This year, my favorite call to counter capitalism came via Treehugger online... http://www.treehugger.com/culture/brief-history-society-prevention-useless-giving.html. It's about a 1912 effort to curb useless giving at Christmas, but you can read all about that at Treehugger...
Each year, something surfaces in the media about over-consumption at this time of year. Our family has, for the most part, shed gifts, since we're spending the second half of our lives trying to get rid of useless, shiny stuff that nobody wants or ever wanted, but that someone felt compelled to give. I prefer the gift of beauty that arrives unexpected, and that accompanies us every day in our families and friends.
What's eye-opening about this story from Treehugger is that it demonstrates the ability of a few to get a message to a community, then to the nation, and the demonstration of the right of a person to stand up and speak his/her mind and truth, a right we seem to have nearly forgotten. Today with cyber-Monday following black Friday and days of shopping nom-sense meant to attract consumers to retailers, I feel a kind of desperation from the retailers - they know that without them, without their customers filling shelves and stockings and cars and offices with low grade electro-chaff, gag gifts, and the latest blenders and other kitchen conveniences, that the economy will tank.
Bush II wasn't wrong when he suggested we could shop ourselves out of the recession, but he shouldn't have said it. It's a depressing thought, spending one's savings to help the country regain the bubble. Many of us treated him like a capitalist pig for saying it, and I guess a president, (even if by nefarious means) suggesting it to a country is a bit like telling the nation to go down to the crossroads, make a deal with the devil, and you'll come back singing like Placido. I suppose if you believe capitalism will free your soul or make you happy or fill the stomachs of the poor, if given the chance, you'd be considered naive. But, sadly, our economy doesn't run on good will, and we don't have gross national happiness indexes. What we're left with are importers, wholesalers, middle-persons, marketers, lawyers, retailers, and consumers who mostly make their money by getting a cut of your money at the cost of a great and massive distraction from what is important, living.
Think of this. The USB thingy that charges your phone cost about $.04 to make, and you pay $5 or more for it. 125 times the manufacturing cost, and retailers say they have low margins, so where is that $4.96 going? YEP - it is that crazy. Even building materials come from all over the world and are processed products like squeeze margarine, and the more complicated products get, the less well we feel about our stuff. We lose comprehension of what is around us, where and how it came to be. We CAN'T make things to last, because the economy would collapse.
So keep this in mind: When you get excited to see your brand of coffee on sale with buy-one-get-one free, don't be fooled. You are paying for the free one each time you buy the regular priced product before and after the sale. Sales, freebies, free gifts, coupons - they're all built into the price of what you buy. And what you might consider is this: My coffee would be cheaper all the time if not for the buy-one-get-one-free deal... and coupons and such tactics. You are just playing the game that the manufacturers and marketers want you to play. We're sheep, easily herded, easily led, and we're distracted by the notion that we're as clever as the retailers. But they're not offering the deals to be clever, they're offering them because we buy more when they do.
Critical thinking: We do some, but not much, which is why we buy more gifts each year than the year before, which is why the GNP rises annually or we feel like we're falling apart, which is why we still can't see the wall that is the limit of what our planet can handle.
Depressing? I believe that knowledge is power, so it's encouraging to be 'in the know'.
This holiday season, take to heart the meaning of whatever you believe to be true to your soul/heart/happiness. Is it a 'better deal'? Is it fulfilling the perceived need of a relative to have the latest device? Might it'd be better to simply be happy to be alive, to have relatives and friends, to see snow coming down, to smell and breath clean air, to not worry about where to put the latest appliance, to not give a shit about keeping up with the Jones'? I bought some gifts, and all the time I'm buying gifts, I make sure I'm filling an actual need, solving a problem, otherwise I'm more likely to share a glass of wine over no thing and be happy.
Happy holidays to all, may they be clutter free, mindful, soulful, and devoid of material distractions.