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Consumer Anonymous

August 9, 2014

Question:

What is bad about strolling around in shopping centers and malls, what is bad about buying things that look nice and can be proudly presented to friends and foes?

What is bad about throwing things away that are not fashionable, a bit shabby or outdated, and replacing them with new, more functional and more glamorous items? 

What is bad about consumerism? What is bad about buying stuff that is not really necessary?

If people would stop consuming the economy wouldn’t thrive, there would be more layoffs and higher unemployment, the banks would collapse again and maybe not even another bank bailout would prevent the disintegration of the global financial system and a downward spiral into a world wide economic depression.

There would be more civil unrest, more violence, more wars.

Answer:

Concerning the last point: It has to be seen, if there would be indeed more violence and more wars as are happening right now. Most of the wars that are fought at present are proxy wars instigated by Western countries to secure access to oil, water, minerals, and other resources.

A sharply declining industrial production would reduce energy and resource consumption and with that the necessity to wage these wars, an economic depression would diminished the available funds to keep the military machines going.

The present economic system is based on the exploitation of our fellow human beings and on the exploitation of not renewable natural resources (if you don’t believe that you better stop reading and forget about this blog).

Garments and most other cloth are made by girls and women paid meager wages in sweatshops where only two bathroom breaks are allowed in a 14-hour workday. The workforce often includes underaged children, who rather should be in school. There are seldom regulations about workplace safety and chemical pollution, if there are regulations, they are ignored.

Bananas, oranges, most other fruits and vegetables are harvested by foreign laborers who do the back breaking work in sun or rain and ruin their health due to the harsh climatic conditions and the excessive use of pesticides. These people are not only shameless exploited, they are in fact slave laborers.

The factory workers in the outsourced industries in China, India, and other “emerging economies” ruin their health for wages that are a tenth or less than what Western employees would earn. The factories in these countries cause irreversible environmental pollution. Cancer has become the leading cause of death in China, the cancer mortality rate has increased by 80 percent over the past 30 years and about 1.8 million Chinese die annually from cancer.

Question:

Why should Western consumers worry about Chinese, Indians, Brazilians, Mexicans or whomever, as long as they themselves are fine?

Answer:

This is of course a matter of ethics, but even in the absence of empathy the Western consumers should be concerned for several reasons:

Chemical pollution and environmental destruction will reach Western shores too. The depletion of vital resources will affect the whole world.

The production process of every consumer item causes pollution, uses energy and materials. The production of unnecessary consumer items causes unnecessary pollution and wastes energy and materials.

Energy use and industrial production cause steadily increasing chemical and radioactive pollution of air, water, food, cause deforestation, desertification, and destruction of habitats (wetlands), cause climate change, mass extinction of species, and the breakdown of vital ecological systems (oceans, rain forests).

Dear reader, you have heard that before and it may have caused either some spine-chilling excitement or short-term dolefulness or the immediate change of the ventilated subject.

You may have reacted either with a cynical comment from the standard repertoire to show that you are staying above the fray or you may have engaged in the popular practice of collective hand wringing, which would have redeemed you to some extent.

Did you ever imagine that you could be severely inconvenienced too?

If the steady stream of news about environmental catastrophes is starting to cause some discomfort and insecurity, resulting in a willingness to respond beyond the before mentioned actions, you will maybe seriously consider to somewhere in the future reorganize your life and minimize your carbon footprint (id est your consumption of energy and materials).

Which would include stopping shopping, which would mean buying only the bare necessities of life.

You will maybe, when after the next environmental disaster the heartbreaking pictures of dying animals (or maybe even dying humans) will reach you, make the firm decision to start your conversion to a responsible acting person in earnest and you will find, that you have a severe problem, you will find out that you are addicted to consuming.

The first way after this discovery will lead you to your favorite internet forum, social network, blog or whatever other community you are participating in. You will find out that you are not alone with your problem. You are not standing alone on the hill top with an icy wind blowing and taking your breath away. There are many people struggling with consumer addiction and they all look for help and spontaneously establish informal or formal support groups.

You will find your support group easily.

If you prefer personal contact, look if there is a local chapter of Consumers Anonymous in your town or a town nearby.

Consumers Anonymous

Consumers Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other in order to solve their common problem and help others to recover from Consumerism. The primary purpose is to stay sober and help other consumers to achieve sobriety.

The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop unnecessary, conspicuous, and wasteful consumption. There are no dues or fees for C.A. membership. The organization is self-supporting through voluntary contributions. C.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution and does not wish to engage in any controversy.

C.A. generally avoids discussing the cultural, social, or medical nature of consumerism; C.A. nonetheless is regarded as a proponent and popularizer of the disease theory of consumerism.

The founders of C.A. developed a “Twelve Traditions” program of spiritual and character development.

The Twelve Traditions of Consumers Anonymous

1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon C.A. unity.

2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority — a loving nature as she may express herself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.

3. The only requirement for C.A. membership is a desire to stop unnecessary, conspicuous, and wasteful consumption.

4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or C.A. as a whole.

5. Each group has but one primary purpose — to carry its message to the consumer who still suffers.

6. A C.A. group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the C.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.

