December 15, 2014

Solving The Problem Of Consumerism Through Non-Participation

Are you a cog in the consumer machine, or are you a wrench thrown into its gears? Do you support its workings, or have you pulled the rug out from under its bulk?

The time has come to decide how we will react in response to overwhelming evidence that the consumerism beast is a tyrant disguised as a horn of plenty. Sure, it gives, but at a great price.

Consumerism kills freedom. It kills creativity. It kills life. Why would anyone support these outcomes?

The good news is that fighting back may be easier than you think. You don't have to become an activist getting arrested on the front lines (not that there is anything wrong with that), or live in a cave. You don't have to take up arms.

You just have to stop supporting the beast, stop serving it, stop feeding it with your time and money. This non-participation can be done through the time-honoured traditions of simple living.

Living simply is a withdrawal of support for global consumerism. It is a non-violent response to a violent way of life.

500 years ago, before the French Revolution, a gifted young man named Étienne de la Boétie, was writing about such things in his essay Discourse of Voluntary Servitude. Although he was writing about States and dictators, his ideas can be applied to other elite-driven, top-down systems as well.

Basically he said that things can change fast if the people's consent is withdrawn. Without the participation of the people dictators can fall, governments can fall, and other ways of doing things can fall too.

Reading this amazing essay I replaced "tyrant" or "the State" with "consumerism" and it still makes sense.

Consumerism then, has "nothing more than the power that you confer upon it to destroy you. Where has it acquired enough eyes to spy upon you, if you do not provide them yourselves? How can it have so many arms to beat you with, if it does not borrow them from you? The feet that trample down your cities, where does it get them if they are not your own? How does it have any power over you except through you? How would it dare assail you if it had no cooperation from you?"

The solution?
"Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break into pieces.” - Étienne de la Boétie
As simple living catches on with the masses, the tyrant of consumerism and all the death it deals out, will fall under its own weight and shatter for good.

It is up to us - we have the power. We can change everything by not participating in the problem.


  1. Anonymous12/15/2014

    At times, I feel particularly helpless. I can't go out on the front lines and protest something, or be as much as an activist as I would like. Then I came to the conclusion that I do have power, the power of non-participation. If each of us pulled our support of this untenable lifestyle, it would end.

    1. Miss Marla,

      In his essay la Boétie wondered why we consented to harmful systems that seek to enslave us rather than seek out the liberty that we all once had, and could have again if we so choose.

      Thankfully it is a choice that we all can make. Everyone can participate in non-participation wherever we are at. We can all decide to withdraw our consent and cooperation from evil things. We can free ourselves.

      When this happens, harmful ways end, and we are all better for it.

  2. I think the idea is gaining ground. This article is rather sad, but it does show a mainstream anti- consumerism thread emerging...and made me glad we do not have a television! Having lots of money does not make you happy.

    1. Charlotte,

      Great article by George Monbiot. When he says:

      “For the most social of creatures, who cannot prosper without love, there is no such thing as society, only heroic individualism. What counts is to win. The rest is collateral damage.”

      it sounds like a pretty good description of the work/consume/repeat lifestyle. I watched an interesting documentary about how home laundry facilities replaced laundromats and thus destroyed a main hub of community activity. There are so many other examples of things in our homes that isolate us from others.

      I agree that more and more people are realizing that a robust community and lots of love are more important than money and things.

  3. Anonymous12/15/2014

    I love this post! Non-participation is my favorite form of protest. Great quotes.
    Thanks, Terri

    1. Terri,

      I started my unrelenting campaign of non-participation at age 5 when I dropped out of kindergarten, so I come by it honestly.

  4. Anonymous12/20/2014

    Hey I loved this post! I have secretly read afew of your posts and you are 100% correct. We are living like slaves buying things that do not benefit our higher potential. Keep up the good work!


Comments will be printed after moderation to eliminate spam. We are proudly a no buying, no selling website.

We enjoy reading all comments, and respond when time permits.

If you put a name to your comment we can all recognize you for your contribution.

Thank you for visiting and commenting.