Not the coughing theatrically into a stained handkerchief kind- but rather the acquisition of stuff.

We took a day out today to do a whole load of consuming. We went Christmas shopping. Michaela has this list that she does on the computer, complete with reference information and tick boxes. I go along as the bag man really. But hey, I get a day out with my wife.

Today we decided to brave a large ‘mall’ at Braehead near Glasgow. I have been there once before, and Michaela reminded me that I swore I would never ever go there again. But as I could not remember having said it, away we went.

What a place.

It has two polished levels of shopping- lines of every shop you would expect to be there, and not a single surprise. Each shop seems to be selling almost identical items, at almost identical prices. There is a ‘food hall’, in which awful food is sold, at very high prices. The place has not originality, no sense of place- as you walk through it, you could be in anywhere in the UK, or even anywhere in Europe.

What is it about these places that makes me so uncomfortable?

I think it comes from a constant feeling that I am being manipulated.

And that awareness of this manipulation does not help me avoid it.

I find myself a participant in a system that would convince me that it is normal to fill my life with all of this stuff- which as soon as I remove from it’s box will be worthless.

A system that depends on me buying ever more stuff, because any measurable change in the numbers of us who buy it, or the frequency by which we buy it, will send ripples through the economic systems of the world.

And should any caution or fear produce a slight reluctance to continue with this in enough of us, then stock market values plummet, financiers get nervous and banks start to tighten their credit lines. After all most of us depend on this thing called credit to buy our stuff…

Then businesses start to find that there is less need for their goods, and so they in turn slow their production, and people lose their jobs. And these people are no longer earning money, and so can buy less stuff.

And the whole thing starts to wind down into… recession!

So I had better spend more in this mall right? It is my duty to the world…

Oh but every year we say the same. Christmas is defined by this round of acquisition every year. Don’t get me wrong, I like to give stuff to my friends and family, but it seems that what I give them is so… useless, for the most part.

Is there no other way?

Well, not for us this year. We have spent the day consuming after all. But there is always next year…

I think these make the point quite well…

(You can see more of this, and some suggestions as to alternatives here.)