Serious shopping…

Today Emily and I had to go into Glasgow to pick up her new glasses. She has been given these to help her with reading- remarkably, the particular colour of blue they are tinted with seem to increase her reading speed by around 50%. Previously she had somehow coped with words swimming around in her vision- particularly at the ends of lines, making it almost impossible to find her way through dense blocks of text without huge effort. How she managed so well up till now is a mystery to all of us.

Anyway, this also meant that my pointedly deferred shopping expedition sort of came back to haunt me. Emily needed a new dress for her birthday meal with friends at the weekend so we went out into the crowds of Buchannan street- in the middle of all the Christmas madness.

I survived.

But I am not less appalled by it all.

If anything could sum it all up for me it is this-

I read this poster in the toilets in St Enochs Square shopping centre. (OK- Emily noticed the same thing and this poster was in the ladies loo. She took this photograph. Obviously.)

Whilst I was reading the poster, two young lads came in. They hovered a little- it was crowded, and they were encumbered by sleeping bags and rucksacks. It was obvious by that they were rough sleepers, in for a clean up and a bit of warmth.

The contrast with this poster seemed great at first- then less so. The edges of this credit driven culture we have created can be seen in both the poster and these rough sleeping young men. It suddenly seemed to me all about disconnection.

Disconnection from one another- from community and place. Disconnection from the means of production, and from the land that sustains us. Disconnection from the spirit of man, and from the Spirit of the Living God.

What madness is it that makes us still think that we can keep making money from plastic cards and using it to buy ever more stuff? What crazyness drives us to feed our addiction for more credit even by desperate measures like this-  trying to screw more money out of banks who have already brought us all to the edge of the abyss by lending too much of the stuff?

As if the best we can now hope for was this last loophole through which we might get a little more free money.

Last week in Dunoon, one of the ‘hole in the wall’ cash machines went wrong, and started paying out double the money that people requested. Pretty soon, the word got out and a queue formed down the street. The bank, in panic, asked the police to come, just to turn people away.

Not a good advert for the people of our town, even if we might regard the banks as fair game given their impact on the economy. But perhaps none of us are that different- who could ever turn down some free money?

Not going shopping…

We did not do it.

Today was to be our day Christmas shopping. Michaela and I were going to take a day out and go somewhere like Stirling or Ayr- but when we sat down to plan it, neither of us wanted to go. This for the obvious reasons, but also (given all our recent discussions about doing Christmas differently) it just seemed hypocritical and frustratingly conformist-to me at least- Michaela is not so given to wallowing in angst.)

We were going shopping for a lesser amount of stuff anyway- we have been planning different activities and ways of Christmas sharing with many of our friends.

So instead, we spent a day at home MAKING THINGS.

I made a massive pot of chutney, and another of Piccalilli. I chopped veg for about 3 hours and the house is full of a heady smell of spice and vinegar. We will jar them up with hand made labels.

Total cost of ingredients- around £30 plus gas and plus TIME.

Michaela made clay Christmas decorations, which she will paint and string together. Later we will make some wind chimes.

Total cost so far around £20 for clay paint and varnish. And TIME.

And in the process we had a day at home together- listening to radio 4 and CDs.

While a gale is blowing outside.

Because the joy of the thing is never in the buying. Perhaps there may be some people who like shopping- who enjoy the cut and thrust of Christmas commerce, but I suspect they will be very few.

 

Another poster…

Here is another poster from Buy Nothing Christmas.

I confess- I am going shopping the day after tomorrow.

Christmas shopping.

Because, despite the journey we are on away from this consumer addiction that we call ‘Christmas’, I have not yet gone (forgive me for this) cold turkey.

I intend to treat this latest journey into the world of commerce as an expedition into a hostile land.

I may not return alive.

Poster_santa-came

Consumption

shopping

Consumption.

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.)