This article by Ethan Goffman is part of a series of articles drawing inspiration and ideas from the 2016 SCORAI conference that has just been happening in Maine, USA. Enjoy the reading!
Transitions Beyond a Consumer Society, SCORAI Conference Blog #4
If the keynote speeches at the 2016 SCORAI Conference were thunder and lightning, dramatically expounding on vast global issues, a panel at the end of the second day was more meditative, more Beethoven’s sixth symphony than Wagner. “Consumption on the Mind” dealt with how particular individuals, designated as wise and mindful, handle the decision to simplify, to avoid the glut of consumption that overtaken so many of us.
Michael Luchs went back to the ancients for definitions of wisdom, finding decision making, prosocial attitudes, reflection, coping with uncertainty, and emotional balance to be common traits among the wise. He went into individual communities to hunt down people generally considered to be wise and see how they handle consumption. Such people in a variety of communities are marked by balance, thrifty and resourceful but also aware of joy and beauty. The wise consumer, Luchs found, imagines a lifestyle to create, rather than reacting to market forces. It might be smart, for instance, to shop at Walmart, but it is wise to buy food at a farmers market, to be part of a healthy community. Wise consumers buy what they need and enjoy, not to make a fashion statement or impress others.