We are not consumers

There’s a tendency, even among those who are trying to buy less stuff, to call everyone “consumers”. The company needs to please its consumers … we consumers need to vote with our dollars … we need watchdogs to protect consumers … consumers are buying less during the recession.

Let’s stop that. We are not consumers.

We’re people.

When we allow ourselves to be branded with these types of corporate terms, we’ve given in to the consumerist mindset. We’ve allowed the debate to be framed around buying: should we buy organic or local? How can we protect consumers? Do consumers have rights? What’s the best way to spend our money on products? How can we be savvy consumers? How can we affect change in society by making ethical or conscious buying choices?

What about the question of whether we should be buying or not? That gets thrown out the window, because it’s already assumed in the term: we’re consumers. Of course we buy. It’s just a matter of how, how much, where, from whom, how often.

But if we stop thinking of ourselves as consumers, and start calling ourselves “people”, then we open up the question. Should we even buy in the first place? Is it possible to live a life without buying?

We talked a bit about that in society, reimagined … that we can grow our own food, make and trade and share everything we need. It’s possible — of course it’s possible! Human beings (not consumers) did it for hundreds of thousands of years, and at least 10,000 years in civilized society: we lived and worked and played and loved, without buying. We did it in tribes, of course, but also in larger societies that weren’t based around the basic unit of corporation -> consumer.

I’m not advocating a return to tribalism. I’m saying we need to change the debate. We need to stop calling ourselves consumers. We need to open up our minds, so that a different way is possible.

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