What is money and what is consumption?
Is it only a rumor that living a conscious consumption is time-intensive?
Most of the people tell me “I don’t even know what I am consuming. I have no time to check the background of everything I am consuming.”
Let’s analyze the meaning of this: I don’t have time to check on my consumption.
We live because we eat, drink and sleep. We live because we are consuming these three essentials. But we don’t have time for checking where the food or the water are from, nor what textiles we sleep in. We do not have the time, because we have to work harder, better, faster to earn more money, with which we consume more things, we don't really care about where they are from and how they have been made.
Isn’t that a little bit crazy?
We don’t trade tomatoes against capsicum anymore. Because we don‘t have tomatoes to trade. We don’t grow them. We work to make money to buy them. We use money to make any trade easier. Money translates everything in the world. Money became the language in the world everyone is able to speak. Since the rendition of services even the 'talking' of people has a certain money-value. Actually, communication is even quite a high trademark.
So, we spend money on things, that keep us alive. Yet, we have no time to care about them, because we are busy working for a system to make more money in order to buy more of these goods we don’t care about - the only thing we care about in this regard is the price we pay for the goods we consume.
We care more for the money than for an actual good, although money is just a way of translating a value of an actual good. Money is just a tool, a transmitter, but certainly it grew into a product. - A product you can’t eat, drink or sleep on.
Okay now, that’s a little insane, is it not?
Money became the system itself, which rules and dominates us, even though money itself is empty - nothing more than printed paper without any value as long we have someone, who says it is. Having 100 Yuan is certainly not the same having 100 US Dollars. Why? If you have a tomato with the weight of 100 grams and another one of 100 grams, it seems like an equal value, besides measures of taste and look. And these subjective measures of taste and look are kind of the added-value measured “by someone else”/societies/nations/governments. You say “I have a great 100 gram tomato” and someone else says “No, your tomato is not as good as mine. Here have an100 gram tomato that is worth so much more”. How do you determine the value of these two tomatoes? Maybe by what others say? How do most people see the value of this one tomato compared to the other one? And this is where we should start considering the work-force of people in order to understand the worth of things. Why is the CEO-wage of one person 16.0000 times the value the work-force of a garment worker? - Because people say so?
This weekend I was invited to this party in Coolmühle, Brandenburg, Germany. It is a former holiday camp used by the Nazis and later by the GDR. After both of the systems failed, the original owner got it back and failed in working together with the staff, because of cultural difficulties between the staff from the East and the owner from West-Germany.
Today a group of around fourty people from Berlin bought the estate and live and work there. They don’t pay rent, they don’t have many rules and most of them don’t have a lot of money.
Actually you could sum it up with “people there live with less”.
But living with less is not completely true. In their view (and also in mine) they have so much more! They have big old trees, vegetables and sheep on their property, a clean lake in front of the house, freedom of creativity, more nature, less people. Coming back to my tomato example: They have no people telling them the value of their tomatoes. They determine the value themselves.
But how can these people say they have more, when they have less money? …Which means “less choices” to many of us. When you ask people at Coolmühle about money, they will tell you their idea about life: You choose one option BEFORE and THEN work for this. Different from many other people, who work for a lot of money to have many options later.
Maybe money made it too easy for us.
Instead of trusting ourselves to see a value - we just trust in the price, which translates how much a steak on our plate is worth. We are supposed to know, that the price is measuring the life of the animal. We don’t want to question ourselves, if we might have liked the cow we just ate. In fact, it makes it easier to not know. That would make the consumption less joyful.
We want an easy life. We decide not to know. We want to trust in prices, advertising and not worry about every detail about production, added-value we don’t see right away. It is too hard, to many steps to think of. And if this resulted in not consuming, we might not be able to consume anything after all. That unconsciousness gives a lot of power to a system: Everybody just fulfils his or her own part and trusts the others concerning “the rest”. Deciding not to know more. Consume more, worry less.
This scenario was kept for the last 50 years in fashion industries and we translated everything into money. The language we all speak.
Trade as a kind of Interaction
...and how this changes our consumption.
Is there anything which could replace the value of money?