7. Every C.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.

8. C.A. should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.

9. C.A. as such ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.

10. C.A. has no opinion on outside issues; hence the C.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.

11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always to maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.

12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

The popularity and success of C.A. has led to the formation of several related self-help organizations like Shopaholics Anonymous, Debtors Anonymous, Videoholics Anonymous, and On-Line Gamers Anonymous.

Compulsive shopping

Compulsive shopping (Oniomania) can be viewed as an impulse control disorder, an obsessive-compulsive disorder, or an addiction. Compulsive shoppers are caught in a cycle of anxiety with endorphin fueled highs and guilt-ridden lows.

If shopping reaches the severity of an addiction it can be harmful to individuals, whole families, and any personal relationships. The condition afflicts high-income and low-income people alike though compulsive shoppers with higher incomes will not get so easily into financial troubles.

Wealthy individuals will be able to spend their time in shopping havens like London, Paris, New York, and Singapore, acquiring stuff they don’t need and seldom can use, wasting their life away with shopping and nevertheless always feeling discontented no matter how much they buy.

A Stanford University study in 2006 concluded that compulsive shopping is a legitimate disorder that affects approximately six percent (18 million) of the US population and that men and women suffer about equally.

People shop for many reasons but the addicts buy to relieve anxiety and over time the buying creates a dysfunctional lifestyle, where more and more of the addicts focus is on shopping and in severe cases on the cover-up too. What causes shopping addiction?

Emotional deprivation in childhood, reduced self-esteem.

A need to feel special and to combat loneliness.

Inability to tolerate negative feelings like depression, anxiety, distress.

Materialism, need to fill an inner void, approval seeking, excitement seeking.

Perfectionism and need to gain control.

Genuinely impulsiveness and compulsiveness.

Types of Behaviors:

Compulsive shoppers shop to distract unpleasant feelings. “When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping”

Trophy shoppers look for the perfect accessory for outfits, etc. High class items will do.

Image shoppers pick up highly visible stuff like designer cloth and accessories, popular electronic gadgets (iPhones, iPads), expensive cars, etc.

Bargain shoppers buy stuff they don’t need just because it is a good deal. Out for the hunt.

Codependent shoppers go on shopping sprees to gain love and approval (from the sales personal).

Bulimic shoppers buy and return, buy and return (similar to the medical condition bulimia)

Collector shoppers need to have complete sets or many sets of objects or different colors of the same style of clothing, jewelry, furniture, and other consumer items.

Suggestions for change:

Avoid people or places which tempt you to shop and spend money.

Cancel magazine subscriptions or e-mail subscriptions and avoid internet shopping sites or TV shopping channels. Use ad-blockers when you browse the internet.

Avoid or ignore advertising and never ever click on advertising links, never collect coupons, never read even a single word of text ads. Advertising is misinformation, brainwashing, conditioning, lying.

Ask yourself: Do I need this or do I just want it? 

Avoid impulsive purchases and wait a good period of time before deciding about an acquisition.

Close your credit card accounts (shopaholics have most times more than one credit card). Ignore credit card offers or loan and home equity applications. If you have any debts (shopaholics most times have) get rid of them first and buy only the bare necessities until you are debt free.

Write down a shopping list before going to the store. Buy only what you really need. Take a trusted friend with you or let family members do the shopping.

Be aware of events that trigger urges to shop.

Develop alternative (and hopefully better) ways to manage difficult emotions.

Develop fun things to do to fill in your time more creative and productive.

Seek out specialized counseling, and support groups (like Shopaholics Anonymous), read information about compulsive shopping/spending.

Shopaholics Anonymous

This is a more secular and pragmatic version of Consumers Anonymous and focuses, as the name already suggests, on people who like to buy things. It also addresses shoplifting, hoarding, and employee theft.

S.A. provides counseling and organizes collective purchases of necessities so that members can avoid shopping. It encourages the building of “shopping teams,” consisting of two or three members who shop together to supervise and restrict each other.

Shopping Addicts Support (SAS) is a Yahoo self-help group. From their website:

People hear “shopping addict” and they laugh but it destroys lives as your credit card debt mounts. You feel depressed if you can’t go shopping, and you shop to help yourself feel happy and fulfilled.

If this sounds like you, and you’d like to have people around you to help and support you, please join this group!

Note: this group is NOT for people who really like to shop and want to chat about purchases, this is for people who have a problem and are trying to overcome it. This is also not Debtors Anonymous. They are a more traditional 12 step program. This is a support group where we can chat and offer each other advice or just a sympathetic ear.

http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/shopping_addicts/

Debtors Anonymous

In 1968 a group of recovering members from Alcoholics Anonymous began discussing the problems they were experiencing with money. They began an eight-year spiritual odyssey to understand the causes and conditions behind their self-destructive behavior with money.

Having little idea of how to approach this, they focused on the diverse symptoms they were experiencing, including many different patterns of spending, saving, shopping, and earning. They first called themselves the “Penny Pinchers,” and attempted to control through will power the amount of money they spent. Later, the group renamed itself the “Capital Builders,” convinced that their financial problems stemmed from an inability to save money. They tried to make regular deposits into savings accounts, but this, too, failed to resolve their problems.

