The Reverend Billy is a self-styled evangelistic priest who is a bit of a comedian, but with a serious message. As Christmas approaches, he asks us to avoid the “Shopocalypse”: we are shopping too much, and too irresponsibly.
Remember, the environment is being destroyed by destructive capitalism – by built-in obsolescence – by we, the consumers, buying junk we don’t really need. And people’s lives are being destroyed in what amounts to slave labour camps in countries like China, Sri Lanka, The Philipines and more, as children and teenagers work 19 hour days making this junk for pennies that are barely enough to live on even in their own countries.
Reverend Billy presents his message with songs and jokes, but he is so right.
‘Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring,
Not even a mouse!
The children were nestled,
All snug in their beds,
While ads for new doodads
Played out in their heads…
Let’s hear it for the Reverend Billy! [1h 31m]
So: how does one shop sustainably? Well, the video explains it briefly, but it is worth repeating. Shop at small local shops getting locally produced items wherever possible, and avoid shopping at the big multi-nationals as much as is feasible, in part because they use sweatshop labour often, and in part because the money you spend there is not recycled through the local economy as much, and in part because they are driving local businesses out of the market altogether. You might think that driving uncompetitive business into bankruptcy is a good thing, but in reality it is not so simple. Firstly, it is being done by illegitimate means: a) the use of ultra-cheap sweatshop labour; b) with artificially low prices which will be raised once the competition is gone (the usual monopolist’s practice); and c) with mind-numbing brainwashing “lifestyle” advertising which is being insidiously infiltrated into our very culture so deeply that we pretty much fail to even recognize that we are being advertised to any more – but we are. Secondly, a diverse economy is a healthy economy. If the marketplace is dominated by just a few monolithic corporations, it is inherently less stable and more prone to crashes, and the government is more easily blackmailed by these vast, wealthy and amoral organizations.
Well, I don’t have the money to shop anyway, as it happens. And I have to buy cheaply. I’ve noticed that the local shops are in some cases much cheaper than the Tesco superstore, for example with eggs and milk. I’m not one for price-checking but I will start looking at one item every now and then (hence eggs first, then milk… I’ll go on like that). There is more diversity in the superstores, so I will certainly use them for the main grocery shopping, but not so much, it seems, for the everyday items.
As for luxury items; I can’t afford them anyway. And I’m not unhappy. Sure I want to be rich and so on… but shopping doesn’t make people happy, I believe. People think it will make them happy, but if it worked, they wouldn’t need to keep going back so often, I think. My suspicion is that it gives a quick thrill, which fades, and the shopper ends up just a little bit less happy than when they started once the thrill has worn off. They are less happy because they know a) they’ve wasted some money; b) they’ve bought some junk which didn’t live up to their expectations; c) they’re burdened with extra junk to dispose of or keep dragging around with them as they go through their lives; d) they don’t know what else to do to make themselves happy (live in the moment, try enlightenment, try spending less, try spending time with people and not things, try doing things that can make them feel proud of themselves or pleased with themselves, develop their self-esteem ).
In the meantime… there’s Reverend Billy’s website, or you could read about how a sustainable economy might work, or go to this website The Story of Stuff or watch this 21-minute video about how our production system works – or doesn’t [21 mins].