Monday, May 2, 2011

Consumers as an oppressed group

I believe it was Paulo Freire in pedagogy of the oppressed who talks about the stages of oppression (Don't quote me on it as it has been a long time since I read it). The stages were along the lines that the oppressed in the initial stages want to be like the oppressors and aspire to their culture and values while suppressing their own. However, once the veil has been lifted and the oppressed see that they can never obtain what the oppressors have they develop a hatred to the oppressors culture. In this hatred they end up isolating themselves from there peers as their peers are still caught up in the oppressors ideas of what one should aspire towards. During this isolating and trans formative time the person seeks out his own cultural identity and and draws on a deep love for his cultures history. As he builds knowledge in this background he develops a support system of like minded individuals and becomes rather opinionated and militant about his views. He develops an us versus them mentality becoming confrontational to the oppressors and to the oppressed. Over time the individual is able to develop a strong sense of identity that is no longer threated by others. As this is developed they are able to engage with the dominate culture without hatred but as a force of change. Basically being of the world but not a part of it.

I believe someone leaving the culture of consumption goes through the same stages. The elite advertise to the middle and lower class telling us to buy cars, clothes, and glamor informing us if we aspire towards it we can be rich and famous. As one begins to realize that they are being treated as debt serfs running after an illusion they begin to develop a hatred to debt, consumption and materialism. As they move towards as less materialistic lifestyle they start to realize that they have little to talk about with their friends and co workers. "What do you mean you did not watch dancing with the stars?" "What you don't have a tv!?" "Why would you sell your car to take the bus?" . As this progresses people stop asking if you want to go out as they don't want to hear about your crazy ideas. As one gets more isolated they begin to become more foreign. They walk into a grocery store and look at magazines that they once found interesting only to realize they have no idea who the people are. They also don't understand why anyone would pay the asking price for new technology when you can wait a year and get it for free. Ask anyone at this stage what they think of a mall. It is sad to walk around a mall and see people in a fog of debt and consumption. At the same time it is rather isolating to realize that you can no longer relate to them.

Hopefully one is able to find like minded individuals even if it is in book or blog form. There are many books, blogs and people past and present who have written about simplicity and offer paths to follow so you don't have to carve out your own. The next stage in breaking the cycle is where I have my problem. How can I engage (i.e. relate to people enslaved) in this world without being judgmental or opinionated and at the same time staying interested.