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Member since May 2011 · 2485 posts · Location: Brisbane
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Subject: Post-consumerism Society: What?
What does a post-consumerism culture look like? What would we do, what would our goals be?

It seems obvious to me that our society is based on an earn/consume treadmill.  We earn money to buy stuff, and once the basics are sorted (food, clothing, shelter) we turn our aspiring eyes t'ward more frivolous things: cars, TVs, phones.  The more we earn, the more we spend: our houses get bigger, our toys fancier, our cars faster.

It also seems obvious to me that we cannot maintain this treadmill indefinitely.  More and more people are coming online as earners and consumers, and good golly, it's expensive keeping them entertained.  In terms of money and resources we're a decidedly wasteful bunch of idiots, and it's really got to stop.

My question is: what does a post-consumerism society look like?  What would we do?  I struggle to imagine what it would mean to me if I suddenly didn't have newer, bigger toys to look forward to.  I wonder too about the slobbering masses, the great unwashed, the ferals I share my air with.  They can barely walk and chew gum, what are they going to do if suddenly freed from this treadmill?

I imagine sprawling townships filled with people forced to interact with each other, who create civic events and sit around cafe tables talking about things.  It seems a frivolous thing to do, living without achieving, without grabbing each trinket as a marker of success.  I wonder about these people: I think they'd be happy, but I wonder if they would accomplish any more than we are accomplishing now, sitting at home on our couches with our laptops, watching our TVs.

If you take away my landmarks, I wonder where I'd be.
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Member since May 2011 · 2485 posts · Location: Brisbane
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Subject: Bruce Sterling responds!
Now, he wasn't specifically responding to me, but Bruce Sterling recently gave a short talk and neatly described his answer to my question about the near future.

Quote by Bruce Sterling:
Everybody for 200 years, almost since the 1200s, has known what 'progress' means.  They know what it means to be progressive, and they know what it means to be futuristic.  You get more scientific knowledge, you create more tools, make more jobs, you master nature, you get more power, cheaper power, you struggle for a better life for your children, you're looking for health, prosperity, material security, shelter...  Bigger, faster, stronger, knowing more.  Everyone knows that's progress.

That's not what we're gonna get.

The actual objective situation looks more like this: No money, scarcity, financial collapse, collapsed states, general precarity, an energy crisis, low-intensity global warfare, and a rapidly advancing climate crisis.  That's...  That's the situation on the ground.

He's been saying similar things for decades.  I've read a few of his books and I liked his view of the future, it made sense to me.  What he's saying now is something that, for the first time, is something I can see coming with my own eyes.  His talk (linked above) is putting to better words the same things I can feel on the horizon.  Things have to change, and they are changing, whether we like it or not.

Our world moves in cycles, with peaks and valleys for many things: right wing vs left wing dominance, democracy vs central control, science vs religion.  All of these things swing from one extreme to the other, and it seems like a lot of them are lining up at the same time to thrust us into new, uncharted territories.

I'm excited.  Are you?
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