They tried for several years to address all of the symptoms they were suffering from, but continued to fail. In addition to Alcoholics Anonymous they attended meetings of Gamblers Anonymous, Al-Anon, and other 12-Step programs, hoping to find a definitive answer. Finally, as more years passed, they began to understand that their monetary problems did not stem from an inability to save or control the amount they spent or earned, but rather from the inability to become solvent.

By 1971, the essence of the DA Program unfolded in the discovery and understanding that the act of borrowing itself was the threshold of the disease, and the only solution was to use the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous to stop borrowing and acquiring any kind of new debts once and for all. After two years, the group disbanded.

D.A. re-emerged in April 1976 and in 1982 elected a permanent General Service Board for the fellowship at a meeting in New York. Newly established meetings in Boston and Washington also elected Regional Trustees, and these were later joined by a Regional Trustee from Los Angeles.

The biggest challenges for Debtors Anonymous were the development of a service structure, the writing and adoption of common literature, and the overcoming of regional antagonisms. As might be expected in a fellowship composed entirely of debtors, D.A. has struggled financially through much of its existence. On several occasions its financial position has been perilous, and the emphasis of many members on “visions” they had for the fellowship’s future outstripped the members’ willingness to fund those visions. Although a General Service Office was established in 1985, the office was open only a few hours a week for many years, and D.A. did not hire its first full-time employee until 2001.

D.A. today has more than 500 registered meetings in more than 15 countries worldwide. It has a recovery book, a large stock of literature, and recently produced its first foreign-language literature.

http://www.debtorsanonymous.org/

http://www.mirroreyes.com/knowledge/enddebt.html

Videoholics Anonymous

Millions of TV and YouTube watchers have reportedly become hopeless “videoholics” — often without their knowledge. A “videoholic,” as the name implies, is a person who has become hooked on watching TV or YouTube.

Ted Carpenter of the National Citizens Committee for Broadcasting has drawn up a list of some of the danger signals of videoholicism in the form of questions.

Do you turn down the TV or Computer when a phone rings so your caller won’t know you were watching TV or YouTube?

Du you find it impossible to switch off the TV when you have company?

Do you refuse an invitation because it might interfere with your favorite TV show?

Do you get defensive if accused of watching too much TV or YouTube?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may already be a videoholic and you should contact the nearest local group of Videoholics Anonymous.

http://tvwatchersanonymous.blogspot.com

On-Line Gamers Anonymous

On-Line Gamers Anonymous is a self-help fellowship to share experience and assist in recovery from the problems caused by excessive game playing, whether it be computer, video, console, or on-line. The community includes recovering gamers, family members, loved ones, friends, and concerned others. 

Gaming can be devastating to the real-world lives of gamers and to those close to them. OLGA/OLG-Anon provides a resource for open discussion, support, education and referrals. The organization advocates and provides a traditional 12-Step Program like Alcoholics Anonymous but also a modified program for atheists and agnostics.

From the website:

We Offer Support, our community is open to all who seek support. We are not an activist group, nor do we sponsor such organizations. Our message forums are available to all, regardless of bias or opinion. We are here to share our experience, strength and hope and encourage peer-to-peer support. Family and friends are also invited to share experience, compassion, and wisdom. Every day we accumulate and add to our collection of information related to excessive gaming and the issues it creates. Sharing this with our visitors is a primary goal; the aforementioned information is viewable on this web site as it becomes available. There are times when our community cannot adequately address the consequence of excessive gaming and professional help is needed. If you need more support than we offer here, please seek help from a professional. We encourage you to seek one who supports treatment for gaming in the same manner as alcohol or substance abuse.

http://www.olganon.org/

This blog post text started as a rant about consumerism and peoples attitude to solve any problem by buying something when they could as well solve the problem with new ingenious procedures and inventive tricks, using just the materials that are at home or no materials at all.

As I was writing down sentence after sentence the text morphed into a contemplation about shopping, hoarding, and the closely related issue of debt. 

An impromptu internet research uncovered that these problems are widely acknowledged and that there are dozens of self-help groups and also several businesses who offer professional help.

As a strict opponent of commercialization and monetization of services and common goods I recommend caution about websites who ask for donations or sell self-help books or offer professional counseling.

What is the point of this post? In essence: Everybody who is scared by the environmental degradation and by the prospect of a catastrophic breakdown of vital biological systems can personally and instantly do something meaningful by using the least possible amount of energy and materials, which means:

Not buying new stuff but instead reusing, mending, recycling, upcycling, and scavenging stuff.

Which also means: Cutting the ties to big support systems whenever it is possible and viable and taking part in small local support systems.

The predicted ecological catastrophes are not inevitable, they still can be avoided when a sizable number of humans change their lives. To stop consuming will be a crucial part of this change!

2 comments

  1. […] Source: Consumer Anonymous […]

    Like


  2. Hi there Mato

    I like your idea of a twelve step program for Consumers. What happened to the Twelve Steps, though? They are the solution for the individual member.

    Like



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