Pathological consumption

A great article on Whole Larder Love I found really interesting and other’s might (Thinking of you Jess). Rowan has a great blog on living off the land. The writer here discusses the behaviour of novelty gift buying for the people who already have “everything”. My thoughts are what a difference it would make if those loved ones were bought something from local artists or producers instead – handmade soap, chutney or even a basket of nice breads etc would be preferable to me that any “novelty item.


By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 11 December 2012

There’s nothing they need, nothing they don’t own already, nothing they even want. So you buy them a solar-powered waving queen; a belly button brush; a silver-plated ice cream tub holder; a “hilarious” inflatable zimmer frame; a confection of plastic and electronics called Terry the Swearing Turtle; or – and somehow I find this significant – a Scratch Off World wall map.

They seem amusing on the first day of Christmas, daft on the second, embarrassing on the third. By the twelfth they’re in landfill. For thirty seconds of dubious entertainment, or a hedonic stimulus that lasts no longer than a nicotine hit, we commission the use of materials whose impacts will ramify for generations.

Researching her film The Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard discovered that of the materials flowing through the consumer economy, only 1% remain in use six months after sale(1). Even the goods we might have expected to hold onto are soon condemned to destruction through either planned obsolescence (breaking quickly) or perceived obsolesence (becoming unfashionable).

But many of the products we buy, especially for Christmas, cannot become obsolescent. The term implies a loss of utility, but they had no utility in the first place. An electronic drum-machine t-shirt; a Darth Vader talking piggy bank; an ear-shaped i-phone case; an individual beer can chiller; an electronic wine breather; a sonic screwdriver remote control; bacon toothpaste; a dancing dog: no one is expected to use them, or even look at them, after Christmas Day. They are designed to elicit thanks, perhaps a snigger or two, and then be thrown away…. Read more here: Whole Larder Love

40 thoughts on “Pathological consumption

  1. I really enjoyed this post. Why people feel compelled to buy the novelty trinkets is beyond me. My husband and I enjoy making gifts for friends and family: wine, cheese, soap, candles, cookies, cakes, jams…when it comes time for gift giving events. Even when we travel abroad… I search for artisan food and drink or handmade scarves and sweaters as gifts. I would far rather support the local artist than a multinational corporation.


    • I really enjoyed the post too. Homemade gifts such as yours are truly a treat for those who don’t make their own foods and products, what can be nicer?! Even the person “with everything” buys food and would appreciate the superior taste of homemade – gosh they would pay a fortune for gourmet or artisan foods etc of the same quality – and supporting local artists (wherever they may be) is something we need to be doing.
      My first husband used to be bought alot of novelty things by his family because I guess they thought he had such a great sense of humour but honestly, it was such garbage and they always got thrown out years later. Our kids now buy Roger and I gardening vouchers because that’s what we kept asking for, that’s what we need – most of our fruit trees etc have come to us that way, the gift that keeps on giving 🙂


      • Oh …. gardening vouchers. Now there is a gift that would truly be appreciated. I really like the idea of gifts that keep on giving. (I like the new blog design and layout.)


      • Thank you, the last kept chopping the sides off my photos and I have been meaning to change it for ages.

        Our fig tree was the first fruit tree we got here and my son bought it for us, how much pleasure we have had from that.


  2. We have found that a gift card for a local restaurant makes a fine gift and one that is truly appreciated. For long distance gifts, an Amazon gift card usually does the trick and allows the reciever to purchase what they really want.


  3. Cheers for this share, I used to follow Rohan but his blog got a bit too self promotional for me 😉 I don’t mind reading the odd rant of his though in saying that. I have to admit that we have the wrong end of the stick when it comes to “buying” people things at all…when did it become important to “buy” gifts for people? I bet you could trace it back to the advent of “the media” and the great and most constant need to push consumables to the great unwashed. It bemuses me that people are only just starting to turn the tide with sites like Etsy offering people a wonderful chance to create gorgeous handmade things for others to buy as gifts with meaning. I tend to make things myself for people. The problem is that we have forgotten how to take a measure of the person that we are gifting. We forget that process in the mental adding up of how much money we are going to have to spend on them (their intrinsic monetary “worth” to us in our gifting hierachy 😉 ), where we are going to shop etc. Who they are, what they are interested in and what they can actually USE is often WAY down the list in our thought processes. There is nothing wrong with gifting. It spreads ripples of generosity…the problem starts when we allow the media and large corporations a say in our mind space (advertising anyone?) and thought processes that are involved in the gifting process.


    • Yep, totally agree with your comments.

      A few weeks ago I went to have coffee with a friend after work. Usually very positive and happy she was scowling and resentful, she had spent most of her day off in town looking for presents for both her mother in law and sister in law. She couldn’t decide what they would like, it ended up costing her way too much so they wouldn’t be disappointed and she had spent all day in a panic – not exactly a day containing the joy of gifting! What a shame that’s what it has become for some people and yes, through the sheer power of advertising I agree.


      • Its the “expectation” that kills us all…we are “expected” to deliver but who started this “expectation”? I think we need to stop and think about that…if the person that you are buying a gift for exhibits disappointment in your carefully thought about choice then it might be time to scratch them off your shopping list 😉


      • I reckon! But in this example I know both the women and they would’ve been really sorry she got so wound up over it and felt such unnecessary pressure to perform at such a high gift giving standard 🙂


      • So in THIS case, it was all about the perceived expectation and nothing about the actual eh? Seems “consumption” and social hierarchy was more important than it should have been (is it EVER important?!!!)… a perfect example of what the post was illustrating 🙂


    • Forgot to say I tend to agree about Rohan, his posts have certainly changed in content and attitude but I also find he has alot worth reading. I think maybe he is going through a metamorphism in thoughts that will eventually settle but is coming through in his blog rather too loudly 🙂 Right ethos, maybe not always the gentlest way to show it 🙂


      • He has always been in your face but when he went to America it smacked of hipocrisy…I stopped following his blog about then as suddenly it was all about Rohans expansions and Rohans desire to create networks for business and Rohans book…as soon as they start selling things I tend to stop reading their blogs 😉


  4. Lynda says:

    Yep, i am the recipient of several of Jess’s homemades gift and treats when she visits. So much nicer for the effort that goes into them. Looking forward to a sample of her tallow soap. Good Post. Very busy handmaking Gav’s 50th present at the moment.


  5. Wendy, love the new look here. The article was right on. I have reached a point where I don’t need anything and wish people wouldn’t buy me gifts. I thought I had convinced both my boys to ignore Mother’s day, but one sent me a book and bag refusing to not buy me a gift.

    I have already started to plan for Christmas, it seems to get harder each year to come up with something useful and needed to give.


  6. I wish everyone would enjoy handmade again in this world:-) I even tell my kids I don’t need anything, but if you want to make me a card that would be great-I loved those handmade ones when they were little-the best! I would love food made from a garden-yum!


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