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Confessions of a Shop-a-holic

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Yes, my friends, it's true. I am a recovering shop-a-holic. I can remember the first time I felt I just HAD to go shopping. I was six-years old and I asked my mom to bring me to the mall, so that I could buy the latest additions to my plastic Smurf collection. Recently, I have said things like "Gosh, isn't Target the BEST! I could live here," or "You just aren't a real person until you've had a Krispy-Kreme HOT donut".

Knowing that, I am sure you can imagine how crazy I have been feeling here in Minnesota. I'm only a skip away from the largest shoppers' paradise in the whole country, The Mall of America. Ever since I first heard of the Mall of America opening in 1992, I have wanted to see it, to make sure that it is real. I mean really, who's ever heard of a mall with an amusement park and an aquarium? However, I was also kind of nervous. Who is to say I wouldn't get too excited and blow all of my money on a cool new pair of sneakers?

Does Stephen need that virtual, wide-screen movie theatre or does he just really, really want it?
I decided, however, that as a recovering shop-a-holic turned trekker it would be a good exercise to go. I figured that being there, talking with different mall-goers, and having the opportunity to write about the experience would be a good way truly become a reformed shop-a-holic. I hope to shed some light on how we can all confront our shop-a-holic skeletons in the closet and combat the looming demon of consumerism.

I began my journey at a popular technology store in the Mall of America. In the store, I saw robotic dogs with emotions, glowing light pads promising to read my level of happiness, and a wide-screen movie theatre that fit on the bridge of my noise. I was mesmerized, but before I could reach for my wallet, I remembered to confront this experience.

It's true, some folks really do LIVE at the mall!
I started to take pictures and ask salesmen what these products were really for. Can this glowing orb really tell that I'm happy? "Of course not," said the salesmen, "these products are mostly for gifts". Upon asking further questions, the salesmen answered, "Of course you can live without these products, but why would you want to? Most of them make life easier and living more comfortable... and some of them are for people who have money to burn". Money to burn?! Wow, I didn't think there was such a thing.

Having this 'money to burn' may be the reason America has such a nasty reputation for over consumption. Many countries around the globe criticize us for consuming too much, or at least way more than our share. Our consumer class takes home 64% of the world's income, and is responsible for destroying 50% of the US's wetlands and hundreds to thousands of the country's native plants and animals.


The spice of life... She put sage in my pancakes...

After my little run in at the technology store, I decided to find out why other mall goers were there instead of somewhere else. One man told me that he and his family go to the Mall of America often because, "Everything is at your fingertips. You can shop all over, eat over there, play games right here [in the amusement park, that is]... I never come here just to shop, I come to take part in the most popular spectator sport in the country... people watching". Really? That was pretty insightful. I guess consumerism is not just about shopping; it's about being entertained. Is that because we're bored, or don't see enough inside our own minds to entertain ourselves?

So, how do we make a change? One thing you can do is to make a list of the latest things you have bought without need. My list includes Raisenettes, potato chips, a greasy hamburger, blue shoelaces, and a gumball at the Mall of America. Think about the things you do purchase, and whether you really need them. You can also examine things you no longer need, and give them away.

You can combat consumerism and raise your own awareness in other ways, too. How? It's simple really. Turn off your TV. Promise yourself that one day out of every week or every month you are not going to buy anything but are going to spend time developing your own interests that don't require money.

Is consumerism destroying our world?
Did you know that people all over the world are already doing that? There is already an International Buy Nothing Day and a very popular TV Turn-off Week that you can take part in!

Let's all show the world that we're not a greedy, over consuming nation. Let's become active participants in our lives and our world!


Please email me at: stephen@ustrek.org


Links to Other Dispatches

Making A Difference - Does your community need a facelift?
Neda - How many licks does it take to sell you a lollypop?
Stephen - "Beans. I want more beans! And gimme some cars, too."