Consume less, live more?
Interesting article in the Guardian about choice and marketing. And a great quote from Professor Tim Jackson, the author of Prosperity Without Growth: “We buy things we don’t need with money we haven’t got to make impressions that don’t last on people we don’t care about.” In his book, he describes how the never-ending spiral of over-consumption has led us into never-ending spiral of debt and cultural decay in Western society. And moreover, how “We do not have investment structures, investment markets, investment conditions that are suitable to lay down the infrastructure to allow people to make better choices.”
But marketeers take note: its not all do-goodiness in his message. It’s proven that consumers who are faced with too much choice, make no choice at all. In fact, the biggest luxury of our age is to be totally relieved from the stress of choice making. To check into a Japanese Ryokan, on the top of Mount Koya, to be served a set breakfast and told when to take a bath, and what to wear; what could be a better remedy to the stresses of modern day life?
The luxury of no-choice is apparent in curator brands, who have gone out of their way to choose your music for you, and partner with the right destination hotels or airlines. It’s even on the high-street with the New York style “we do one thing and we do it well” stores, whether its two flavours of frozen yoghurt or one definitive roast beef sandwich, the luxury of no-choice is nothing really new.
There is nothing wrong with choice, in itself. Isn’t that what democracy is built upon? The freedom to choose? Oh, sorry, I meant Capitalism. Slip of the proverbial tongue. What is implicitly more dangerous, is the way marketeers are stepping further into our cognitive and behavioral patterns to exploit the contexts of choice that govern our everyday lives. We are being consciously guided into making a multitude of wrong choices, whilst, ironically, invisible borders of control are increasing.
As Jackson writes: “There are social frailties in the way that we exercise choice but there are also frailties that come from the structures of power. It is quite often the case, I would argue, that the context of choice is determined by existing power structures and interests.”
We are suffering from a kind of censorship of choice. In so much clutter, it doesn’t matter if the painful uncomfortable truths are staring us in the face. They will only be swept away by the next object of choice to cross our paths. We get upset, we blog, we post on facebook, and move onto the next thing. We are paralysed by choice. We can do everything – and nothing. In short, choice is the opium of the people. More products, better design, more apps. The freedom to choose what to consume or not consume is only a semblance of freedom, that those who have real control over their own economic destinies simply do not need.