Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Someoneunist Manifesto

I've spent a fair amount of time recently thinking about the exchange of labour for consumer goods. Most of it, it has to be said, in shopping centres of one kind or another and in town. Time was, we, as adults, mostly toiled away over a lifetime working in jobs of one kind or another and were rewarded with pieces of paper or numbers in a computer system somewhere which were exchanged for those pieces of paper.

These days, with the use of plastic, it's gone beyond that. Some of us exchange our daily labour just for the numbers in a centralised computer somewhere that we never see shy of a balance on a screen.

Then what do we do? Well, we exchange our labournumbers(tm) for the basics in life - food, shelter, clothes, transport and then see how much we have left over. We then take the remining labournumbers(tm) and do one of two things with them. We either hoard them in a centralised computer somewhere or we exchange them for frivolities. Expensive handbags, garden furniture, swanky bottled water, 40 inch plasma screens or any one of a thousand other things that fall under the category of "wants" rather than "needs".

We never really look at it like that, do we? That everything we buy, everything around us represents the sweat of our brow. That DVD? Two hours work last Monday. That treadmill you'll use twice before you get bored with it and start using it as a clothes horse? 4 days on the job. Those expensive shoes? A week's work. A full 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. And you might wear them only once.

It was brought home to be in a small way when I was out on Saturday. Have a look at these.

It's a new limited range of Penguin books where they rebrand recent bestsellers in the old Penguin style. Very cool. I wanted some of them immediately even though I had the originals and, if I wasn't flat broke, I might have bought some of them for the bookshelf at home.

But they all would represent work. Work I had done, some of it hard and painstaking and possibly horrible all exchanged for a book I would, chances are, never actually get around to reading. And it wouldn't be the first time that had happened. I have a shelves of books and DVDs at home that I've bought and still not read or watched again, sometimes years after their purchase.

They all seemed like a good idea at the time but, as happens with most of us, consumption outweighed leisure time and they piled up. Weeks and weeks of my working life exchanged for pointless space fillers.

I don't know where this is all going, I don't think I have a point here, just that in a consumerist society we seem to value cheaply what we get in return for our hard, hard work.


  1. Yes when I was self employed and paid an hourly rate for my services.....consultancy services......it was a good way of reminding myself how much things were worth. When I was salaried the value of things seemed much less to me as the money just appeared in my account.

    When you earn so much per hour you tend to appreciate how much things cost!

  2. It's hard for me to spend money (I can see MW laughing about that right now!), cause I'm not earning it in the conventional sense (stay at home mom). I think we might go back to the mindset we had when we moved to Ireland, which was for one year, we only bought things that we really *needed*, since we'd be getting rid of things when we moved. It's hard, really really hard, but it was very liberating, since we didn't have crap staring us in the face saying "When you going to use me?!" (like that ball of yarn over there, which needs me to start knitting a sock!)

  3. Crap, I just lost my comment.

    Oh well - this post is so talking to me. I make myself feel better temptorarily by buying unneccssary things which seem important at the time, and my house is filed with STUFF.

    As always, I/we are financially embarrassed, there's never enough even for necessities and I still spend money on inconsequential things.

    I read an article about a family in the US who decided to try and buy nothing new for a year and it's a trend that spread worldwide. They buy food and cleanign products etc but nothing unneccessary - they use freecycle, secondhand shops, barter, make thier own presents or give services or favours etc. They reported having so much more money for savings/charity/paying off hte mortgage early/. It terrifies me but it sounds so positive.

    Would anyone take up hte challenge?

  4. See JTM? No-one willing to take up the mantle and understandably so. In a consumerist society we're all railroaded into being the way you appear to be - always overstretched even though you can't afford to be (as I'll readily admit to being as well!) That's where the profit is.