Today’s RSS Zeitgeist: Cheapskates
Two good posts on the cultural forces that discourage us from re-evaluating our vast piles of crap, one by Flea (who is, as usual, hilarious along the way):
I promise, if Alex had been with us (Christopher was, but in utero form only, so he missed the whole thing) the mighty bird fight would have been the one thing he remembered. Not the hot stone massage, not the putt putt, not the expensive restaurants or the fact that the gift shop sold couture.
Because of this, I tend to lean toward the dirty hippie style of parenting. It’s easy to puff up and spout clichés about how it’s not the money you spend on your kids, it’s the time you spend with them. That’s one of those things that rich people say. Money helps. You get treated like shit when you’re poor, and your kids do, too.
And the other’s at Living on Less, set up as a blatantly humanitarian concern:
It pained me to see the man spend $30 on haircuts for himself and his son, and give his son $20 as a gift for a birthday party he would be attending, but what’s the alternative? To look like slobs, or show up at the party with some weird homemade gift? The only way to live affordably in our culture, even on incomes considerably higher than those of these two examples, is to be eccentric, but most people, by definition, don’t want to be eccentric. Adhering to cultural norms is strongly reinforced, not just by the corporate-controlled media, who have an interest in keeping up people’s spending, but also by one’s own peers and even one’s own self.
It’s one thing to live in a weird apartment, maybe with a bunch of other people, wear thrift store clothes, dumpster dive for furniture and home accessories, and forego expensive commercial entertainment and goods when you don’t actually have to. Choosing to live a lifestyle that resembles poverty is drastically different from being forced into it by actual poverty. But if only it were not so stigmatized, living like an oddball could provide some real financial relief to those who most desperately need it.
Which, well, yeah! Whenever we enforce our variously shitty consumerist cultural norms, we’re doing real harm to those who must choose between conforming and eating, or conforming and paying down credit card debt, or whatever. These bullshit incentives don’t just create a culture of waste and environmental catastrophe; they help perpetuate poverty. Why haven’t I seen this put so clearly before?