Freedom Shopping

For those of you who are regular readers (and I thank you - I've now had over 2,500 hits since starting at the end of last year which has totally taken me by surprise) today is a big day. Today my self imposed shopping ban comes to an end... and a new set of restrictions begin. I can now shop beyond food, however I am only permitted to purchase fair trade and ethical products; second hand will be an important staple I expect. I have said I will do this until the end of 2011, but I can't see why it wouldn't and shouldn't be a change for life.
As we approach Pesach, the festival of freedom, it is increasingly obvious to me that our culture of consumption, built on an idea of our right to own, as well as being taught to give ourselves emotional boosts through shopping, is not only unethical, but is built on enslaving others and on a throw-away culture. Our cheap clothes, our cheap food, our cheap furniture, are all sourced at the expense of others freedoms, livelihoods and environments. Those who can't afford in our society (as well as those who can) are manipulated into believing that we all have a right to own, regardless of how it is produced, and that it is holding others in poverty. My shopping ban has made me very aware of what is essential, and of the amount of waste, particularly of food and cheap clothing. Judaism teaches us that to waste even a grain of rice is wrong, but more compelling to me are our important ethics on how workers should be looked after, paid on time, and not taken advantage of. SO much is available in charity shops and freecycle as well as fair trade that we should be buying so much less than we are.
I know that people in the UK struggle on benefits and with unemployment, but there has to be a better way of consuming than by owning that which enslaves others. So this Pesach, I am restricting myself in order to opt out of this system of oppression. I'm excited to see what goodies charity shops afford when necessary (shopping doesn't need to be a hobby!) and to get to know fair trade websites and shops. Cutting down on food miles and food waste is also important, and I'm going to be making a concerted effort at Pesach in particular but throughout the year to experiment more with making my own - the beetroot jam is currently on the stove and there'll be no cake-mixes this Pesach!
I am, in fact, already feeling myself somewhat liberated from my abstinence, and my new programme - liberated from the emotional responses I had been relying on from shopping and finding a bargain, but also liberated from the nagging feeling that someone else was suffering for my purchasing. And now perhaps you can feel liberated from me banging on about ethical shopping, though I may post exciting charity shop finds occasionally!


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