Hey, I’m not a Consumer

If Big Business had its way, we would all be called consumers instead of citizens, and we would vote with dollars instead of ballots.  Consumers buy and buy.  They are like vacuum cleaners that suck up everything around them.  They never stop because they are never satisfied.  Advertising has taught them that they cannot be complete persons unless they buy this thing or that thing.  They are addicts, and the health of the economy depends on their addictions.

According to the consumer philosophy, our purpose in life is to accumulate as many things as possible, and the person who has the most things when he or she dies, wins.

The word “consumer” supports the Big Business dream of endless accumulation.  At the centre is homo economicus, the consumer, who is an isolated, individual vacuum cleaner that attempts to fulfill its desires in the market.  The ideal consumer sees the world as commodity.  Everything is for sale. Buying and selling define its relationship to the earth.  Value is understood in terms of money.  The golden rule is make profit, not loss.

But I refuse to be reduced to a mere consumer and you probably feel the same way.  Our earth and her children (including us) are bound together by a web of complex, living relationships, and that means that we’re not isolated, individual buying machines.

It also means that the only way we can understand ourselves is in relation to all the persons and things around us.  This homo economicus is a monstrous perversion of our human experience.

We can simplify our lives, and that’s fine. Wise people have been telling us that for centuries.  At the same time, we have to be more aware of the complexity of our relationships.  It really isn’t possible to do one thing by itself any more than it is possible to throw a stone in a pond without making ripples.

Anyway, let’s get rid of this word “consumer.”  We’re citizens, after all, and even more, we’re human beings.


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