Stuff, Stuff, there's never enough.
Or so our economy wants us to believe. But I've been trying to get rid of stuff lately. Apparently, others are as well. Even though I was born shortly after the Depression when thrift was viewed as an ultimate virtue, I have always loved to shop for stuff whether it be a new pair of shoes, a new kitchen gadget, art supplies, books, or cosmetics. But the other day, I ran into a video called the Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard and it reinforced in me the need to examine why and how I purchase things.
According to this well researched piece, toxic chemicals are a major player in just about everything we buy. And there are over 100,000 chemicals that have never been tested related to our health and safety. That's only one concern. Another is the externality of stuff's costs. When we buy cheap stuff, we really aren't paying for it. The people and communities along the production cycle are. They are loosing their natural resources, they are having their air and water polluted, they are working for low wages with little or no health care and in many cases unsafe conditions. These kind of costs go uncaptured in the price of just about everything we buy that's mass produced. And so we are constantly taking home bargains that are depleting the earth of it's ability to sustain itself ... and us!
So is this perspective all lies? Apparently a lot of people, think so. Looking at stuff through the lens of a production cycle gone bad has become a political hot potato. Instead of discussing and learning from the facts surrounding the limitations of our earth to both produce and consume, we see the story of stuff as an anti-American campaign to regulate and get rid of the big corporations that are producing this stuff.
However one's opinion about this falls, the argument as to whether stuff is good or bad or just out of control seems to divide people while obfuscating the real problem: we are in trouble and it's our idolizing of stuff that's contributing to it.
One of my biggest concerns - beside the fact that our consumer society is unsustainable - is that all this focus on shopping for stuff has caused us to lose our selves to the corporate lie. The soul we are now most in touch with is the one we've bought on sale at the local ... you fill in the name of the big box store. In the meantime, we feel a huge hole in us, one that we learn to temporarily fill by shopping. Shopping, for many of us, gets our adrenalin pumping. It relieves us from the stresses and banalities of the day. It helps us feel modern, up to date, snazzy, and cool. That's the reason I use to shop, trying to find a new look, a new experience, a new dimension of my personality that I liked better than the one that I saw in the mirror.
How I got this way is likely due to the constant advertising campaign I've been exposed to via TV, magazine ads, etc. But I also got this way because I let shopping and stuff become a way of life. I let them define me and used them as a kind of drug. One that is so totally acceptable that I'm almost wincing at the notion that it is a drug. But it is!
As of last week, I'm on a new mission. I'm looking at myself not through the lens of stuff but though something else. I still need to figure out what. There's lots of work to be done and lots of stuff to get out of the way.