Bitcoin. Haha. No, for real:
With communication, developing online, things start to change. Because of groups like Anonymous and Co. it becomes harder not to know. We can be in a million places at the same time by simply watching Instagram stories. I see the life of my Iranian friends there every day. How they are going out, having parties, wearing head-scarfs and taking them off. I see the life of my friends from India, the parties of the rich ones and the ones in the slums, enjoying nature. I see my sister in the States and I see my friends in Ireland making music, I see my friend with his family in Ecuador, being surrounded by a hundred times more colorful world and I see what my friends in NZ do on the opposite side of the world. This is what I see of this world in ten minutes on Instagram. Everybody and everything became transparent. What they eat, how they dress, what music they listen to. It does not matter if their economy is powerful.
In general, it is hard to hide circumstances. You see value-chains and the way things go nowadays. You see your friend in the slums having a new place to work again, you see your sister in the States constantly changing her clothes in the same time – to sum up: It is harder to hide running systems from a general basic awareness of the things going on there.
Explanations like “things have always been that way” are simply out of time.
And that is where it starts.
Even though the economic system has a strong and overlapping power on this planet, it is still possible to go back to the natural kind of interaction and trade.
People trade online. We all know those kind of Facebook-groups where possessions that are no longer needed are given away for free. The same happens on eBay or craigslist– We still trade goods without money. Moreover, we trade the gap of cultural value. We own a good that has no value to us, but still respecting it, not throwing it out. The Internet widened the perspective of everyone - Take trade as a form of interaction - then we talk so much more globally!
Collective Consumption & Shared Economies
Think about your wardrobe. Probably you will look at it and think: “Well that’s about the normal amount of clothes in there according to what my friends have.”
If you had to divide all of your clothes into what you need, what you want and the rest - which one would be the biggest pile? - Probably the third one. At least this is what happens to 90% of the northern European women with 40% of the items in their wardrobe.
I work with the Start-Up Darpdecade that works in the area of collective consumption and allows to share clothes via an app. We recently made a video, that makes it easy to understand circular sharing-economies:
Sharing online inspires us - it creates inspiration by real humans! Advertising cannot tell us there what is cool - it is a direct trade. We see, we believe, we try, we find out.
Authenticity became more important than status.
Life can be so much worth it without any monetary value!
For a long time, I believed that money can be the answer, if you allocate it wisely.
But actually I figured out that anti-consumption is what makes me the happiest: Buying less, having less, consuming less makes space and leaves time to find out what I actually want and need.
For whatever reason, a very expensive meal cannot satisfy me anymore as much as the meal I cook from my own harvested vegetables. It's very simple: It’s the emotional factor of things. It is my awareness of the added-value. I know the story of my vegetables and any other good I consume now.
It is the same with clothes. I haven’t been shopping in a fast fashion store for over a year now and I do not even miss it. It is not like having less, it is like breaking free. I get sick when I enter these huge stores seeing clothes smashed on the cloth-racks, always the same piece a million times in different sizes. Even seeing that one thing I might like is there a hundred times, taking away its value. I cannot stop myself from thinking of the people who sew so hard on thousands of shirts and you stand in the store listening conversations “Oh, this is ugly I am not paying 20€ for this! It’s really not the greatest quality at H&M, but what shall I do?! I simply need new stuff.” - That hurts! If I hear something like this, I have to leave, because my mind gets mad.
Going to flee-markets I feel a stronger happiness. People looking at a piece of clothing in a more individualistic way. It’s old clothes, out of the market race. The only reason the pieces are being sold, is because people want to get rid of them. So, the way people look at stuff at flee-markets it’s more about the item itself, adding a new value to it. Mostly you don’t even pay what this piece is worth to you. You pay what the people expect for it and add your own value to it: Your story about how you found this item and how you treat it.
Something, people who travel, know best: A smile and a story pays better than any money. Well, yes, you can say: "But I am not always on a journey" - Then it is your choice to stay in a system, taking over their rules. You make it a choice to follow the system…or not.
To come back to my weekend in Coolmühle in Brandenburg, Germany: These people live in a state with a strong economy and the decision to step away from it.
As long as you have the freedom of choice: choose :)