Friday, March 02, 2007

Thinking Walking Compacting

Worked at Prahran yesterday. Where the trendies are. It's a world away from my Hawthorn life. Had drinks after with a bunch of German design students, and my colleagues. Charlie came and we all discussed the Compactor idea and whether a) I could give up impulse-buying blue shoes and if b) Charlie could give up gym memberships. Or should he? Obviously blue shoes are a capitalist indulgence, but are yoga classes? Or movie tickets? Or newspapers?


mskp said...

but ARE THEY a capitalist indulgence? can we not acquire beautiful objects that make us happy and exist for their own sake, without it being reduced to consumption? i'm not sure. of course, we don't NEED them. but as you suggest, we don't NEED gym memberships, or movie tickets, or yoga classes. it's a fine line though, ain't it? i would argue that i need books. and music. and art. what are we without them?

and won't your blue shoe collection one day be transmuted into an art installation for all to enjoy?

Steve Chatelier said...

I'm no ascetic who believes that all possessions are bad or wrong BUT surely your whole line of thought/reasoning mskp is a result of being a privileged citizen in this world who thrives on a model of consumption?

When we consider that the USA - approx. 5% of the world's population - is consuming approx. 60% of the world's resources, it gives some perspective.

I guess it is easy for us to justify our consumption and desires when we inherit an undeserved privileged lifestyle.

Bonnie Conquest said...

I will still have all my books and music and shoes that I purchased before staring compacting. I can borrow these things from friends or... libraries, etc. I could barter yoga classes, art, etc.

I believe art and music and beautiful things are necessary for happiness and peace. Compacting is not against these. Against purshasing, rather.

Steve Chatelier said...

I think you're great Bonnie!

mskp said...

absolutely it's a result of my privilege but i think it's a stretch to say i "thrive" on a model of consumption.

what i should have said is that i think compacting is a thoroughly western response to solving the causes of deprivation and poverty, that's rather akin to pushing the ocean back with a broom. it's a quick-fix guilt-reliever, and like bonnie said, doesn't require going without. it smacks, to me, of self-righteousness and gimmickry.

i agree that we need to consider our consumption patterns thoughtfully, but i also think that there are no easy answers.

Steve Chatelier said...

"i agree that we need to consider our consumption patterns thoughtfully, but i also think that there are no easy answers."


"it smacks, to me, of self-righteousness and gimmickry."

Like pretty much every western "solution", eh?...

Perhaps we agree on this?:

The campaigns and/or ideas that actually encourage us to change our lifestyle surely deserve more credit as being part of the solution than the "sign a cheque" campaigns that follow things like the Tsunami. We can all part with a couple of hundred bucks and feel self-righteous and sleep easy and forget that the problems of the world are ongoing and complex. Or we could give some money to Oxfam before tax time each year, wash our hands clean, and continue our lives of unbridled affluence and consumption which perpetuates the injustices in our world.

I don't, for one second, think there are any easy answers out there. I do think we can support small things that require sacrifice and adjustment of lifestyle in hope of a more just world.

Also, poor phrasing on my part with the "thrives on a model of consumption" comment...too personal seeing as I don't know you! Sorry!! Something closer to "we thrive in a society that is based on consumption" would have been better (though not perfect).

mskp said...

steve, i agree with all your comments and, it appears, on the fundamentals of this issue.

i just think that a long term plan to think about all your consumption would be better than a short term one to curtail it. there's something punitive or unrealistic about the compactor that doesn't sit well with me. like the "fast food nation" argument - it's not about whether you eat meat or not, but rather whether you eat meat that is produced ethically. i guess some would say that's impossible but that's a question for another day.

but i would argue that we all need to adopt a plan for ethical consumption rather than simply reducing or limiting it.

take the blue shoes, for instance. what if we thought about where they came from, who made them, how much they cost [in human terms], rather than simply cutting them out. if we apply these tests to all our purchases, wouldn't the culture change for the better long term?

Steve Chatelier said...

I agree that ethical consumption is the way to go, but, I actually do think that limiting consumption is also important.

I see at least two issues here.
1) the link between the capitalist system, its structures, western practices (ie consume) and poverty

2) personal satisfaction/fulfilment.

As I say, then, ethical consumption may help in both these areas, but so too does choosing to consume less.

I am not sure that I think limiting our consumption should be an act of self-flagellation so much as a well-being oriented decision.
Being a more qualitative argument, hard evidence, I think, is difficult, but I do believe that the all-consuming culture of consumption actually causes more distress quite simply because it conditions us to always want more. Choosing to consume less challenges, in a very practical sense, the very structures and ideology that serves to perpetuate injustice in our world. That's no 1 above.

On number 2, being satisfied with less may need to begin with making (tough, albeit relatively trivial) sacrifices like no more blue shoes. Eventually, though, I think we will become more at peace with ourselves and satisfied in life. Perhaps we are then more likely to enjoy the aesthetic qualities of life such as natural and created art?

jethan said...

i'm afraid of your comment section. hmmmm....

KorJen said...

Ditto with Ethan: you have S-M-R-T friends!

Just put the Blue Shoes on the Mantle, and they will be ART, problem solved!

m. said...

purchasing can be awesome. i try and offset my blatant consumerism with a good deed here and there.

fore example, sometimes i do a little reading for the blind. and back in 2003, i spent six months teaching orphans terrible english in the philippines. there are small asian children, having been adopted into families around the world, calling people 'dude' as we speak. i also give change to buskers, try to drink free trade coffee & buy recycled stuff ( has awesome bags, and a kick ass dog in their shop in northcote.)

um, end of story.