Corporate consumer culture threatens to destroy our very humanity. By dehumanizing our species through a diabolical combination of environmental degradation, socially engineered advertising, and worker exploitation, the corporatocracy gains at our expense by way of undue government privilege through their “legally” sanctioned ability to privatize gains and socialize losses. Given also their legal status as “persons” under the atrocious 14th Amendment, corporations enjoy free reign to wreck havoc on the remnants of the free-market, regardless of the consequences upon the lives of actual flesh and blood humans.
Why this may come as a surprise to y’all (or perhaps not), it just so happens that I’m a free-market environmentalist. Regardless of the nonsense spewed by Lew Rockwell, I understand that as a mortal creature of Nature’s God, it is within my rational self-interest to care about the quality of the physical world I inhabit. Unlike the arbitrary commands and demands of government, the quality of Nature can actually increase everyone’s Liberty, if she is treated respectfully.
The author makes an interesting, if incomplete, argument against consumerism. He argues that synthetic packaging, using Federal Reserve Notes, working for wages, access to grocery stores, conspicuous consumption at shopping malls, and even mainline veganism are symptomatic of the evils of capitalism. Although he is confusing corporatism as if it were capitalism, his brief critique is at least partially correct, once the root cause has been contextually reframed.
Oakes refers to an infamous Food Not Bombs flyer that points towards the incredible amount of wasted food:
“In the United States, according to the USDA, twenty-seven percent of all the food produced each year is lost at the retail, consumer, and food service levels. That turns out to be about nearly 1.5 tons of food per year for every man, woman, and child in the United States who faces hunger. To put it another way, in the U.S. we throw away about 263,013,699 pounds of food a day…every single day! And much of what is wasted actually is just surplus food. It is perfectly edible.”
My God in heaven…over 263,000,000 pounds of food per day? What kind of sick joke is this? It doesn’t even to begin to account for the tons of packaging that the food comes in. And what is that food bought with, anyway? That’s right…Federal Reserve Notes, which are brought into circulation via fractional reserve lending. Couple this with the fact that those FRNs are usually earned from suffering through the corporate drudgery of a JOB (Just Over Broke) in order to pay taxes, which also further transfers the real wealth of the world into the pockets of the central bankers, and I think you can begin to appreciate why some individuals may want to start universally boycotting the whole Establishment, starting with the fraud that is modern agribusiness.
Freeganism is a collection of techniques centered around subsisting off of the excess generated by corporate consumerism. While some may assert that it is a lifestyle choice, freegans seldom engage in philosophical inquiry beyond “consumerism is bad,” because they’re mainly interested in focusing on the utilitarian viability of their methodology. For instance, is dumpster diving sufficient, or should it be combined with other practices such as working less, squatting, and guerrilla gardening? It is questions like these that reveal the true diversity of strategies used by freegans to subsist off corporate waste in much the same manner as maggot therapy is used on necrotic tissue.
Practicing freeganism requires a deeper understanding of how to turn one consumer’s trash into your own personal treasure. Meagans are that rare breed of freegan who only eat meat out of the dumpster. Plate scraping involves eating other diners’ plates before they are removed by a restaurant’s busboys. Foraging for wild edibles and bartering at swap meets is a point of commonality freegans share with survivalists. Energy and water conservation through using solar ovens, air-drying washed laundry, and recycling gray water are commonplace. Non-petroleum transportation alternatives are encouraged, and these are typically expressed through bicycling and converted internal combustion engines that run on used vegetable oil.
Besides recommending home-brewing alcohol, Oakes suggests three easy techniques that anyone can start implementing to become more thrifty (probably as a prelude to dumpster diving):
“Get a Cup! – get a big, durable cup with a lid and a fork or spoon and carry it with you at all times. This will dramatically reduce the amount of disposable silverware and bowls/plates/cups/bottles you consume. Instead of buying a bottle of beverage, fill up your cup with water. Eat out of it too. If you get one that seals, you can take home restaurant leftovers in it instead of in styrofoam!
“Get a Hanky! – carry a handkerchief with you and you won’t need tissues or paper towels and it is handy to have for spills, tears, etc.
“Stretch – stretch what you have! Before you throw something away, ask yourself (repeatedly) ‘will I ever use this for anything? Do I know anyone who will?’ Before you buy anything figure out if you can make it, borrow it, do without, fix the one you already have or get it for free somehow. How long will it last, how often will it get used, can you share it with others, can you recycle it or reuse it when it stops working? If it costs $5, ask yourself if it is worth an hour of your life. If not, do without it. Repair your clothes, buy second-hand, share! Fix old stuff instead of buying new stuff. Learning how to fix things yourself saves you money and brings independence and self-reliance. Free yourself from the consumer mindset – the solution to all of your problems can not be found at the shopping mall!”
Needless to say, I already regularly use a bandanna as part of my everyday carry. I also remember one of my political science professors back in my college days who carried a 32oz plastic mug with a lid similar to this one on eBay into every class period for an entire semester. And the adage of “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” nicely sums up how you can frugally enjoy your liberty.
Warren Oakes’ Why Freegan? An Attack on Consumption in Defense of Doughnuts is a refreshingly unique look into how it just might be possible to drastically reduce one’s monthly bills without undue hardship. As a side note, I appreciate Oakes’ disdain for voting. He says:
“I don’t vote because no matter who I vote for, the government always wins and when you ‘vote with your dollars,’ consumerism always wins, capitalism always wins.”
While I will respectfully disagree with him about the ineffectiveness of “voting with your dollars,” that simple recognition he makes about the truth that government always wins whenever you vote is nothing less that absolutely devastating to any notion of reformism.