Challenging Consumption Culture

In case you’ve been living under a rock, this weekend has been bookmarked by Black Friday and Cyber Monday – which has basically meant discounts galore.  So far, so good.  I mean, I took advantage to get nearly 30% off a coat I have had my eye on for a while.  But I was really shocked and saddened to see pictures of people literally fighting over discounted goods on Friday; it got so bad in some areas that the police had to be called to a number of stores in London, Cardiff and Manchester.

I find this display of greed and conspicuous consumption particularly uncomfortable at a time when I am preparing to live in a developing country for four months.  Over 40% of people in Bangladesh still live below the poverty line – on less than $1.20 a day.  I will be living in a host home during my placement and I don’t know yet whether it will even have an indoor bathroom.  So, seeing people fighting over a discounted TV was really quite jarring.

This incident has also got me thinking about Christmas.  With Advent starting tomorrow, I know many people have already started shopping for gifts; my family have been asking what I want for weeks now.  It’s a question I often struggle with but one that I have found even harder to answer this year.  I really don’t want to sound ungracious because I am very grateful for having friends and family that want to give me presents – ones that I might actually want – and I am very fortunate that I earn enough that I don’t really want for anything.  But I’ve found the whole thing quite difficult this year.  I don’t want ‘stuff’.  I guess what I do want is to know that people I care about thought about me and wanted to do something to make me happy.  I want their love and their time.  And those are things that money can’t buy.

I’m not really sure what I wanted to achieve by blogging about this today.  I suppose I just wanted to get it off my chest.  But maybe it will prompt you to think about your consumption during the festive season – to think about what is actually important to you and remember all the people around the world who are less fortunate than you.

As part of my fundraising efforts for VSO, I will be doing a Live Below the Line challenge, where I will spend only £1 a day on food and drink.  I’ll be blogging more about that later in December but, in the meantime, if you want to read more about my placement with VSO and to help me raise money on their behalf, please head over to my JustGiving page.

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