"Not all those who wander are lost."

J R R Tolkien

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5 December 2011

The religion of stuff...

From time to time, I come across a  interesting article which really resonate with my own views and this is one of them.  Posted on  The Tiny Life  by Ryan Mitchell and well worth a read. In fact, The Tiny Life blog is full packed of thought provoking articles on Living Small without ruining our little planet. This is an American blog, but it applies anywhere I believe.

It occurred to me the other day that consumerism has reached a level of socially ingrained fanaticism. This isn’t by accident, marketers have gotten us here on purpose.  For many of us or those we know, we simply lust after ______ consumer good.  It pervades our country, politics, social interactions, and economics.

Here is the definition of consumerism:
A social and economic order that is based on the systematic creation and fostering of a desire to purchase goods and services in ever greater amounts.
The entire premise of consumerism is that we must consume, but more importantly we must do so at a constantly growing rate.  This seems to be at odds in a finite world, but many people don’t concern themselves with it.  I wanted to break down this word a bit more, because the ending –ism struck me as interesting, it was something I never considered before really, what does –ism really mean?
Looking up the definition of the ending –ism I found these four possible meanings:
  • a political belief or religion based on a particular principle or the ideas
  • the action or process of doing something
  • illness caused by too much of something
  • the practice of treating people unfairly because of something
If you think about political issues or stances on religion you will quick notice they are really contentious issues.  They often define a line which many fight over.  You find that many people choose friends, business partners, and other large decisions on the parameters of their political and religious stances. One of the largest lines is to consume or not.  Think about it, essentially there is a hard line drawn that many don’t cross, but those who do are subject to great social pressure!  Essentially society discriminates against those who don’t consume.  Don’t buy lots of clothes, you don’t get a job or a date.  Don’t feel the need to buy things when what you have is working just fine or even, you don’t want a huge house; you are seen as cheap, lazy, poor, etc.
I had to simply laugh when I looked at the third bullet point, an illness cause by too much of something, the irony of that when considering consumerism is astounding.  What if we really could get people to treat this behavior like a disease?
It certainly is interesting the implication of this word, how it has such a tight hold on us and defends itself through strong social pressures.


  1. We have thousands of dollars worth of stuff in our house (not my choice) that wouldn't bring a quarter of what was paid for it. I remember the scriptural question, "Why do you spend money for that which is not bread?" (Or something close to that.)

  2. It's the same for me Gorges. I question why we need all that stuff. It's just a burden. Sometimes, I think if we left the place with all the stuff in it, I wouldn't miss much. Is it maybe we are getting older (hopefully wiser?) and don't need to have all this to tell us who we are?

  3. Good post, thanks for this,man.

    I ve been fighting with myself, trying to drop down the amount of gear and possessions that i have, and i tell you, its not easu but im doing fine now :). I am doing this so that if i get one item,i get rid of two similar ones, etc. And man, its pretty neat to discover that its good to have less, and instead of moneytary hoarding and consuming, its more satisfying to make stuff with your own hands.

  4. Great post, and just my say so again. I feel the same, and I guess many of our problems are caused by our Mammon worship.

    Now I am also a consumerism victim, but I have found a simple maxime that works for me: I just want to be better every day. I want to do as little harm as possible to this world. And I think it is not necessary to become a fanatic into the other direction and dispose of everything around you all at once. That would leave a heap of crap, and no win at all.

    I think it is a learning process for mankind, and I am willing to learn.

  5. Excellent post. Consumerism is what's destroying the planet not global warming.

  6. I quite agree with all the ideas in this post. At some of the shows I sell at I have sometimes found it difficult to justify what I am doing. I am just a small cog in this big consumer machine which is destroying our planet.
    On another note I am using more and more hand tools, some of which are over a hundred years old. It is a shame the power tools I have bought over the years really last no where near as long. I hate inbuilt obsolescence