Monday, 7 May 2012

How to be free - DEATH TO SHOPPING, or fleeing the prison of consumer desire

I’ve mentioned Tom Hodgkinson on here before.  He’s the editor of The Idler, and has written books “How to Be Idle”, “How to be Free” and “The Idle Parent”.  I love the principles expressed in “How to be Free” (though not all the ideas in the book), and while I don’t agree with the term Idle I think The Idle Parent is a must-read and describes well how I was brought up and how I wish to bring up my own children.

I’m writing a series of blog posts exploring these two books, and the ideas contained in them further, in the hope that this will help me to explore further the principles behind my own way of living and parenting.

Chapter 10 - Death to shopping, or fleeing the prison of consumer desire - THROW OUT THE TELLY

This is a very simple chapter in which Tom reminds us that we are continually wanting things that we don't actually need.  If we have a functional pair of shoes we don't really need another two or three pairs do we?  If our TV works then we don't need another one just because the old one happens not to be flat screen / LCD / HD / 3D or whatever.
Our natural desire to live well has become a desire for "stuff".  If we didn't feel the need to buy so much stuff, then we wouldn't need so much money, and therefore wouldn't need to work so much.
He suggests that there are four categories of good things: subsistence - food, drink and shelter; intellectual and moral improvement - books and friends; inexpensive gratifications - (he suggest booze and cigarettes but I'm not sure I'd agree with those!); and the fourth category is "gratifications which can only be purchased with excessive toil" - decoration, distraction, vanity and ostentation - these we can do without.
We need to be cool, not to care so much about things.  He recalls a two-year period where his family had no money.  To economise they stopped reading newspapers, watched little TV and moved out of the city.  Almost immediately they stopped spending so much, simply because they were no longer exposed to so much marketing.  So throw out the TV, stop being a zombie and get out there and live life.  Acknowledge desire, but don't let it rule your life.
How does this match up to the Ink Spots and Grass Stains Life

Very poorly I'm afraid.  I try not to buy stuff.  But I'm not very good at it.  And I have a husband who really likes to buy things and to own things - even if we never use them.  I won't even list the stuff that sits unused in the garage, the books that have never been read or the DVDs that haven't been watched.  I'm a good influence on him, he's beginning to see that there is benefit in my thrifty ways - but I don't think I'm winning.  And perhaps he's having an influence on me.  I certainly seem to have a lot of stuff that I really don't need.

Lets just say that this is one that I'm working on!

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