Friday, November 28, 2008


Has the cure for affluenza been found? No, not influenza - affluenza, a "painful, contagious condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more." John De Graaf produced a documentary on this alarming affliction for PBS in 1996. He published a book, Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic on it in 2001.
The cure has always been available: stop buying stuff! Stop renting storage places to store the stuff! But perhaps the current economic slowdown is a stern reminder to really think about what consumerism, the endless pursuit of stuff, new stuff, better, bigger stuff, is doing to our lives, our families and our societies.

Today is the biggest shopping day in the U.S. (called Black Friday as it is the day retailers hope to move from the red into the black". But anti-consumerism activists in Vancouver, lead by Kalle Lasn and the Adbusters Magazine folks, established today as "Buy Nothing Day" back in 1992. The day has spread across the globe as it has merged with the zeitgeist of the simplicity movement, the slow movement, the anti-globalization movements ... Lasn talked about his ideas in his book Culture Jam: How to Reverse America's Suicidal Consumer Binge (2000) and recently in Design Anarchy (2006).

An excerpt from Culture Jam is published in a handy collection, The Consumer Society Reader (2000), along with other classic and new pieces: John Kenneth Galbraith from The Affluent Society, Thorstein Veblen on "Conspicuous Consumption", Malcolm Gladwell on
"The Coolhunt" and Thomas Frank on advertising as cultural criticism.

An interesting look at how the expansion of consumer choice (300 types of toothpaste!) hasn't made us happier, indeed, it appears to make us LESS happy is explored in The Paradox of Choice: Why Less is More (2004) by Barry Schwartz.

What to fill the void that not shopping leaves? Why visit your local public library of course! The Library is first on this list of "Ten Things to Do Instead of Shopping."


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