Beating the Drum on Consumer Greed

Beating the Drum

Beverly Blanchard is an Ojibway First Nation from Northern Ontario.  She holds a degree in Economics. During the last twenty-two years, she has worked as a consultant to First Nation and Inuit organizations in a variety of disciplines including: homelessness, suicide prevention, violence prevention, childcare, HIV/AIDS, women’s issues, business planning, and economic development. She has also designed and delivered Aboriginal awareness and stress management workshops to Federal government employees. Currently, Ms Blanchard is a life strategy coach, author and energy healer in Ottawa. Her blog is Ancient Wisdom at:
Filling up with stuff while we point the finger at suppliers alone
By Beverly D. Blanchard
True North Perspective

Beverly D. Blanchard

Friday 10 May 2013 — It is interesting that we are all quick to point the finger of shame at Loblaws in light of the recent tragedy in a Bangladesh clothing factory. We have been quick to point out this is another example of corporate greed. The media was quick to write articles about the need for corporations to become socially responsible. What about the consumer’s role in all this?

What happened in Bangladesh was a tragedy. It was not the first time news of poor working conditions and accidents have hit the news. We have had numerous tragedies reported. There are the suicides of Chinese workers making the latest technological gadgets that we the consumers line up in advance to buy. There are stories of the children working in sweat shops to produce the clothing we wear on our backs. There have also been stories about other fires and lives lost at manufacturing plants. It is the same issue over and over again.

The consumer’s response to the recent Bangladesh tragedy was outrage. There were articles and posts telling me to boycott Loblaw’s Joe Fresh brand. I am told it will force the corporation to change its practices. To me this is a naive and simplistic approach since it neglects to take into account that the majority of the products we buy are made in similar manufacturing plants. Demanding that one company change is meaningless since we will continue to buy products from companies like: the Gap, Lululemon, Old Navy, Apple, Samsung, the Bay, Nike, Adidas...almost everything you buy was made somewhere in the world where working conditions would not be tolerated in developed countries.

In the economic world they call it economies of scale. Produce products in a country with cheap labour so that consumers with more disposable income and leisure time can consume the products. Those consumers are us and we have a voracious appetite for buying stuff. Our leisure time is even spent buying stuff or selling the stuff we bought at our own Saturday morning garage sale.

Now there is nothing wrong with buying or having stuff but perhaps we as consumers need to address why we are buying all this stuff. Are we buying to define ourselves? Does all this stuff make us a better human being? Are we out shopping because we are bored? Are we trying to fill up a void? Does all this stuff make us happy?

I would say that buying stuff does make us momentarily happy. It provides us with a distraction from what it is we don’t like about ourselves and our lives. The problem is as soon as we put the stuff away in the closet or after the new house is a few months old, we are back to square one. We are back to searching for happiness and we never realize happiness can only be found within. I know it is an old cliché but it contains a lot of truth. Find the happiness within and the stuff becomes a bonus.

What happened in Bangladesh is not just the responsibility of the corporations; it is also our responsibility as consumers. We cannot pass the blame, and project the problems of the retail/manufacturing industries on corporations or government as long as we are part of the chain. We are all on this earth together and we are all connected.  Want to find out how to find the happiness within, check out my blog entitled ancient wisdom.