Monday, October 18, 2004


I've been thinking about posting about Adbusters for a while, but couldn't really figure out how I wanted to connect it to this concept of lifestylism. In some ways, they symbolize the sort of lifestyle activism that may be required to help us wake up to the mismatch between our values and our lifestyles. They're at their best as corporate watchdogs, asking good questions about the true costs of doing business, waking people up to their consumerist tendencies, and taking on big media.

I think these are all important initiatives. If enough people internalized these ideas and made lifestyle choices that were guided by these principles, the world would be a better place. The idealism shines through in a quote like this:
"Our planet is drawing into a dark winter, as the runaway effects of our consumer lifestyle threaten to knock the earth out of whack for one thousand years. Species are dying, climate change accelerating, and we carry on regardless like addicts in denial.

But there is always hope. We need a new way of doing business that doesn't thrive on the death of nature, a new way of thinking that will redefine progress. We introduce the economists trying to shift the paradigm, and we explain the true cost revolution that will help reprogram the doomsday machine – and save the earth for future generations."
Heavy-duty rhetoric. They've been criticized for using the same tools as the marketers and corporate interests they're battling -- slick production, stylized design, powerful images -- to get their messages across. I don't really have a problem with that. They've also taken some heat for their Black Spot Sneaker venture, designed to subvert Nike and other shoe giants by selling a decent shoe produced in better conditions. So they've created a strong brand billed as an anti-brand.

Pat Kane pointed me to Rebel Sell, which digs into some of these issues:
"Culture jammers are not the first to try to break the system through consumer revolt. Countercultural rebels have been playing the same game for over forty years, and it obviously doesn't work."
Some very interesting ideas in the exerpt -- would probably be worth checking out the book. But where does this leave the person who wants their values reflected in what they purchase (or don't purchase) and how they spend their time? I look at the growth of organic foods, environmentally friendly cleaners, ethical mutual funds, farmers' markets, and other alternatives that are actually better for the world and I see hope. Even small choices can make a difference if enough people are making them, and the awareness this creates may lead people to take more action to align their lifestyles with their values.

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