Out-Growing Consumerism 2:
An Act of Subversion

4 minute read | Part 2 of a Series | also published on PermacultureNews.org

Better questions lead to more informed choices, enabling you to live a life designed by you rather than one that’s handed to you as a member of the consumer culture. 

This article continues on from “Out-Growing Consumerism 1: What Should Never Have Been for Sale.”


Question everything

In Part 1 of this Series, we discussed how the consumer culture directs our attention away from the long-term consequences of our choices and towards the quick fixes and instant gratification necessary to drive a growth economy.

There is a simple (not easy, but simple) way to take back your focus.

A characteristic of people who manage to step out of the status quo and live self-directed lives is the tendency to question EVERYTHING.

Where did this thing I’m about to consume (entertainment, a story, a suggestion, an online search result, a convenience service, a cleaning product, a self-care product, a new widget, an upgrade on an old widget…) come from?

What were the consequences of its production?

What’s this thing made up of? Who is selling it? What are the intentions and ethics of the entity that is trying to sell it to me?

Who will profit, if I buy this thing, and what form will the profit take?

Who else is paying for this thing, other than me? What’s the real price – beyond what the selling entity wants me to think is the price?

Will my consumption of this thing support health and interconnection within my family and community, and in our environment and ecosystems?

If not, is there a way I could replace it with something that does?

Is this something I WANT to bring into my life? Am I choosing it consciously, or has it been quietly ushered into my life while I was looking the other way?

Your presence of mind and your focus

It takes a few extra moments of your time, to think things through in this way. It requires a bit more presence of mind and focus.

Before you recoil away from having to analyze your every consumption choice like this, consider that retaining your own presence of mind and focus—as opposed to giving it away to clever manipulation—is the whole point.

Having monetized everything else, the consumer economy now needs to monetize the very space inside your head in order to keep growing. 

The act of directing your own attention using well-chosen questions makes your headspace unavailable—or at least less available—to profit-seekers.

More questions: better choices 

As you ask more questions and make decisions more consciously, you’re likely to find yourself gravitating away from business as usual. You may find you can no longer accept the status quo.

It’s not a comfortable or convenient experience. But if you stick with it, you’ll come to make choices that are better-informed and more your own.

Such choices will better support your own health and well-being and, by extension, they’ll also better support the well-being of the entire web of life that surrounds and supports you.

An act of subversion

Prioritizing long-term health and well-being over the short-term wants that the consumer culture keeps trying to nudge you towards could be called an act of subversion.

It’s a way of taking action to clean up the mess we’re in – by refusing to participate in the agendas of the globalized corporations that are moving to control entertainment, our food supply, our health care systems, our education systems, and more1.

The real work of functioning adults in a healthy culture

In indigenous/hunter-gatherer cultures, the most important work of adults (especially older adults) is not material.

The attainment of food and shelter is important, but secondary. The primary work of adults in cultures that still respect and care for the earth is ceremonial.

In an intact indigenous community every member is … expected to take responsibility for performing the spiritual gestures that maintain the connection to the sacred in their personal and communal lives. … 

If an individual fails to perform his or her ritual role in maintaining the cosmic order that holds the life of the tribe together, the whole order suffers."

Christina Baldwin,  Calling the Circle

The … well-being of the universe … depended on the continued [repetition of the original creative songs, stories, and acts] of the original supernatural beings by their human reincarnations from generation to generation. 

All ... shared in this task of perpetually renewing the universe and in carrying out the rites … all [had] a purposeful role to play … all the labors of humanity were necessary to keep nature functioning harmoniously.”  

Eugene Stockton, The Aboriginal Gift: Spirituality for a Nation

In our culture, it’s the opposite.

Our spiritual responsibility to the earth and each other has been pushed aside, and adults mainly work for material things.

It has to be so, to sustain a culture of materialism.

In its scramble for economic growth, our culture has lost sight of how to sustain individual, family, community, and planetary well-being.

Finding alternative ways to live so that you can stop participating in the scramble might be the most effective way you can help make a difference.

It’s certainly an excellent starting point.

Coming up next

This was Part 2 of Out-Growing Consumerism. Part 3, "A Self-Determined Life," is here


  1. AI Has Already Taken Over. Its Called the Corporation
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