I went to Wal-Mart today and spent exactly $16.00 (before tax) on one new outfit that is suitable for the work I am now doing and the dress code policy at my workplace. I didn’t want to buy clothes at Wal-Mart (I didn’t want to buy any clothes at all), but my lifemate and I live on a very tight budget. I attempted a swing through the local thrift store, but sizing and style options were slim. Why am I telling you this? I am telling you this because I gave myself a $50 budget to acquire the necessary items of clothing for my new job. And honestly, perhaps this price discrepancy reveals a larger truth beyond that which already surrounds the exploitative necessity required to produce products at such a price. Perhaps the thing that this revelation points to is about how sustainable goods or services priced for those who are poor or even those who would just rather not spend all their money and live paycheck to paycheck do not exist.
And so, the reality of the situation has dawned on me even further, and what I’ve realized now is that “the matrix” isn’t a computer or some simulation into which we plug ourselves, The Matrix is Credit. We middle class patrons (and I am only middle class due to the help of my family’s middle class standing, not because I have created middle-class living of my own volition and hard work, which is a wholly other issue about which I will write a wholly other essay) all sell our souls for some material thing that I would happily bet is completely unnecessary. We put things on credit that we do not even need.
Don’t start hating, I am one of credit’s largest supporters. I understand the absolute value of loaning someone money that they can diligently pay back. I am 100% for the existence of this system. What I do not enjoy is the abuse of a monetary system that could be doing so much good. And I’m not blaming the credit card companies or big banks! I’m blaming YOU! I’m blaming myself. I’m blaming an entire generation of humans (Boomers) who did nothing but spend themselves into indentured servitude. Do you really want to sign your life away as an indentured servant for a pair of shoes?
Also, why would we not want to do the right thing and source, produce and distribute goods and services as sustainably as possible? Why is the version that “does good” the most expensive? Why can’t the doing of good be the status quo, the most affordable option?
Obviously, I am not filled with any answers. I’m a mere observer, a reporter of the things I see and feel and generally notice. I am, however, filled with dread, angst, annoyance, frustration, irksomeness when I look at the state of the material world. It’s gross. We’re trashing our beautiful home (our ONLY home) in the name of shit, trash, literal trash when you think about how much shit we Americans waste. It’s pathetic. Like I said, It’s gross.
The first item of clothing I bought this year was toward the end of June 2019 when I bought a replacement pair of running shorts to replace the only pair of shorts I have had since 2010. At that same time, we each bought a pair of new running shoes when they went on major sale for $50 bucks a pop, after having worn our old pairs of running shoes since May of 2017. And so, today, I bought non-athletic clothing for the first time since late 2017, and the only reason why I bought new clothes at that time was for my birthday. And the only reason why I even bought new clothes is because my new job has a dress code I cannot quite fulfill with the clothes I already own. Boo.
In the end, I’m not complaining, and I’m not even disappointed. I’m actually thrilled to have found two clothing items that will work for work for the extremely cheap price I bought them for. Unfortunately, I just also happen to understand the human exploitation and carbon footprint of these two items, but then I realized that unless I find exactly what I need TODAY at a thrift store, I cannot rely on being able to purchase upcycled or recycled clothing, and if I were to turn to any other type of store, say a Target or Macy’s (haha), that does not relieve me of my sweatshop and climate change burdens. I’m basically paying more for the same atrocities. So, what is a consumer (who does not want to spend all her money or even some of it) to do?
Well, I’m doing the best I can, honestly, and the worst part is that my individual efforts mean little to nothing. Our global problems are just that … GLOBAL. Humanitarian and climate problems require huge, global solutions. My efforts are realized through my purchases, which basically means I don’t spend money on things, unless an absolute necessity. Our daily food budget (for two, average-sized, healthy adults) is $10/day (after tax), and we’ve even made efforts to get it below $10. We reuse plastic storage bags. We reuse anything that can be reused. We cook and bake and make as many things as possible from scratch. The raw materials for food are significantly cheaper than the ready-made version (not every time, but the majority of the time). And we just don’t buy stuff. We utilize the library and participate in free events and happenings, do not own a car, know how to sew and make things, know how to cook and bake things, run our technology until they are no longer usable (due to the version no longer being updateable), and we enjoy spending our time at home. I suppose this list could go on, if I really wanted to prove my point, but I have no point to prove. I am merely digesting the fact that I spent $16 on a pair of pants and a sweater, a new pair of pants and a new sweater.
The economic times in which we are all currently living spell only disaster to me, in my mind. Our survival hinges upon the credit overlords who wish only for you to fail and be dependent upon them as they suck and drain the lifeblood from you. And then they blame you for being stupid, as you’re locked away in a cage with no representation or mercy. It’s all a racket, a virus, infecting those who have-not (due to the circumstances of their birth) by those who do-have. Life is rigged; it’s rigged against you (especially if you’re reading this, as I am a nobody). The Matrix, the thing enslaving you, is credit; it’s you, your spending habits.