We have the power to help our communities by shifting our spending patterns. Consumption links us to an interconnected web of business transactions that ultimately has the potential to become a reflection of our personal beliefs.
Directing money towards products sold by independent, small retailers will create a consumer lifestyle in synchronicity with a better world. Every purchase we make gives us the chance to affect change, but for this to happen requires us to think about the consequences of our actions. Creating a better world through shopping sounds to good to be true, but it is possible. The only thing required is thinking before consuming. Greater conscious awareness of our consumption can be a catalyst for global change.
The current system relies on apathy and ignorance to generate huge profits for a tiny group of wealthy elite. We can instigate radical change by taking the time and effort to learn how our consumption impacts local communities. Shopping at smaller, independently owned businesses taps us into a very different supply chain where a lot of the thinking required to become a conscious consumer has been taken care of for us. These stores are operated by members of our community, people who think like us because they are us.
They are passionate about their businesses and more aware of how the products they sell are produced. By purchasing what we need from these smaller establishments, our money supports a supply chain that benefits our communities and helps create a better world. Smaller businesses are engaged in a constant life and death struggle against large corporations. If we want to help our communities thrive and support friends and neighbours, we have to change our shopping habits.
Another way to make conscious consumption happen is to stop buying anything advertised on television. Advertisements are designed to penetrate our consciousness by stoking desires and prejudices through the use of images that are a caricaturization of the consumer lifestyle. The billions spent on advertising do nothing to improve the quality of products or the lives of workers. All of that money is used to boost the sales of the most profitable products made by multinational corporations. Advertisements only inform us of which products are the most profitable, they tell us nothing about how products are made, how workers are treated, or anything else that would help us make conscious decisions.
If we want change it is up to us to change. By thinking clearly and taking matters into our own hands and engaging in conscious consumption we will make a better future. Every purchase we make is a reflection of ourselves; if we want to live in a better world we must consume with more than our immediate gratification in mind. Mindless consumption is how we got to where we are and doing more of it will not make a better future. Consumption should be limited to only what we need, purchased from people we know and made from materials and ingredients that are good for our health and the health of the planet.
Living consciously requires activating the imagination to understand the complex reactions generated by our actions. We have to realize and visualize the fact that we’re connected to what we consume through a complex, interconnected web of transactions linking people and materials from around the world together in a chain that ultimately connects us to the Earth. When we pick something off a shelf, or off a rack, taking the time to understand the impact of that experience in deeper terms can make all the difference. Every purchase we make satisfies our needs and desires, but it also gives us a chance to connect to the people and resources required to create what we consume. Our consumption can help other people and heal the planet, if we take the effort to think more broadly about what we’re consuming.
Approaching daily consumption with an understanding of how things are made and who profits from our consumption will cause a seismic shift. Conscious consuming will shake the foundation of the business establishment. The thought of spending money to solve local and global problems is not a pipe a dream. Purchasing power is real power. As we begin to consume products made with more than just profits in mind, we’ll begin to see massive improvements in our communities. Independently owned retail outlets will provide space for locally produced goods, communities will develop skills and knowledge, workers will be treated better and more environmentally sustainable products will be sold, because this how neighbours naturally do business with one another.
Praying and voting for a better future might work, but both religious and political institutions are closely wed to the established economic paradigm and have little interest in changing the business practices of multinational corporations. Belief in the invisible hand is also a fallacy because free market theory was designed to benefit massive business enterprises, like slave plantations. The invisible hand is extremely efficient at allocating natural resources to large corporations and profits to the top one per cent, but it does nothing to help our communities. Putting our collective faith in the current paradigm is a waste of our psychic energy.
To make spending curative means becoming curious and creative. Imagine a world where our consumption was a mirror reflection of our beliefs. To make this happen requires a deeper understanding of what we consume—this holds especially true of food. Not long ago we understood where the products we consumed were made, how they were made, what materials and ingredients were used, and how the workers were treated. We can go back to this way. Conscious consumption requires a little more effort, but the rewards are well worth it.
In its most basic form conscious consumption requires thinking in terms of a new trinity: our body, the bodies of our children and the body of the Earth. It’s the health of these three things that will ensure a better future. We have the power to give shape and form to the landscape our children will inherit, all that is required is a psychic realignment. Step one is realizing every purchase we make can affect positive change.
The easiest way to make this change become reality is to shift our consumption to small, independent retailers that sell brands not advertised on television (this holds especially true for food and politicians). Healthy consumption means consuming products less processed, less advertised and made closer to home. A shift in consumer consciousness will cause a revolution that will put us on a healing path as we continue our journey through space.
Read MADE TO BE WASTED: The unsustainability of the current system of production>> for another perspective on consumption
This article is excerpted from Patel’s forthcoming book.
image: antwerpenR (Creative Commons BY-NC-SA)