Originally published on my fair trade blog, Style Wise:
radical : of, relating to, or proceeding from a root
I started this blog with a specific reader in mind. I wanted to encourage young women – my peers – who were already reading personal style blogs to take an interest in a more thoughtful approach to consumption. Although it wasn’t fully parsed out, I knew that simply buying better wasn’t an end to the moral journey. But it’s a lot more fun to talk about etsy and charity-minded start ups than to talk about frugality or to address the dark, addictive underbelly of shopping.
But the more I think about morality as it pertains to consumption, the more I realize that I need to buy less altogether.
It’s important, of course, to realize on a superficial level that we bring more to the table than our curated closets and styling capabilities. But it’s immensely difficult to let that sink in, and to actually change our habits.
I assume that my readers come from a place similar to my own. I grew up (upper) middle class and, while my parents emphasized budgeting and saving, I experienced no real financial strain. Influenced by my grandmother’s sales rack obsession, I seemed to intuitively justify buying anything and everything as long as it was on sale. I liked the rush and the hunt of a good deal.
Later in college, just introduced to personal style blogs that emphasized the importance of investment and statement pieces, I replaced my sales-only paradigm with a boring, preppy basics only framework. And then, when I realized everything I owned was boring, I went crazy with prints. And the cycle continues. But the consistent result of each new set of guidelines is that it encourages me to search and spend like the addict that I am until I’m nauseated by my own materialism.
The point is that the real problem is bigger than poor labor regulations. It’s more than carelessness. It’s the addiction to new and better and cheaper. It’s the haul videos and constant self advertising and attempts to be brand ambassadors. It’s the thoughtlessness and vanity of it.
We need to spend less. I have to tell myself that, too: I need to spend less. And I need to focus less on what I can get my grubby, greedy hands on. And it’s at once ridiculous and terrible that it’s so hard for me to do.
Of course, buying ethically is a great idea. And buying things in general is fun and sometimes even necessary. But the mission of this blog is only a little better than its non-fair trade counterparts if it fails to acknowledge that maybe there’s something wrong with the whole system, that maybe buying ethically opens up a can of worms that causes us to reassess our spending habits at their root.
I’m beginning to see this process as a gradual (at times painful) journey to better, more thoughtful living in all areas of my life. The growing pains are in full swing, but I believe I’ll come out better on the other side. The important thing is not to give up – I’ve wanted so badly lately to give it all up. But I see that the fair trade mission is bigger than my aches and moans and will power, and if I can’t will myself to sprint ahead, I can at least resign myself to it – and keep pressing on.
For additional reading on this topic, see my homily here.