Saturday, December 30, 2006

the root of all evil

So I just got back from Big Box Chain Store (not Wal-Mart, thankfully, but not far off) where I went on an underwear shopping spree, cause Andygrrl's Unmentionables were getting in a pretty pitiful state. And I threw in the newest Indigo Girls CD (I got the newest Nicholas Sparks' novel for Christmas from a well-meaning cousin, I had to do something to counteract that).

Now even though several items were on sale, and there was nowhere I could get that album for cheaper, the total still came to 89 dollars and change.

And now I'm at home wondering when I became such a good little consumer. Because I never considered myself a shopper, malls give me the hives, my idea of clothes shopping is a 10-minute run through a thrift store, and all I asked for Christmas were a pair of tennis shoes since my old ones were dead. But I still seem to bleed money. Which comes of being a nice middle-class girl who never had to deal with finances until, well, now. I wouldn't be broke if I was frugal and planned ahead.

The problem is I can always justify the things I spend money on: books, music, magazines. There's always The Latest Novel from My Favoritest Author that I've Been Anticipating Forever! And as for the Indigo Girls, well goddammit, I may have moved 1000 miles, but I'm still the only lesbian in town, or that's how it feels. My dyke culture is limited to reading material and music. So I always jump at any scrap of it I can find. See? Totally justified. But my bank account doesn't agree. And I'm really tired of scrambling, living hand-to-mouth, juggling checks and relying on a health care plan that mainly consists of not getting hit by a truck.

But that's the thing about consumerism, it's a placebo, it uses consumption to fill a non-material need. I need to feel sexually desirable, so I buy cute underwear (lots of black nylon, for the curious. And a little bit of lace). I need lesbian community, so I buy CDs and every book and magazine I can get my hands on. Magazines, especially, have always been my connection to a larger lesbian culture that I'm largely isolated from. What I should do instead is try to create community, instead of purchasing a semblance of it. I know I'm not the only queer girl in town.

It’s a remote control America that’s on sale
because standing up for justice can’t compare
to clicking through it from a lazy chair--
Answer: jerry, montel, oprah
Question: folks who really care! for a million dollars!
in this new mcveggie burger world order
where the mainstream scene has an alternative theme.
where national health care is one hundred percent off!
and medicare is in the fifty percent bin,
so you can buy--half an operation
when AMERICA’S ON SALE!
Alix Olsen

The problem is that finding non-consumerist solutions to my needs and desires requires the one thing I don't have: time. Time is money in a capitalist society and my time is spent working, studying, sleeping, or eating. How can I organize a dyke social night when we're all scrambling to make ends meet? How can I be more self-sufficient if I don't even have time to learn how?

It's ridiculous how quickly I use all this as an excuse to put myself down. Of course I don't know how to handle finances, I was never taught. So learn. Teach yourself. I've been indoctrinated in consumerism, it stands to reason that I'm going to default to that behavior without realizing it. I studied Queer Theory, not the history of the labor movement. And I've absorbed those American cultural values--if you're poor, you've only got yourself to blame! You deserve to be poor! People on foodstamps are trash! Pull yourself up by your bootstraps! Work harder! So I need to learn to dismantle that thinking.

And I'm tired of just reading about progressive activism. I got burned out in college, so Europe was my time off, but now I want to get back into fighting the good fight. That town I'm living in needs it, a fabulously wealthy tourist town that's just capitalist version of feudalism, those of us who live there working like hell for the profit of an elite few. I know a girl who works at the vegetarian cafe, she's got a lot of experience in the labor movement and she wants to start a Stitch'n'Bitch. And my ideal Stitch'n'Bitch would be overtly political, as well as fun, and a good way to network. If I can get all those damn hippies to put down their freakin' bongs, that is.

So that's one of my many resolutions: learning to control my finances and deprogram my capitalist brainwashing. Start asking: how can I meet this need myself, without relying on consumerism? How can I DIY it? What's the lesser evil that I can choose? I know I can't extricate myself completely from this capitalist economy (short of moving to a commune), but what should I do to keep myself in relative security without betraying my ideals? What's the best compromise in this situation? Think, in short, about my money and how I use it. I'll figure it out as I go along, I guess, like I always do.

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