for better or worse, we use consumerism, the things we buy, to vote companies in or out of existence. i’m not sure how i feel about this (or my primary identity defined by the shit i buy), but there it is. it is a condition of being a human in the US in 2014. you are what you buy.
then again, there is the part of me who loves beautiful things. i am not one of those millennials content to live on experiences alone. i love the tangibles, the things i can use and touch and gaze upon. it makes me so happy.
one of the conditions of finding myself middle class (trust me, i’m as surprised as you) is that i’ve started paying close attention to what i buy and from whom. back during my salad days, i couldn’t think much about buying shit from WalMart made in China for the simple fact that i was all i could afford. this is a condition from which many people operate, and i don’t fault them for that. all i can change is my own spending habits.
when i bought my house, one of the things i committed to do was furnishing it from entirely used items. and i have succeeded at this, through the largess of craigslist, ebay, etsy and friends and relatives. the only exceptions i made were upholstered items (because bedbugs). my mattress and both of my sofas were purchased new. but really….that’s it.
i bring all this up not to pat myself on the back (buying used is not really an onerous thing for me because i love antiques and i love the hunt) but to comment on it, given we are entering the annual season of consumerism. i wish everyone who is able to would be more careful about what they buy, and from whom, and where it comes from.
i recently commissioned Brad Johnson to do a gigantic platter for me. ironic that it’s usually the people who are artists (and who generally can least afford it) that tend to spend large amounts of money on other artists’ work. it’s because we know where that money is going. i admire Brad’s work, i admire him as a person and an artist and i would rather put $200 in his pocket than go out and buy an iPad and put money in the pocket of some enormous international conglomerate of tech.
this is such a simple calculation. ironically, the more conservative powers that be in this country like to champion small business but when asked to put pedal to the metal they are in line buying things that are made in China and sold by someone making minimum wage, because the free market rules all. they are the ones going to the big box store because it has cheaper prices that eventually shut down the mom and pop hardware store that paid their employees a living wage. these people then go down the road with all their skills and knowledge and start working at the big box store for $8. no one wins in this situation. except you, the consumer, because you paid a dollar less for a 2×4. congratulations on that.
in sum: shop local. know where your dollars are going. if you can look in the eye the person who is getting all your dollars, all the better. we can all do better on this.