having too much is a problem, having too little, is also a problem.

In Uncategorized on August 3, 2010 at 12:09 am

It’s almost been a week since I’ve been back in Canada, and the feeling is quite, strange.

The other day, I went to the mall with my sister, to Eaton’s to be exact, and I couldn’t help but to look at where everything was made. And not to my surprise, everything was made either in India, Bangladesh and or China. And so I immediately thought of the following. Is it wrong to buy clothing that is made elsewhere? Can I automatically assume that the people who made this clothing were paid minimal wages, are mostly children, and work in horrendous conditions? Can i assume that these people are treated unfairly?

After walking in countless stores, I couldn’t help but converting all the prices in Taka (the Bangladeshi currency). And then I couldn’t help but to feel guilty. Do i really need all of this? Do we really need all of this? A wise person once told me, the purpose of development and improving the quality of life is all about helping uplift people from being enslaved by their economic conditions. Although I agree, I think that “in the west”, we are equally enslaved by our economic conditions, but just not in the same way.

Consumerism, (no pun intended) literally consumes us. The notion of disposable income, or in everyday language, the fact that we have so “extra” money, is proving to be an  issue. I mean, this is pretty evident with the rising level of debt—- because many of us don’t know how to spend the extra money and so we end up buying useless materialistic articles.  And then we buy again, and again, until we fall into a cycle of consumerism, and eventually, over-consumerism.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a problem with consumerism. As a matter of fact (and sorry to get all nerdy here), but according to Solow’s growth model, a certain level of consumerism is healthy, as long as the population maintains a certain savings rate. The problem I have is with over consumption. Many of us can’t help but to buy, buy and buy. We can’t help but to pick up those pair of jeans, or that cute tank top.

So what am I trying to say?

I think that it’s important to be aware of the power we have as consumers. As long as we are aware of what we are purchasing, and aren’t engulfed and cater our lifestyles to fashion, to malls and clothes, then there shouldn’t be a problem. A balance is what should be ideal. Not too much , but not too little. It’s okay to consume, and purchase goods. I mean, why not right? You’re helping create more jobs for others. But, again like i’ve said before, don’t over-consume. Of course, then many people might ask, what is too much and what is too little? Isn’t that all relative? My answer would be “of course it’s all relative”.

The important thing is to be aware of how your one purchase can affect others. This is where i’m going to disagree with what we’ve been taught in school. The concept of marginal benefit / marginal cost, i think is not a healthy way of measuring how much benefit or cost a purchase well have, because it doesn’t take into consideration future decisions that you might make that will be influenced by your decision now.  Marginal decision making, or the “just this once concept” is a dangerous path to go down, especially when exercising your purchasing power.  You need to take a macro look on how your decisions will affect others, and then decide on what you will do based on that. So again, I can’t stress being aware enough.

So the next time you pick up a pair of jeans, t-shirt, or those nice looking 300$ sneakers, give it a thought and really consider what the value of those shoes to you are, and if they’re really worth it. I challenge you to think twice, three times, maybe even 10 times on how your one purchase will affect others. And since I can’t expect from others, what I wont’ do myself… I’m going to challenge myself too, to not fall into over consuming and purchasing useless goods.

  1. I’ve never seen consumption like I have when I came here. Not only clothes, but there are gadgets that are so unneccesary. I was at Canadian tire the other day and I found a “hot chocolate maker” and a “bagel slicer”…what’s wrong with boiling a pot of milk on the stove and adding some sugar & cocoa to it.. not that difficult! or buying a bread knife and cutting your bagels yourself? Not that difficult! I think however, stuff like clothes, although it is overconsumption almost helps the economy in countries like India. I think America’s disgusting, stupid over consumption is what has led us to be one of the powerful economies today & of the future. I may be wrong on some of the facts (I’m too lazy to read up and reconfirm). I think if you DO need to guy buy that new pair of jeans? Donate your old ones to charity! Cycle.
    I like this post, Bonnie!

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