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Consumerist Sheeple

Communities around North America are waking up to the reality that things are no longer on the trajectory of endless prosperity that we had come to expect. Housing prices are falling, inflation seems a certainty, government and personal debt is at record breaking levels. Yet, the Sheeple still go out Black Friday shopping, some staying up all night in a pagan ritual to the Gods of Credit, others going to battle against other worshipers, anxious to bag the trophy stag widescreen TV to sacrifice on the altar of consumerism.

While North Americans celebrate through spending, those in Ireland have discovered a new type of poor, unemployed innocents struggling to feed their families while the strive to keep paying the mortgage. The ironies are too rich.

Canadian financial talking heads are promising that the mess occurring in the US and parts of Europe couldn’t happen in the “robust” Canadian economy, assuring that banks are protected, the housing market is protected – there is no bubble. Repeat after me, “there is no bubble”.

From this lofty vantage point, (imagine me: sitting cross-legged, Yogi-style, atop a peak on the outskirts of Castlegar, as the Air Canada planes circle above attempt to find the airport through the swirling snow flakes and fog), I wonder not how we got here, but why our western society is so passive that we choose to ignore the implications of these events and the obvious threat to our way of life. Is it that we see that all we have acquired, (or purchased on credit, as the case may be), is not deserved? That we’ve come about this state of wealth through unjust means, and are quietly waiting for the other shoe to fall? Or is our passivity more a sign of our overfed, consumer nature, as we push back from the thanksgiving table, unable to move, but to ask for another helping of mashed potatoes and gravy.

We don’t have a TV here, so I feel somewhat inoculated against the mainstream media interpretation of events around the world, and selectively use the internet to see what the alternative pundits have to say about events. There are some who see conspiracy in everything, there are those who are willing to accept that while stupid, the decisions being made are often well meaning.

I’m somewhere in between.

I am sure there are conspiracies, just as there are honest people who make bad decisions. Trying to work out which option relates to a particular event could consume you for years,  it is rarely worth it. Your time is better spent finding ways to avoid being a Sheeple consumer and instead supporting community driven solutions. This doesn’t mean eschewing all technology or luxuries, the tools in front of me right now are consumer devices of sorts, but it does mean changing attitudes to the conventional “bigger is better” (truck, tv, house, etc) mentality that is at the root of the credit situation in Western nations.

So, where to end this post? If this seems all to difficult, the first step is to realise that this is an addiction. Therapy at the mall, counselling by credit card, and the “medication of more” are symptoms of a societal problem that affects us all. Where do you fit along the spectrum of consumerist Sheeple?

Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

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