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Archive for November 17th, 2008

Last night I watched Life and Debt, which is a documentary about the effects of globalization on Jamaica, chiefly the effect of IMF’s lending practices on the people and economy.  One of the lines that stuck with me the most was when the spokesperson for the IMF said that people in the so-called third world deserve the same freedom to buy things that the rest of us enjoy.

Say What?

This hits home this year, especially as we’re coming full-speed into the holiday season.  Over the past, let’s say two years, I have gone from a self-confessed shopaholic to a person more able to assess whether I am buying something because I really want it or just because I want to buy something.  But the holidays have always been a sort of glut.  Much of that is wanting to show appreciation for family and friends, because it feels good to give.  But part is getting caught up in a frenzy, or worse, wanting to make sure not to seem cheap.  Meanwhile, my house is already filled with things we use with varying degrees of regularity.  FIlled, in fact, to the point that we regularly need to pass things along to others and I’m sorry to say, filled to the point that every so often we come across things we have forgotten we even own.

It doesn’t make me feel very free.

Lucy has been listening to the Little House on the Prairie audio books for the past several months.  She sits in bed every night and often puts them on first thing in the morning.  She is as in love with them as I was as a little girl when I would play ‘Long Winter’ by piling all of my stuffed animals and dolls onto my bed and pretending we were huddling together for warmth.  For her part, she pretends to take furs to town to trade for jackknives and candy because her ‘cousins are comin’ for Christmas and those can be their Christmas gifts.’  A jackknife and two pieces of candy.  Can you even translate that into today’s holiday extravaganzas?  Are we really happier now?

I don’t know yet what we’re going to do for the holidays.  I really do want to break this notion that it’s a lousy holiday if one doesn’t get enough gifts (for sure, I sat at a former friend’s house one year and listened to his sister stomp about for an hour because she hadn’t gotten as many presents as she had the year prior, and this was a college-aged person, not a child.)  I also don’t want to buy presents simply because we need to spend an equivalent amount as everyone else.  At the same time, I don’t want to seem cheap or worse, not thoughtful.  It’s gotten so complex over the years, and I really have come to dread the holidays in general.

I do know, as I told C when he got home, that we are paying strict attention from now on to what we are buying.  No more running up the street to the Gap because it is convenient, forgetting their sweatshop labor.  I’ve allowed myself to become complacent.  No more spending money just because there’s nothing else to do.  I’ve allowed myself to use shopping as a hobby more often than I’d like.  And this year, I really want to be able to enjoy the holidays instead of freaking out about the shopping or the money or both.  If I have the freedom to buy things, I have the freedom to not buy as well.  I’m going to try to exercise that one a little bit more.

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I’m taking the Buy Homemade Pledge again this year.  Hopefully we’ll be making some gifts as well as buying.

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