Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Me, Consumerist?

It is raining and raining and raining here; it's been raining solidly for about two weeks now. My shoes are going mouldy, the lantana is rejoicing as tendrils reach for the skies, the stuff in the garage is rusting or rotting (depending on inclination), the path is treachorously carpeted with lichen, and I have no dry clothes. It's been raining a lot here, in the last year. So bizarre to read in the newspapers every day about water restrictions, dying lawns and desalination plants as the overflow from our tank runs down the hill, creating a lovely little stream. I suppose all the rain that's not falling on the rest of you has to land somewhere - well, it's landing on us.

Last weekend in the SMH I read an article about a group of friends who decided, a year ago, to not buy anything for the next twelve months. They called it the "Compact" - it's some Mayflower pilgrim reference. The contemporary Compact group's agreement was not to buy anything new for a year, except food and essentials - soap, toothpaste, undies. They buy secondhand, or repair or make, or swap. Initially there were ten of them, then word spread, and about 4,000 people decided to give it a try. In the ensuing year, they've been accused of being unAmerican and economic terrorists (an appealing concept).

I was impressed by this, and Lovergirl and I have agreed to do this for a year, quite carelessly, as if it's not going to be a big deal. 'Oh, we don't spend much,' we reassured each other. I suspect it will be more challenging than we can imagine. Nothing new? I'm already grieving not being able to buy some coveted items on my fantasy list: after last year's short course in movie-making,
a video camera; some stylish new knee-high boots, as the heel is off the last pair; a suitcase because the handle has come off mine (now I have to figure out how to fix it); and any new books at all.

This year-long project is symbolic of my geographical relocation from Byron Bay, the Land of Take-What-You-Want-Because -the-Universe is -Just -Waiting-For-You-to -Manifest-It. Workshops abound on how to envisage your dreams so energies of the planet can hand them to you. There's a strong streak of Just World Hypthesis here - that if you are good, the world will reward you; therefore, as I am living here in luxury, I deserve it. You poor buggers, on the other hand, don't.

For L and I, probably our largest non-essential expenditure is the IVF stuff - about a thousand dollars a throw (an expensive way to gamble), plus the obscene amount we spend on naturopathics, acupuncturists, Chinese herbs and so on. It's such an industry - making money from sad old childless women with disposable income.

I'm not quite sure what to do about entertainment consumption - movies, meals out, videos, ballroom dancing lessons, Italian classes, going to hear guest speakers, theatre, Writers Festivals and so on. Flights to visit our families in Sydney and Melbourne, haircuts - they must be essential, surely? And what about newspapers? I would spend more of my discretionary income on those sort of things than possession-type purchases. Lovergirl has said, in quite a decided tone, "I'm not prepared to go a year without movies," so I suppose in the interests of preserving my relationship I'll have to sacrifice some principles and accompany her. Just to keep her company.

No popcorn though.


elsewhere said...

You know, i used to live like that when i was an undergraduate. it wasn't by choice, either.

Susoz said...

I'd say that all those items, like movies and especially IVF, are essentials. The aim of the project, surely, is to reduce the number of unnecessary objects you buy, rather than to deprive yourself of involvement in life.

Good luck. I reduced my consumerism drastically a decade ago when I went very part-time at work. I just stopped looking in shops and shop windows. The habit has stayed with me. But children are a major consumerist black hole, if not from us, from all our child-free friends who enjoy buying their own dream toys.