September 15, 2011

Does Living Simply Keep The World's Poor Down?

Does doing without keep others in poverty?
Was Gandhi wrong when he said, "Live simply so that others may simply live"? That is what hard core consumer capitalists think. At the height of the last global economic crash, business types were not pulling punches, and many of those blows were aimed at the simple living movement.

In a classic "keep shopping" moment, Arthur C. Brooks, business professor and consumerism apologist, accused simple living types of sabotage in a bit of preposterous propaganda:
"If we all truly lived simply, we would help countries around the world regress to the economic levels of Japan in 1950, China in 1990 or sub-Saharan Africa today. If we piously refused to purchase new clothes and televisions, we would create truly lethal unintended consequences for the world's most vulnerable people." - source
Mr. Brooks is a business shill, and his article was posted in 2008, 4 days after the anniversary of 9/11 (the original 'keep shopping' moment). The global economy was beginning to unravel, so he might be forgiven for telling us that we have a moral obligation to shop. He was probably experiencing a moment of temporary insanity, or panic perhaps.

Business as usual has already "created truly lethal unintended consequences" for the most vulnerable people as well as the ecosystem as a whole. The unintended consequences the professor is referring to, are those that might ensure at least some humans remain free of the tyranny of consumerism. They may also limit the spread of corporate power and influence, and that in Brooks' book is bad.

Brooks and his friends want the world's most vulnerable to gain some material wealth, but they do not mention how the formerly poor will surely suffer new forms of poverty - the mental, moral, and spiritual poverty which occur after wealth and material possessions take over as the new bottom line.

If we still believe that we can shop our way to a better world, we have to snap out of it before it is too late for not only the poor, but everyone. Since its beginning, consumerism has created more problems than it has solved.

Producing a bunch of useless stuff for us to sell to each other has trashed the planet, destroyed our communities, and converted a large part of the world's population into wage slaves. This has led to unprecedented levels of depression and ill health.


Brooks and company tell us to embrace consumerism or be held responsible for keeping the world's poor in poverty. What a load of bull. These people are obviously desperate. Taking Brooks' advice will lead to unintended consequences far more serious than not having a wide screen television, or 50 flavours of ice cream.

I will not be deterred by consumerist business-as-usual propaganda. If working a job I don't like, so I can buy stuff I don't need, while my actions devastate the environment, is the only way to help the poor, then obviously our system is broken and doomed to fail.

Mr. Brooks is sadly, dinosaurily delusional, and soon his type will be extinct. Gandhi was not wrong - living simply on our planet is the only way we are going to make it. 

I am 'piously' refusing to go along with such business buffoonery, and firmly believe my simple living actions help, not hinder, my brothers and sisters across the globe.

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