Monday, 24 January 2011

Nobody needs a flat-screen TV

My boss’s daughter recently dumped her boyfriend because ‘he didn’t know who Gandhi was.’  This struck me as a wholly reasonable reason.
Clearly she felt that if her fella had not even heard of this pivotal figure in philosophical and Indian history, then maybe he couldn’t even be ‘Mr right-now.’
As I bag up my possessions ready to list on eBay, I wonder if perhaps I hadn’t heard of him either.
Mahatma Gandhi could count the objects he owned on two hands. Sandals, a bowl, a plate, his glasses and a watch. I am sure I have all of these items in my handbag right now.  Plus many more I don’t care to consider. Lord knows what damage I am doing to my spine.
Listing my possessions would be an utterly untenable task.
I do not propose that we adopt Gandhi’s principle of ‘reducing ourselves to zero’ by giving up all expenditure and owning only the absolutely essential, but maybe we could do with ‘reducing ourselves just a bit?’
Once a year, ‘Buy Nothing Day’ challenges people to stop spending for 24 hours and think about what they buy and how it effects the environment and developing world. Unsurprisingly it hasn’t taken off.  But don’t we eventually have to ask, how much ‘stuff’ do we need?
In today’s society I believe that the exact term for all of this is ‘consumer desire’.  We desire a new pair of shoes, a new car, a better sofa and a flat-screen TV. In order to buy these things we need money. To get money we bind ourselves to an employer in order to continue to be paid.  If we don’t have money, we borrow the money, thus getting into debt.
I am currently trying to curb my spending, but I wonder if we all shouldn’t be trying to free ourselves from the shackles of shopping.
Try it. Try and spend nothing for an entire day. In the spirit of Money Saving Madam I will endeavour to spend nothing today, and in fact from this moment forth, unless the item is something that even Gandhi would have considered essential.
Oh crap; I’m going out for dinner tonight, is it OK to start not spending tomorrow?

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