it’s not reasonable or likely that people will just let go of consumerism altogether. They believe that everybody has to find their own comfort level with how much they buy and how much “stuff” is enough while also educating themselves about the often hidden realities of consumerism.
Most importantly, postconsumers believe that the most significant part of the journey isn’t necessarily about directing anger towards the consumer establishment but rather about healing the emotional and mental wounds and holes that individuals are trying to “fill” with consumerism. “Stuff” in society has to a great extent replaced interpersonal interaction, spiritual fulfilment (there’s a reason it’s called the religion of shopping), a closeness with nature and an understanding of self. A postconsumer thinks that there’s no way to counteract all of those personal elements with the mainstream simply by “ripping off a band aid” and saying “never again!” It’s a journey through a long entanglement of emotional and mental obstacles that requires a supportive community of healing and growth.”
Which is all great and for the most part I entirely agree. But. Some of this could be viewed as being a bit 'too much'. Words like 'journey' and 'consumer establishment' or 'spiritual fulfilment' and finally the last sentence 'It’s a journey through a long entanglement of emotional and mental obstacles that requires a supportive community of healing and growth”could be a turn off for many. It could sound a little, 'hippy' to some. And, again, whilst I completely agree with the sentiment behind it all, I'd like to offer up an approach where we pack up and dump the words 'consumers' or 'consumerism' into language landfill. And make the switch away from consumerism a bit more human.
The problem with ‘consumers’
If we as humans have only been around for 0.0044% of the total time the earth has been spinning, then ‘consumers’ have been around for an even tinier fraction of this. The 18th century being the turning point as “improvements in transport and manufacturing technology, opportunities for buying and selling became faster and more efficient than ever before.”
And whilst consumerism has been around for just a couple of hundred years, language, on the other hand, has been around for hundreds of thousands of years. No matter which theory you believe (5). Language is an integral part of who we are as human beings. Where would we be without it? It’s ever changing. Who would have thought that, 20 years ago, words like ‘selfie’ or ‘smartphone’ would be part of our everyday vernacular?
Language is powerful. The pen is, after all, mightier than the sword. And although I was told as a child the words of bullies would never hurt me, the names I was called back then have never really left me. Sticks and stones do break bones and language, unfortunately causes wars. It also causes us to believe what we tell ourselves. So is it perhaps the case, that the more we keep words like ‘consumer’ or 'consumerism' in use - whether they're prefixed with any kind of negative progressive four letter word or not - the longer consumers will exist?
What if, we decided to confine the word 'consumer', or any derivative of it, to the archives? To a great big language landfill somewhere in the sky. Along with words or phrases like 'waste', 'fossil fuels' and 'throw it away'. I personally, want to distance myself completely from being a consumer, or being involved in consumerism. And I would rather not be referred to as a ‘post consumer’. Which is why I came up with something a little different...
What is Conscious Humanism
Last year I wrote an article introducing ‘Conscious Humanism’. It’s a term that’s positive, affirming and, importantly, doesn’t place pressure on any of us to be ‘perfect’. Something I believe phrases like ‘plastic free’ and ‘zero waste’ can be guilty of - they're too big a leap from doing nothing to conquering the problems of plastic or waste.
So what is ‘Conscious Humanism’? In my first article I defined it as follows:
“…buying less, buying well and buying mindfully. Conscious Humanism is a step forward in buying behaviour, a practice that takes time as we strive towards a new way of living. It encourages producers to take full responsibility for what they put into the world. Conscious Humanism considers people, planet and purpose for a fairer and more balanced society.”
Conscious Humanism is all encompassing. It's a collective effort. An effort made by every person who buys stuff they don't need (or want), who makes, who sells or profits. Conscious Humanism is the seismic shift that will move us from the current ‘take, make, waste’ society we live in  to something unbelievably better.
With Conscious Humanism we recognise that, what each and every one of us has in common, is being human. Living on this earth together with other living things. And, as the species wrecking the planet, it’s up to us to fix it. And we fix it by choosing to live our lives making conscious choices that benefit the bigger picture. As opposed to living our lives making ill informed, self serving, disassociated unconscious ones.
How do we possibly shift from ‘Consumerism’ to Conscious Humanism? I’ll be exploring some ideas in my next article.
"Despite the pandemic, the world’s richest individuals saw their personal wealth increase, with America’s 614 billionaires growing their net worth by nearly a trillion in 2020, USA Today reported. Amazon’s value skyrocketed amid the onslaught of COVID-19, with the delivery service being vital for many consumers. Meanwhile, Tesla finally showed it can deliver on its promise of meeting the target production number."