This video isn’t about what you might initially think… Continue reading
For many years I taught a college course called Issues in Consumer Economics. Based on that experience, I wrote Conscious Spending, Conscious Life: An Uncommon Guide to Navigating the Consumer Culture. Here’s the first paragraph of the introduction to that book:
It is one of the illusions of these times that we can control our world and the people in it—an understandable desire, certainly, because it’s comforting to think we can make everything go our way. For many people, being in control gives them a feeling of security. And truthfully, it is possible to live that way for awhile. But eventually we encounter something beyond our control—an extreme weather event, a dramatic economic downturn, or a serious illness.
At the time, I was thinking of individual money management and being prepared for the unexpected. I certainly had no idea that we would, in my lifetime, experience two of these events at once and collectively—all of us, together, across the world.
*** Time for this post? Reading… 9 minutes. Viewing… 4 minutes. Doing something to unhook yourself…up to you.
We live in a time when dying has been sanitized and commercialized—like most of our life experiences. In our consumer culture, commercial interests have taken over all the difficult things we used to do ourselves when someone died. In return, we get to detach from the experience and feel less discomfort.
That wasn’t always the case. Here’s a recollection shared by Nora, a reader who is now 90 years old.
My first direct experience [with death] was probably around the age of 5 or 6. In those days people still often dealt with the death of a family member at home, and my mother was often called on to help with washing of the body. In this particular instance a baby had died and I accompanied her to the farm where the family lived. They were friends. I watched as the baby was washed and placed in a small wooden box, then taken out and buried on the property. I didn’t see the burial, but can’t recall why. I only remember that I wasn’t scared and thought it was completely natural.
That had changed by the time the Baby Boomers were growing up in the 1950s and 60s. By then, the funeral industry was in full swing. Death was outsourced and we didn’t learn, as Nora did, that it is completely natural and not scary. In the absence of such experience, we’ve become fearful of the unknown and susceptible to the death phobia that pervades the culture around us.
Death phobia serves commercial interests…
I’m a systems thinker, and for a long time have been aware of the dysfunctional nature of the economic system we live in. That’s what prompted me to write a book about navigating the consumer culture without being swallowed up by it.
When I wrote Conscious Spending, Conscious Life, my view was that the system needed a drastic overhaul. I talked about the work of alternative thinkers such as David Korten, Ray Anderson, Paul Hawken, and Muhammad Yunus.
If I’d known then about John Mackey and conscious capitalism, I would certainly have written about him too. Continue reading
November is Financial Literacy Month in Canada. This annual event acknowledges the need to educate ourselves in a crucial area of life—how to navigate the consumer culture without being consumed by it.
This initiative came out of the work of a task force that travelled the country to assess the state of financial literacy in Canada. My submission to that task force expressed the view that all post-secondary students should be required to complete a personal finance course in order to graduate.
I was pleased that the final report of the task force recommended that “…all provincial and territorial governments integrate financial literacy in the formal education system, including…post-secondary education and formalized adult learning activities.”
Realistically, this is unlikely to happen. But Continue reading
True freedom comes from exercising autonomy over our lives. The consumer culture discourages us from thinking for ourselves, preferring that we adopt the cultural story about how to live.
Our challenge is to detach ourselves from the cultural story and look at the illusions surrounding freedom and choice.
- Has the use of credit given you freedom or put you in bondage?
- Is it an either/or question?
- If it’s “both/and,” what makes the difference?
It’s something worth thinking about if we want to make our own lives.
Reference chapter: “Power and Money” in Conscious Spending. Conscious Life.
Part 4 of my book Conscious Spending, Conscious Life is about health, safety and integrity of the future. It covers food and toxics, among other things. People are often surprised that I included health in a book about consumerism. But the truth is, food has become the ultimate consumer good—commercially grown, highly processed, and heavily marketed.
Navigating the consumer culture—unharmed—is a tricky task these days. Remaining healthy is one of the challenges. Despite relative wealth and an abundance of food products in North America, we continue to become more and more unhealthy.
Much of what we call “food” really isn’t. The dictionary defines food as “material that is used by the body to sustain growth, repair, and vital processes, as well as to furnish energy.” In a consumer culture, it is so easy to make poor choices and eat a lot that fills us up but doesn’t support our bodies in carrying out vital life processes. The choices we make can end up haunting us sooner or later.
When we become conscious of what we eat and try to do the right thing, we’re faced with confusing and conflicting information to sort through. While I was writing my section about food and toxics, I was frustrated by not having enough space to say everything I wanted to.
So I’m happy to tell you about a book I discovered Continue reading
I recently met a young woman who is buying nothing for a year. Julie Phillips (photo) was giving a talk about how this came to be (serendipity, like many of life’s most remarkable moments) and about her experiences during the first six weeks of being propelled into a #DIYLife.
Julie Phillips is certainly not the first person to spend less money and do more for herself,
but I was struck by several defining aspects of her story: Continue reading