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Why I hate the "C" word  RSS feed

 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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I was watching the news tonight - something I rarely do - and I was SHOCKED at how often the "C" word was used! I counted at least 6 instances of the "c" word in the 20 minutes that I watched. Couldn't believe it!

So the "C" word I'm referring to is the word "consumer" (yeah - I know what you were thinking!) But honestly, I hate the word "Consumer" just as much as I hate that other "C" word.

Some people dislike being reduced to a number - like a social security number. I intensely dislike the label "consumer". To me, "consumer" speaks volumes about what's wrong with our current mind set. It seems to indicate that we are nothing more than needy voids dedicated to endlessly seeking out more and more stuff to...what?...make us feel something - important? loved? powerful? sexy?

And while I get that we are all indeed "consumers" on some level - in my experience that is not our highest expression of ourselves - especially not those of us who identify as permies. I mean, think of what you are actively engaged in doing every day. On any given day I devote several hours to volunteer activities, gardening, building local community, water harvesting activities, sharing meals with family and friends, and so on. In any given week I spend approximately one hour "shopping" - and that is mostly for groceries. Outside of necessities - the last thing I purchased was a movie rental from redbox.

So then the question becomes - is there another term we could popularize to indicate the kind of people we are and the type of world we want to live in? What would that term be?
 
wayne stephen
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Good topic Jennifer ! My favorite hobby is being an amateur sociologist . I am 54 years old . I can track within my lifetime the popularization of the term "consumer". We used to be addressed as customers and shoppers . Businesses would vie for our attention and our loyalty. Housewives were praised for stretching their dollars and crusty old men were impossible to convince . Now , wikipedia defines consumer as :

"The consumer is the one who pays to consume the goods and services produced. As such, consumers play a vital role in the economic system of a nation. In the absence of effective consumer demand, producers would lack one of the key motivations to produce: to sell to consumers. The consumer also forms part of the chain of distribution.
Typically, when business people and economists talk of consumers, they are talking about the person as consumer, an aggregated commodity item with little individuality other than that expressed in the decision to buy or not to buy. However, there is a trend in marketing to individualize the concept. Instead of generating broad demographic profiles and psycho-graphic profiles of market segments, marketers have started to engage in personalized marketing, permission marketing, and mass customization."

I guess the age of the customer is dead .

My first recollection of the word consumer was in the early 70's seeing the latest issues of "Consumers Digest" . That was a magazine designed to objectively critique products and give people ammunition to be discerning shoppers . They would actually bash products if it was deserved . Now it reads like the gushy uncritical advertisement digest that it is .

Interesting that the word consumer was originated in the field of biology to describe the individuals within a food web . How did the term "consumer" become synonomous with customer ? We will have to dig up a few Freudians to answer that . Though , in a marketplace full of schlock it is easy to imagine how . We have become seen as sheep grazing within the plasticized disposable pasture-place . Baaaah !

The government has also acted to quantify individuals into groups so as to target their marketing/propaganda more efficiently . In 1962 Kennedy introduced the "Consumers Bill of Rights" continuing the momentum towards a nanny state which views us as consumers of public services . Not as individuals who have lives outside of politics .

So , to assist in your quest for a term to describe those of us who hate being labeled as consumers I like the word Earthling . As in "Greetings Earthling , We come in Peace". It would not take much deductive reasoning to convince anyone stuck in a demographic slot to admit they were an Earthling too .
 
Craig Dobbson
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You touch on a very interesting topic here. Just to turn this on it's head a little...
Is it that people stopped acting like shoppers and customers? Take a look around and you'll see tons of consumers. Just tons of them. Not shopping. Not customizing. Just consuming. Almost entirely to their own misfortune, they just keep buying the crap on the shelf or under the heat lamp.

I think that -sad to say- a lot of people have turned into consumers. They just gobble up whatever is put in front of them. They don't bother with the details.

I see that there is a need for the word "consumer" in an economic sense and I can understand why people in business have slid from using other terms to describe the "end user". In a world where things are often looked at in black and white, you are either the producer or the consumer.

Customer/shopper implies that you might not spend money when you go into a shop. You could be just browsing or walking around a shop killing time while you wait for a prescription to be filled.

Consumer implies that you've already bought the goods.

So there is a ratio of shoppers to consumers. The shoppers are very few in number at this point. Just barely worth a mention.




I thought this was going to be about the OTHER C-word. I'm kinda sad it wasn't. You set a trap Jennifer and I fell into it. Good one


 
John Elliott
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Then replace it with the "F" word -- Freegan.

Freegans are those who find their needs met by the cast-offs of the consumer world. They also irritate capitalists like chiggers burrowing under the skin. Capitalists have come to realize that throwing away less-than-perfect merchandise is a cost of doing business. But to have freegans come and retrieve it before it can be covered at a landfill, why that's downright unpatriotic. How are they supposed to make their profit when these freeloaders won't participate in the system?

If freegans occupy the lowest level of hell (from the view of the capitalist, your view may vary), then people who recycle and shop at second-hand stores are on the next tier. If products are going to be reused and passed along to someone else, that also depressed consumer demand. No the capitalist-consumer model has it all figured out: we extract resources, add labor to them and make life wonderful with a bounty of products which have countless features and options, styles and colors.



Until there are no more resources to extract. Then we're SOL.



 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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First - thanks for the great responses so far. You guys bring up more food for thought as well. Earthling does have a "we're all in this together" feel to it and provokes more thoughtfulness. Freegan is definitely anti-consumer (and a sport I am an active participant in - I love me some good dumpster diving!!) I'm hoping more people take the time to respond with their own thoughts. I have a feeling this discussion will bubble on the backburner of my brain for awhile.


Craig - I worked on that trap all night! I dug a deep hole and then cleverly disguised it by laying banana leaves over the top of it! Then I waited behind an adjacent shrubbery for unsuspecting permies to fall in... I will leave the you with the task of creating thread for the "other" C word...
 
Craig Dobbson
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I actually had to look it up and found that there was much I didn't know. So I added it to the cider press.

That word

Don't blame me... Jennifer made me do it. You all saw her push me. LOL

 
James Graham
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Craig Dobbelyu wrote:
I thought this was going to be about the OTHER C-word. I'm kinda sad it wasn't. You set a trap Jennifer and I fell into it. Good one




In other words, You fell for her marketing ploy.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Craig Dobbelyu wrote:I actually had to look it up and found that there was much I didn't know. So I added it to the cider press.

That word

Don't blame me... Jennifer made me do it. You all saw her push me. LOL


I see what you did there!

James Graham wrote:In other words, You fell for her marketing ploy.


Indeed he did!! I am now feeling the power of marketing and fully intend on making you consumers of my "meaningless drivel".

It is funny that only guys have responded to this post so far...

 
Leila Rich
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I've always been pretty oblivious to that particular c-word: I don't go to places where they use that kind of language
Actually, I just replied so that
Jennifer Wadsworth wrote: It is funny that only guys have responded to this post so far...
was no longer true!
 
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