November 11, 2002 01:44 PM

The problem of anti-consumerism is that it seems to be entirely an upper class phenomenon.

Not unusual, right? Leftism is sometimes a necessity for the poor and working class, but always an option for those with money.

I've always struggled to define for myself what bothered me so much about Adbusters. At core, all of their projects are really about information - making sure you have and consider information before you buy whatever. Right?

But. Sitting here on the left, thinking about anti-consumerism, I find myself echoing the criticisms most typically levyed at the left as a whole. Namely: that anti-consumerists are self-righteous without [communicated] supporting logic, out of touch with the average person's daily experience, asking too much at too great a cost with too little benefit for the world at large. Sounds familiar.

Though of course, as a feminist, the criticisms I'm most likely to hear have more to do with the assumption that my feminism is focused entirely on women, or that I have a secret desire to police your thoughts. [Actually, my desire to police your thoughts is not at all secret. Given boundless resources, I'd like to try an experiment in which all people were "strongly encouraged" (probably in the form of some sort of bribery by me and my "associates") to think essentially as I do for a year or two. I wonder what a culture composed entirely of liberal, similar-thinking individuals might do.]

Back to the point. The key assumption of anti-consumerism is the ability to choose pro-consumerism - that's what defines anti-consumerism as itself, and its opponent. And what makes that awkward, of course, is that the financial security required to make that choice available is almost invariably the result of someone else's rampant consumerism at some point in the past. That brings me back to the notion of left-leaners as children of privilege who have yet to mature, return to the fold, and embrace the values of the community (assuming you weren't raised in a liberal community to begin with).

So is my perception of anti-consumerists based, ironically, on this feeling that they're refusing to participate in the community as-is? Am I secretly thinking that the purchase is a key element of the semi-global community?

No - or at least, not entirely. I think what bothers me about Adbusters or versus, say, Clothespin is a certain level of hypocrisy that gets transmitted with their message: the glossy, non-recyclable magazine, the emphasis on shock value. These are the same things that bother me about PETA, Sierra Club, and all those anti-tobacco lobbying groups that advertise themselves as driven by teens and young adults but are actually managed by the same old lobbyists.

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