Fighting Excessive Consumerism

Exaggerating to prove a point always strikes a chord with me, and especially so when it comes down to excessive consumerism. I have written a few posts about consumerism here. There is no better example of this than a well directed documentary, and I watched a pearler the other day. It was “What Would Jesus Buy?” featuring Reverend Billy, and the Church of Stop Shopping, directed by Morgan Spurlock of “Supersize Me” fame. The movie documents the plight of American Consumerism, their rampant and uncontrollable desire to buy stuff, and how they got themselves into this reality. You will see the attitudes of teenagers, children and adults all brainwashed to buy the latest fashion or electronic goods just to keep up with the Jones’. There is even a lady with a fully equipped wardrobe for her dog. All craziness! Let me just state for the record that I am not anti-American, it is just that the documentary focused on this nation. What can I say, many Australians are just the same!

The congregation travel the USA in two beat up buses that are run on bio-diesel, and go from venue to venue, performing a basic sermon about the evils of consumerism for consumerisms sake. Billy describes the reality that people are facing as the Shopocolypse! Not only is Billy a really good showman, but the choir sounds fantastic.

The exaggeration to prove a point, is that Billy is not a real reverend and the church is an activist group. From what I saw, they did not blaspheme, nor put down any religion, however they used a medium that most Americans are used to, to get their message across to the masses. You learn that Billy has a court order against him by Starbucks, and is not allowed within cooee of a store, and that when singing their gospel outside some of the big box stores like Wal*Mart and Kmart, they were ordered to move on by police and security. The last thing big retailers want are the Church of Stop Shopping outside their stores discouraging the punters to stop shopping, heaven forbid! The troupe even sang out the front of the Wal*Mart headquarters and Billy tried to purge the demons from the large sign. Hilarious stuff to watch. When Billy performed an exorcism on a cash register in Victoria’s Secret, I knew that I couldn’t stop watching or laughing about the simplicity of his message. I did find one thing disturbing though, and that was the behaviour of my youngest daughter Megan during the family showing of the movie. She was justifying her spending habits during the documentary, however, I do believe the message sunk in near the end. It was just strange behaviour, and I suppose it was the first stage of denial that will eventually lead to realisation, and then action on her behalf.

Many people in western nations live beyond their means. It is a documented fact that many of us swipe up huge credit card debit at Christmas time, all in the name of buying gifts for people, that we think will make them happy. You know what, it doesn’t make you happy. Have a look at it this way. How many times have family members bought you something, and visa versa, and in a week or months time, the item gathers dust in the corner or under a bed somewhere? Too many as far as I am concerned. Our recent decluttering exercise at home is testement to that.

The simple message of this documentary is you don’t have to buy an expensive gift for someone to show them that you love them. You can’t buy love! Something as simple as a hug or a kiss or being there for your family when they need you is what love is about. Not that brand new Tickle Me Elmo that walks and talks or the Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 that glue your kids to the TV screen as a suedo babysitter. A hug or a good deed lasts forever in my mind, but stuff does not. Due to designed obselesance, it needs to be replaced with the next great product. Stuff just promotes the aquisition of more stuff and as I have stated before, it is advertising that tries to make us buy stuff we don’t really need, with money we don’t really have, to make us feel better about ourselves or make other feel happy, and to show off to people we don’t even like. That is about as good a definition of excessive consumerism that you are likely to get (from me, anyway).

Anyway, enough ranting for one day. Here is a clip of the good Reverend Billy on prime time, and a trailer from the documentary. If you can get your hands on a copy of the DVD, I highly recommend it.


  1. says

    Hi Anon, we restrict to 3 presents each for Xmas and it must be eco-friendly or something that the kids will use throughout the year. Last year we bought organic toiletries for them all.


  2. Anonymous says

    Thanks for your post, Gavin. Dh and I are considering options for this Christmas. We cut down drastically last year (from 5 to 3 presents!), and most gifts were fairtrade, but are looking to reduce even further. What do you in your family?

    I’ve emailed my library to find a copy of the “What Would Jesus Buy” through inter-library loan. $2.50 well spent in my opinion!

  3. says

    Hi Alexandre. Thanks for dropping by the blog. I’d like to correct you if I may. Not once did I encourage anyone to “buy” a copy of the DVD. I merely suggest that if you could get your hands on a copy.

    I source all of my documentaries from the local library, who do buy the DVDs for all to share. Once purchase shared amongst 10’s of thousands is fine in my books


  4. Alexandre says

    SO we are being encouraged to ‘buy a DVD about anti-consumerism’.

    Irony? What Irony?

    Does look good though…

  5. says

    I’m also fed up with the consumerism surrounding Christmas and birthdays. It was my surrogate daughter’s birthday yesterday but I didn’t buy her anything. What I did do, however, was visit her even though I was feeling weak and would otherwise have chosen to creep under the duvet. As far as I’m concerned, that cost me more than some trinket that she’d probably never use.

    I’m absolutely sick to death of this ‘buying for buying’s sake’ culture that we live in.

  6. says

    Thanks Julie, it is a good and thoughtful documentary.

    Amanda, your website is great. You have a great cause going on there. I agree 100% that if everyone would shop ethically, then at least 75% of our problems would disappear. All of my major purchases have been ethical ones (I hope) i.e stuff that reduces carbon footprints, and I use fairtrade branded goods whereever I can. Also, I loved the Soul TV clip of the Be the change. I just hope they recycled all that cardboard :-)


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