In honor of this most American of holidays, I will talk about why I am NOT a consumer.
Consume – transitive verb
1: to do away with completely : destroy <fire consumed several buildings>
2a : to spend wastefully : squander
b : use up <writing consumed much of his time>
3a : to eat or drink especially in great quantity <consumed several bags of pretzels>
b : to enjoy avidly : devour <mysteries, which she consumes for fun — E. R. Lipson>
4: to engage fully : engross <consumed with curiosity>
5: to utilize as a customer <consume goods and services>
1: to waste or burn away : perish
2: to utilize economic goods
To consume is, essentially, to destroy. So how do 5 and intransitive 2 fit in? It seems to infer that the products and goods are destroyed. In the case of foods, that makes sense, but so many more products are on the market that should not be destroyed with use.
Using the word ‘consumer’ creates the expectation that everything is intended to be used and then discarded. This is unhealthy and unsustainable. Personally I prefer to re-use things as much as possible. Most of my clothes are either made by me, or second-hand. I buy cars used, I refuse to buy a new home. I am planning to start an indoor herb garden soon, and I am still trying to decide what I want to use for pots.
I don’t get rid of things until they no longer serve a function. I know that many other people will replace something, for instance a sofa, and throw out the old one. In my apartment complex, hardly a week goes by that I do not see what seems to be a perfectly functional sofa sitting by the dumpster. Mine I got at a thrift store. Most things I will buy a cheap one, just so I have one. Later, once it needs to be replaced, then I will buy a nice one that will last longer.
What frustrates me very much is that most modern technology is phased out while the product is still functional. I am constantly having to buy new, not used, expensive technology just to keep up. As nice as the high-end things are, there is no point in buying it, ever, because it will be outdated soon enough that I can buy the same thing at half the price in six months.
Those in charge of corporations, especially marketing for them, prefer to refer to customers as ‘consumers’. It de-humanizes people. The destructive associations with the word probably help with that even more. The label ‘consumer’ makes people into objects that do nothing but churn through the junk that they are thrown. There is no though given to the people buying the product. Maybe these people would rather have something that they did not have to replace every six months. Maybe people are already scraping the bottom of the barrel and need a break.
Marketers and CEOs would prefer that people continue to purchase more and more. This means that long-lasting is counter-productive, as is relenting advertising in any way. Ironically it also means that ‘consumers’ need an ever-increasing monetary supply to fund the dream of ever-increasing ‘consumption’.
We need to create a new, more sustainable model for the future. We need those who create the products to have their goals aligned with those who use the products. We need both the production and disposal parts of this to be aligned with the wellness of the planet and its future.