This morning I finished reading Judith Levine’s ‘Not Buying It’, which charts her & her partner’s year of shopping only for food ‘necessities’ (what constitutes necessity being itself an area of discussion). A thought-provoking & humorous book, it was so reassuring to read of someone else on a similar mission to me. I’m not as strict or dedicated to a particular aim, but share the urge that seems to inform much of Levine’s quest: the desire to simply consume less (both in terms of shopping & the older sense of consume, as in to use) & to see what life is like when shopping & buying stuff becomes replaced by other activities. ‘I shop therefore I am’, states my Barbara Kruger book bag. So if I don’t shop (well, don’t shop as much!), who am I then?
‘Not Buying It’ has left me in a dilemma, though. I got the book out of the local library but having enjoyed it so much, I would like to have a copy close to hand to re-visit as I choose. The question is do I buy ‘Not Buying It’? Or does that counter the whole ethos?!
The compromise I’ve devised is to photocopy the final twenty pages or so, which re-visit the key themes. If I keep feeling I want to re-read it, then I’ll try to get a 2nd hand copy.
If only all consumption-related compromises were so simple to negotiate. It’s a tug-of-war that I’m constantly engaged in. It’s not that I’ve suddenly become rabidly anti-consumerist; I just want to stop consuming so much. There are so many reasons why: financial, spiritual, ethical, environmental. I own so many things; sometimes I feel over-whelmed by all my possessions. And what purpose do all the possessions serve? It goes beyond utility. Is it status? Security? Ego? Susceptibility to marketing hype? Peer pressure? Probably a bit of all these factors.
I’m learning where I can make changes & not consume, or consume in a different way – a way that feels better for me. All these efforts deserve posts of their own; ‘Not Buying It’ has given me a cause & reason to reflect on these changes in their entirety. But now I have to go – I need to order a take-away curry for a night with my sister-in-law. A take-away curry: undoubtedly this will be an evening where I will still consume far too much!