A reasoned and passionate argument for culling the clutter and plugging into the joys of experiential living.
Incredible as it may now seem, Americans once had to be taught to be conspicuous consumers. As Wallman skillfully points out, we used to be quite thrifty, the product of hard-calloused generations who understood the need to make scarce things last. The rise in consumerism required a revolution in advertising and the invention of an entire new industry whose sole purpose was to create want and desire in the citizenry, turning time-honored frugality into a seemingly endless desire to consume more. But the fantastic success of all those mid-20th-century “Mad Men” has come with hidden costs that are only now being fully understood. Mountains of junk have risen in the midst of the “throwaway” culture, and it’s not only altering people’s psyches and making them increasingly unhappy. It’s also making them—and their flammable hoarders’ dens—dangerous to the neighbors. “Even in full, heat-resistant firefighting gear,” writes the author, “a fire that has flashed over will kill you in less than two seconds.” The perilous nature of these developments has prompted many to try and escape the clutches of overconsumption before it’s too late. Some try the minimalist route, restricting their possessions to the bare essentials. Others attempt to take a page out of Walden. Still others try to “chill out” and cut back on their consumption. After careful consideration, however, Wallman finds none of these earnest efforts to be effective remedies for rampant materialism. Instead, he proposes a revolutionary new shift in which consumers begin to value real-life experiences—those that expose them to other people and generate stories—more than all that junk piling up in the garage. The author is no zealot, and he freely acknowledges that things can be cool, even advantageous. In the end, however, experiences must trump stuff.
A provocative, challenging discourse likely to spur some to action.