Ryeview – January 2008

This obsession with buying things has got to stop

John Clark writes…

First published: January 2008 – Gazette & Herald

There are 331 shopping days to Christmas. I used to think this was a rough guide as to how much time was left in which to buy the Christmas presents. All part of the build up to the winter solstice celebration. This is no longer the case. It would now appear that the whole of our western civilization, way of life and economy all depend on how much we buy. Not what we use, waste, can afford, cannot afford and certainly not what we need. It is the ‘buying’ that is most important. It is the buying that drives the British economy. Gift vouchers are bought so that the receiver doesn’t get an ‘unwanted’ present. Even this doesn’t work. A quarter of all gift vouchers are not redeemed. The spending public makes a massive donation of hundreds of thousands of pounds to the large retailers every year – a massive Christmas present.

Every day concern is expressed in the National News that retail sales may not have grown or even worse may be down. Equally bad for the economy, we are told, is that house prices are not rising. This so called ‘economic logic’ is that if house prices fall people will have less to spend. Again I’m lost. We don’t want any more dear houses. If house prices rise still further the young and low waged become even further below the bottom of the housing ladder in Ryedale. We need affordable houses to buy or rent as homes for people. We do not need dear houses to be a source of monopoly money. All this is a false economy. It is a Christmas balloon waiting to burst. Food and fuel prices are going up rapidly. This will increase inflation. Interest rates will have to go up to lower inflation. This in turn will drive house prices down.

The future of the planet depends on the human race living within the environmental limits. Humans must use as little as possible of our valuable resources. We must use renewable sources of food and energy. This is opposite to the philosophy of the present approach of ‘buying things is good’.

The obsession with buying has got to the point of January Sales starting well before Christmas. There was this year, even more ‘good news’ for the retail sector. People were shopping on the internet. They were doing it on Christmas day.

Ancient mid-winter festivals have existed since the dawn of time. These festivals are a recognition that we are halfway through the darkest time of the year. We will soon be past the coldest. It is a time for optimism and hope. Most country people recognise these as basic truths. They also realise that our future cannot be built on imported, unwanted plastic goods from China bought with borrowed money. The problem is not that it is stupid, the question is: How do we stop it? All the best for 2008.

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