Personal responsibility and causes for consumerism

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From a very early age in modern society we are taught that we are not responsible for things that happen to us. In kindergarten and day care facilities, and even in parks playgrounds have to have a bouncy soft floor to minimise injury. The equipment has to have certain size restrictions and everything is made to ensure the kids can play without hurting themselves. Tree climbing is now forbidden. Children are not allowed to eat mud pies, crawl in dirt, play with sticks, insects etc. or get into contact with any germs. Besides the fact that we now discourage kids from interactions with our natural environment (nature), we are wrapping our kids up in (synthetic) cotton wool, which is becoming detrimental in our society. 

We also teach our kids that if something happens to them, it is somebody else’s fault. If they almost drown because they play in a stormwater drain when it is raining, it is the council’s fault, not theirs (in that particular case the parents actually sued the council for 5 million dollars, whereas it was their neglect of the responsibility to teach their kid some common sense and the kids’ own lack of responsibility for his actions that caused the near drowning…)

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We have become a society of finger pointers. It wasn’t my fault, it was his/hers/theirs. Some New Age therapies blame all the person’s problems on the parents. It was the parents fault that this person is depressed, on drugs and made a mess of himself… Is it? I believe it is personal choice.

In this blaming society, we are desperate for choices to be made for us, which they amply are. We are unable to make choices for ourselves most of the time, because there are so many of them and we have never been taught how to make responsible choices. But there are so many advertisements around us in our modern world, that any decisions are made for us, whether blatantly obvious or subliminal. People feel terrible, they feel powerless because they do not know it is in their power to change their lives and make responsible decisions. So they look at consuming as a source of happiness.

Have you noticed that whenever you buy a new item, whatever it may be, you experience a bit of a rush, a flash of excitement, which elevates your mood (hence “retail therapy”)? Drugs (including alcohol) usually depress your mood (so you become somewhat numb to any issues that you may have), whereas retail therapy lifts you up. The only problem is, just as with drugs and alcohol, the rush is only temporary. It wears off. The exciting new dress is not so exciting after you have worn it once or twice. The new house is not as exciting as when you first moved in. The excitement of a new car wears off quickly. So then you need to buy something else to lift you up again and so on.

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If people become responsible again for their own lives, for their own food source, their own shelter, their own water supply and their own happiness, it will change all that. We all know that consumerism is a dead end street and we are over halfway. But the only way we can change consumerism is by teaching people how to be personally responsible for their lives. It is illuminating when you have to fully provide for yourself and your family. And I do not mean earning money, I mean planning and designing where and how you will get your food, water and shelter. People all over the world have done that sort of thing for centuries (before the Industrial Revolution and cheap energy (oil)), and some are still doing it now. Those people are not depressed, they find joy in the simplest things. They do not need to go to a mall or supermarket, they go for a walk and feel blessed with what nature provides for them. 

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Permaculture re-empowers people through taking personal responsibility for their lives. It teaches how we can become self reliant, responsible, respectful, social and happy by encouraging thoughtful design. And people who are responsible for their own food sources, water sources and shelter, are re-empowered, busy and happy people. They are people that have chosen personal responsibility and happiness. They are people that point the finger at themselves. They are people that will always be able to make a good situation out of a bad one. And they are people that do not need to go to a shop.

©2012 Permaculture Research Institute Sunshine Coast – Causes for consumerism

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