Consumerism vs. consuming with dignity

I’ve never felt moved to post a video on my blog, but this one really speaks to me. It talks about the rampant consumerism being foisted upon our children’s daily lives.

When I first moved to this little groovy town in CA, I was struck by how little anyone here cared about stuff– who had what, what brand handbag did she carry, did they have the newest sportscar? I felt an immediate weight lifted off of my shoulders; as an artist, I’d long discarded that type of consumerism as necessary to my life, and although I kept my hand in as a necessary evil to my life in fashion in a big city, I was never comfortable (nor good at) keeping up with the Jones.

Enter a new phase for me. Is it my new town? Is it my new state? Is it my age? Is is new times overall? Can’t say for sure. But I do know that I buy much much less than ever before. I recycle, repurpose as much as I can. Even my art relies heavily on recycled, repurposed, environmentally sensitive tools and techniques. My stash report would be pretty boring– I haven’t bought fabric in a very long time, unless I need something specific for a project– so that comes in and goes out, taking some existing stash with it.

The hubby? His whole business is recycling– eCycle Group Inc. is all about recycling printer cartridges, and now cell phones.

The kids? They are this family’s heaviest consumers. DS1 wears out tee shirts almost before they hit his stinky little body. DS2 gets hand me downs when I can salvage something. I try to buy them only enough for a week’s worth of wear, so they are not loaded with clothing, but they do have plenty. DH and I have always agreed to only buy toys on birthdays and Christmas. Unfortunately for the boys, they are only 2 weeks apart (well, now, you know your biology better than that! They are 2 YEARS and 2 weeks apart) so for them, new toys come in waves– August and December. Books are available year round at the library. But I see letters to Santa appearing at odd times during the year– so I know those tv commercials are doing their job.

Sorry for this rant. I do so hope I can instill a sense of what I call “consuming with dignity” in my children. According to the above video, I’ve got a mighty adversary working against me.

Edited to add: I got a comment from my friend and fellow artist, Vicki Welsh, and I was so impressed that I found myself commenting back to her. Instead of keeping our communication private, I am bringing it forward to include with this post. The following is our “conversation”:

Vicki wrote: I totally agree with you. what I don’t agree with in the video is that it’s a corporate problem. It’s a parenting problem. It’s the parents job to teach values, it can’t be legislated or forced through corporations. Did you see the episode on the today Show yesterday about the family that tried cutting their weekly spending in half? Those people had absolutely no clue how much money they were wasting. I think this link will take you to the segment. Those people are morons when it comes to money and instilling a sense of what things are worth in their children. All the regulations in the world will not fix that.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/25600619#25600619

This is a big topic that sends me off. Since when did having pedicures, 5 TVs, 4 cell phones, Starbucks every day and a lawn service become “basic needs”? Personally, I think the more crap (the bad crap, not CRAP – Creative Resources and Projects) you have the more work it is to manage all of it.

Sorry to rant. I’m with you on this one!

Susan wrote back: Vicki, I am also blown away by this family’s “basic needs”. Their lifestyle is completely contrary to my own– we don’t eat fast food, rarely go out for dinner, have only 2 cell phones (for the adults). I wash my own car and paint my own toes. When something breaks, we try our best to fix it.
As for their kids; it seemed like they were the beneficiaries of the week of non-consumption! They looked so happy to be participating in activities with Mom and Dad! With a community pool as fun as theirs, why in the world is she taking them to the movies a couple of times a week? And she needed an adult beverage to get over the trauma of cooking a few hot dogs for lunch– OY! Lady, have a green smoothie, instead!
I agree with you, dear Vicki. It is my job, not the government’s, to teach my children their values. I try not to preach to the kids, and I am hopeful that my actions speak for themselves. On the one hand, I am glad that there’s a consumer group pointing fingers at the advertisement immersing our children in consumerism, yet I take responsibility for my own children’s actions (in regards to consumerism, not in regards to their constant fighting with each other; that’s a different post altogether). I’m not perfect, and I probably “waste” money and resources, too. But I am consciously trying to spend responsibly, and I am trying to educate my children to respond responsibly to outside influences.

In the words of Benjamin Franklin: A penny saved is a penny earned.

In more ways than one, Ben, in more ways than one.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Consumerism vs. consuming with dignity

  1. I totally agree with you. what I don’t agree with int he video is that it’s a corporate problem. It’s a parenting problem. It’s the parents job to teach values, it can’t be legislated or forced through corporations. Did you see the eposide on the today Show yesterday about the family that tried cutting their weekly spending in half? Those people had absolutely no clue how much money they were wasting. I think this link will take you to the segment. Those people are morons when it comes to money and instilling a sense of what things are worth in their children. All the regulations in the world will not fix that.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/25600619#25600619

    This is a big topic that sends me off. Since when did having pedicures, 5 TVs, 4 cell phones, Starbucks every day and a lawn service become “basic needs”? Personally, I think the more crap (the bad crap, not CRAP – Creative Resources and Projects) you have the more work it is to manage all of it.

    Sorry to rant. I’m with you on this one!

  2. The fact that you are even talking about this shows that you are a great parent! I agree, I think that the awareness groups are doing a good job at educating individuals and parents. I just get frustrated when we try to cop out on our individual responsibility by expecting someone else to take care of things. One day we will wake up with no freedoms and no choices (even the choice to do stupid things) and we will wonder what happened.

    What kind of mess would we be in if someone decided that huge fabric stashes were unhealthy! A nightmare indeed! LOL!

  3. It is a parenting problem; always has been. It’s much easier to give in than to say no and mean it.
    I remember limiting video games to 30 minutes per kid, per week. Each kid picked one TV progam they could all watch that week. You can imagine the complaining I heard constantly. They had to sleep somewhere else if they wanted to watch extra TV. They had lots of books, toys and they were all involved in sports.
    They’re mostly grown up now; are well adjusted, intelligent and have lots of interests, TV and video games are not high on their list. My oldest son, actually thanked me for not letting them play video games and watch TV when they were young. He said that the only thing his college roomate did was play video games, he didn’t go out and he didn’t have any interests! Very sad.
    Stay tough, Susan, it will pay off.

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