Monday, July 09, 2007
pangs of consumption
Affluenza n. 1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Jones. 2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste, and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the Australian dream (insert U.S. here). 3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth.
this one hurts. not that global warming and environmental degradation or peak oil are fun to wrestle with, but i'm finding out that examining our patterns and rates of consumption hurts to the core because, quite simply, i like buying things. there's nothing like a bit of retail therapy to fix anything.
as geoff and i prepare for forge workshops on sustainability and discipleship, we've dug deep into scripture, books on mission, the trinity, the environment and pop culture books like "affluenza" by clive hamilton. "Affluenza" brings a scathing, prophetic critique against consumerism in the west and how it affects everyone everywhere. the fundamental point hamilton makes over and over again is that the problem of affluenza is not so much with consumption itself, but our attachment to consumption and the ways our very identity is intricately bound to it.
i think this gets at the heart of personhood and ethics. as long as i continue to believe that who i am (or want to be) is tied to what i own or buy, i am a willing prisoner to an unjust way of life. it scares me and recently i've been painfully sobered by this diagnosis. and the only way i see my way out of this insidious state of being is the imagination and life of a community of people embodying a new economy and a redeemed identity. whereas a few years ago i would have been reeling without hope or just stuck in denial, i am confident and somewhat at peace that there is another way.
clive's solution "to mountains of waste is not more landfill sites but fewer shopping centres. We cannot solve the waste problem without solving the consumption problem." these authors have borrowed and composed a "wellbeing manifesto" that begins to get at the problem. he's also got a great website with links to others like this one that offer tangible alternatives and solutions to mass produced capitalism and toxic binging on stuff - check out "living green below your means." fortunately and unfortunately, someone is putting creative ideas and resources out there as the stones are crying out but it isn't the church. issues of consumption and affluenza should be at the forefront of the western church's dealing with itself and part of the message of another Way, for the sake of everybody.