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The Story of Stuff

How ironic is it that last week I blogged about struggling through my consumer oriented holiday shopping and then this week I saw this: http://storyofstuff.org?

This is a twenty minute documentary about where all the stuff we buy comes from, who makes it and how it’s made.

So I settle in to watch the movie with my skeptical pants on because I’ve seen a lot of ultra preachy films on being eco friendly and pretentious ones about not eating your weight in meat per day. And that can get to be a bit much, even when I agree with what they’re saying.

But I was instantly sucked in by this film. It’s not preachy and it’s not pretentious. And after watching it I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Follow me on my train of thought, if you will…

I like to buy stuff. I like to have the latest and greatest in electronics and fashion. I want to keep up with Joneses, even though there is a big part of me that fully rejects the idea of being concerned with such things as fashion, having the latest and greatest and buying into the notion of name brands. And why should I even care what the Joneses are doing? What makes me think their taste is so great? They probably listen to R. Kelly and put out human-sized waving Santa Clauses on their lawn every December 1.

From there I start to wonder about this discrepancy between what I want and what I think is right. I start thinking about the way I’ve been indoctrinated since earliest childhood to focus on not just consumption, but very specifically guided consumption.

I love watching television. And I know that I am being sold something at every moment, not just during the commercials, but in the shows themselves. That’s called product integration and as a writer I’ve even done product integration passes on screenplays I’ve written in order to help producers get money to make the films from the makers of the products I’ve mentioned. So I’m aware of the process and what’s going on and I think I’m above it all and yet… and yet… I’ve fallen victim to it to such an extent that I hadn’t even realized how deeply indoctrinated I am.

So I’ve decided I want to change my mindset from that of an avid consumer to that of a person who is able to happily do without all this stuff. Except for my iPhone, of course. And my computer. And… well, it’s going to take a long time, even though I have long known that the corporations that produce the stuff I buy are engaged in practices that I don’t condone, from polluting my environment to using the money they earn from me to support causes and ideals that I do not agree with. The best I can do is take it one product at a time and ask myself if I really need it and if I really want the people who make it to have my money.

And that will have to go for holiday presents too, but next year. Yep, I’m definitely starting next year.

In the meantime, I’ll go back and watch this documentary every time I need to be reminded of the ideals I’d like to call my own because knowing that things are wrong is half the battle, right, G.I. Joe? Although, I wouldn’t be able to watch the documentary again without my computer, so… hmmmm. Maybe we need some of the evils to help make things right. Or maybe I’m just looking for an excuse to keep the things I want to keep.


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