On Rejecting Consumerism

On Friday we went to our brand-new Hobby Lobby on our way to dinner. I was going to a party the next night and I thought I needed a prop for the party. I was in a hurry, as usual. We found a few things that would work but they were well more than I wanted to spend on a party prop. So we found some sale flyers, and lo! We found that these pieces were 50% off, so they felt like a good deal. So we took the two things to the cash register and gave the tired and disinterested but polite cashier an amount of money that nearly equaled one entire day’s wages for me, and then waited patiently while the cashier inefficiently wrapped the things and we started to hurry on to dinner.

And then I stopped.

I stood in the fluorescent-lit entryway, sparkling clean and faintly stinking of overpriced scented candles, and looked at the other overpriced, ugly, unnecessary crap artistically arranged around me. I looked at the crap I had just traded nearly a day’s wages for, the amount of money that would buy most of a week’s food for our family, and realized they were both ugly and cheaply made.

And I kinda lost it. I should’ve just turned right around and returned the crap to the disinterested but polite cashier, but my husband and son, recognizing that my ethics were kicking in, hustled me out of the store and into the car while I cussed and railed against what I had just done.

There is nothing of beauty in that store. There is nothing of art, nothing made by artists. That place is full of cheap, throwaway crap made by factory workers to imitate things of beauty, things of art, and then priced just high enough to convince people it has value. Hobby Lobby is selling a cheap copy of style, a cheap copy of art. These things are made by poor women in foreign factories because we have become unwilling to pay real artists for art. Instead we buy piles of easy crap, we fill up our homes with disposable trash that has no artistry and no lasting value. And here I was, snowed by the illusion of needing to buy something I didn’t have time to make because I was earning wages, and then trading my wages for worthless crap. So the crap sits in my living room, still in its bags with the receipt, waiting for me to reclaim my hard-earned money and a small measure of self-respect.

What goes for food should go for everything we consume, everything we trade our wages for: Buy the best you can, even if that means you can consume relatively little of it. We must be willing to discern the difference between things of value and things of non-value, whether those things be food or vases or paintings, to reject the empty consumerism we all say we abhor.

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