I’ve come to see that in all of our identity, we have two different parts of ourselves. We have a consumer self and a citizen self. And that consumer self is spoken to and validated and nurtured from day one, so that muscle is really well developed. We all know how to be consumers; we know how to get online right now and get any product from anywhere in the world delivered to our door. And one of the things about familiarity is it can lull us into staying there. So we stay in this consumer realm.

Meanwhile, the citizen part of our self, our citizen muscle, has atrophied. I really see this when I show The Story of Stuff at public events. Somebody will almost always raise their hand and say, “What can I buy differently to solve this problem?” And I tell them, You know what? You can’t. Because the solutions that we need are not for sale. Even at Whole Foods.

Annie Leonard, on Marc Steiner and in Urbanite.

5 Replies to “Knowhow”

  1. +JMJ+

    My “Civis Romanus sum” sympathies appreciate the second paragraph, but the whole model just kills me.

    What if I happen to be a libertarian who grows her own food on a farm and has declared that her ten acres have seceded from the union? Do I still have a consumer self and a citizen self?

  2. Not sure. What sort of union is your farmer seceding from? And what sort of large-caliber agricultural equipment is she storing in the barn?

    : )

    At all events, Leonard’s scope might be over-broad, but I don’t get the impression she’s trying to sneak by serious political theory under her criticism of how we maintain the marketplace. Shouldn’t try to go too deep with somebody like this.

    She’s pointing to one of the ways we’ve learned to hand off, without enough thought, responsibility for ourselves & our relationships in the world. I expect a libertarian can find something to chew on there as well as anybody can. Am I wrong?

  3. +JMJ+

    My farmer is old school, with Luddite tendencies. She has a carabao to pull a plow, which she made herself by felling a tree with an axe that she made herself from a sturdy stick and the vein of iron she found on her property.

    She just doesn’t want to pay taxes to whatever country the land presumably belongs to, so she has seceded.

    A distributivist might be able to find something there, but I really doubt a libertarian would.

  4. ai, Cristina!   : )

    ‘Old school’ doesn’t do her justice. Your farmer’s a classical hero. Anybody who would presume to tell her what rights she has in her property should be well advised of the trouble coming to him, anyhow.

  5. +JMJ+

    Have I mentioned she has a shotgun, too? 😉

    It’s a family heirloom, of course . . .

    Anyway, I don’t think anyone would carry political principles to such extremes. I was just reacting to the labels of “consumer” and “citizen,” neither of which I really care for.

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