Tuesday, October 17, 2006

making a change

We must become the change we want to see. -Mahatma Gandhi

While I was away from classes for a week my students watched a few films. One of the classes watched "The Corporation." I have written about this film previously. The film talks about the corporate culture and the influence on us. We spoke about the film and our reaction as designers.

We talked about our culture and the demand for items. What do we truly need outside of the basic needs? There is not much. The demand for "needs" has been created by advertisers. The profits from these "needs" line the pockets of corporations.

One of the students commented that there are so many things that she wanted to do, but felt helpless. What could she do - as just one person? One person can make a difference. One person can be that pebble which creates waves.

We have been subscribers to Real Simple since it first came out about 5-6 years ago. This week our renewal came. We decided not to renew. I think that the magazine is not simple. I think it shows what to purchase to feel that you are simplifying. It seems to me that the magazine is marketed to those upper middle class people who want to simplify the easy way - by making purchases. Look at the ads within the magazine - watches, make-up, clothing..... I do think that there are some good tips within the magazine from time to time, but overall, I did not feel that it was adding to my life. Thus, it goes.

My parents and grandmother visited this past weekend. My step-mother traveled a lot before she and my father married. She told me that most of the world does not live the way that Americans do. There is little waste in other areas of the world. There may not be as many conveniences, yet life is simpler. There is not a rush to accumulate. Why do we (as a culture) feel entitled to any and everything we want?

I believe that there are many people who want to simplify but don't know how to. We can live simply. To each of us simplicity may mean something else, but we can make changes that are healthy for ourselves and each other. I found that my life is much more content now than ever before. The changes we have made have been good for my family. We can do what Gandhi said and become the change we want to see.


Sally Parrott Ashbrook said...

I'm interested in talking to you about what you've been going over with your students in terms of understanding marketing. I would like to incorporate some similar lessons into our home ownership program--to get people to THINK about why they want to purchase what they do. I think many people have never thought critically about why we consume what and when we do.

BurdockBoy said...

Another wonderful post.
We as a nation have been so ingrained to comsume from advertising and the media that we feel that it is a healthy, natural part of life. We are even taught in school to learn so that we may have a successful occupation, not to create change, but for a high salary. We must start to teach our children that wealth does not equal success, but success is merely in our minds.

Gavrielah said...

Great post, Emme and very inspirational.

BurdockBoy, that is so true. Even I still have to remind myself of that fact because its been so ingrained into me for all of my life. I find myself wanting my kids to do well in school so that they can get a good job and have an "easier" life.

AnnMarie said...

I feel the same way about Real Simple. I purchased a few of the first issues and enjoyed them...except that it wasn't my definitely of simplicity at all! I have picked it up now and then throughout the years. It seems to have gotten even more into consumerism as the years go by.

teripittman said...

This is a new phenomena in this country too and it's happened within my lifetime. People in this country used to live pretty modestly. They had small homes and they paid cash for the things they bought. They made more things at home (mostly because there was someone at home to do those things.) The big rise in consumerism came with tv. People now have totally unrealistic expectations. I remember watching a Dr. Phil show where he talked to a couple about to marry. She wanted to spend $40k on the wedding! These were not rich people. She felt that she should be able to afford the same kind of roses that British royalty had used at a wedding. It's gotten completely crazy.

The other contributing factor is easy credit. People in this country once used credit very sparingly. My husband's folks paid for their cars with cash. (They were big users of the envelope system.) Most folks would not dream of paying cash for a car these days.

When I look at magazines now, I ask myself if it's something that I want to enter my home. If it promotes a lifestyle or products that I don't approve of, I don't buy the magazine. It's why I don't have a tv any more and why I probably will never have a phone in my house again. I've learned that you need to take a look at the technology you allow in your home. What unintended consequences will result when you invite it in?

Jenny said...

Traveling overseas really opened my eyes to the concept of simple living. Other people in other cultures do not have the same ingrained-from-birth drive to consume that we have here. Even the simplicity movement is the target of consumerism--as you mentioned in reference to Real Simple. It takes consciousness and action for the necessary cultural shift to occur.

Emme said...

Sally, Of course! I can share some of the things I have covered in class.

Burdock boy, I agree - we really need to emphasize what success truly is. My husband and I spoke about this when he quit surgery - I would rather that he works in a field htat he loves than work in a field that he hates - regardless of the amount of money he would make (or not). I hope my children will "get" this.

Teri - we really do need to think about what media we allow in to our homes. I think it is very frightening now that ads are within our schools. That is one of the reasons I have TV at home - so I can talk about what they see (they will see it at school or at friend's homes). I hate that I have to do that!

Jenny - One of my courses is attmepting to raise the consciousness of our local population. They are thinking about how to counter what our population currently sees and make people want to change. I can't wait to share some of their designs!

M said...

I agree with your views on the Real Simple magazine and my subscription runs out soon. I picked up on the subtle advertising on a recent episode on PBS. It's too bad as I enjoyed their articles on families and friendship.

Carolyn said...

Teripittman: We bought our car with cash! We live on one teacher's income; we are just careful with our money!

Emme: I would not buy a book or magazine on simplicity; they are available in the library. I also did not buy the Tightwad Gazette(s)
(newsletters nor books) for the same reason. It's not too hard to see the irony here!

I am so glad that you are able to suggest anti-consumerist films and books to your students! Big hugs to you for that!