Thursday, September 24, 2009

Haves and Have Nots

I've had a lot of mental conflicts since returning from Haiti.  I find myself in stores, picking up things I *need*, paying for them, bringing them home, and then feeling guilty.  Because I've seen real needs.  They're not the things that we in the industrialized world see as needs.  I don't really need a new blouse or a new pillow as the ones I own are perfectly acceptable and functional.  Some things I can somewhat justify:  I need a new pair of running shoes so that I don't damage my feet or knees.  And running is important because it's a way for me to keep healthy in a couch potato world.  However, real needs include clean drinking water, sufficient food to fuel our bodies, clothing to protect our bodies from the elements, shelter over our heads, access to education, and affordable health care.  I already have all of those things.

I understand why it's such a struggle to separate needs from wants.  Several years ago, I read a book called Why We Buy:  The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill.  It's a frightening read and makes one understand the irrisistable need to buy, buy, buy.  You see, the marketeeers know us better than we know ourselves.  They use psychological tricks to get into our heads, to make it impossible to venture into a store or mall and leave either without buying anything or with just what we set out to buy in the first place.  It takes superhuman strength to overcome some of the tricks utilized to turn on the desire to acquire things.  

For many years, I've strived to live a simple life and avoided acquiring a lot of stuff.  But now, I'm finding simple, everyday purchases as suspect.  When I think about the fact that a casual purchase at the mall could instead be turned into an opportunity for a child to go to school and eat for a monthy,well, it changes everything.


Mamasong said...

I'm going to look for that book at the library, sounds fascinating! No Logo by Naomi Klein was a fantastic book regarding the evolution of corporate marketing and the tactics that are wielded against a mostly oblivious society. Another book I'm trying to get through is Consumer Rites: The Buying and Selling of American Holidays by Leigh Eric Schmidt. It's pretty heady, but full of good historical info about how we got to this point of insane spending for special holidays. "The Story of Stuff" manages to fit an excellent synopsis of our love affair with things into 20 mins of animated film. You can watch it here if you haven't seen it yet, I'll bet you and Bill would dig it (we shared it with a pastor friend of ours and he played it in his church one Sunday morning).
Now the tricky part is to take all this realization and turn it into praxis, something we're trying to figure out how to do without going off the deep end (with three children in tow!).
Okay, I'd better stop writing a novel on your blog!!! Needless to say, my heart totally resonates with what you wrote today, thanks!

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

Do you still have a copy of that book? If so, I'd love to swap my copy of No Impact Man with you for it (when I'm finished with it of course).

Cherie said...

Rachel: thanks for the list of books and the film. I'll have to add them to my extremely large list of books to read and movies to watch. :) Ahhh yes, raising kids in this world - it's tough to navigate that fine line between avoiding over-consumption and yet living in the "real" world.

Erin: I wish I could swap books! Unfortunately, it was a library book.