“..you are not your f!@* khakis”

“You are not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your f’n khakis” (Palanhiuk. Fight Club)

Why do we accumulate ‘stuff’?

One side of the argument is that we have intrinsic identities that we build upon using various cultural and social factors, the other – that we already know what kind of identity we want to take on (we have an image in mind, an image usually supplied by popular culture and mass media) and we are constantly pursuing it. We can acquire it through consumption, personal development, education, culture, career, community, and assorted lifestyle choices – which all carry a label so that we can be more easily ‘defined’ by the rest of the society.

But does this continuous consumption, then, become a method of substitute for the genuine development of self or, on the contrary, is consumption used to reinforce cultural traits, thus making it more difficult for instinctual/ intrinsic desires, if any indeed do exist, to find acceptable outlets? 

In this day and age, our spending habits dictate our lifestyle choices, which are in no way simply based on survival and necessity any longer.

Shoppers argue that objects they buy provide them with some form of pleasure – they derive emotional value from it, and so they surround themselves with these objects, taking great pride in their possessions and arguing that their happiness and joy are generated from these belongings.

There are differences in how and what we consume, and those differences are manifested in polarity between the tastes of luxury or freedom, and the tastes of necessity, that is to say, our greed. The meaning and the primary function of consumption – to satisfy a need or an urge –  is lost when we purchase products. What is gained is simply the ability to compete with peers based on our choice of products, contributing to our rank, status, and reputation in the society. And it’s an endless competition.

Often we associate products with a certain style – style signifying a manner of behaviour or a particular movement. Style has become the official representation of the marketplace, as much as the marketplace is symbolised by the variety of styles or choices.

To stand out from the rest of the society, to attract attention and regard, to be recognised and accepted – are some of the major incentives for shaping a certain image associated with whatever identity one pursues. Exactly pursues, not develops (a consumer pursues, a non-consumer develops/ draws from within).

Furthermore, style has become a significant element of power, inextricably woven into the fabric of social, political, and economic life, blurring the lines between them, just as it is blurring the lines between consumerist identity and personal identity.

So, then, how is this identity formed?

Do we acquire it through tastes, choices, preferences, and experiences?

Part of a series on consumerism and identity and conscious consumption, inspired by UNEP’s World Environment Day campaign. 

In developed and developing countries, people are acquiring much more than what they actually need and therefore producing an enormous amount of waste. 

Orient your action for World Environment Day this year to an activity that promotes sustainable consumption and be the one to reshape our future!


5 thoughts on ““..you are not your f!@* khakis”

  1. That’s true, electronic waste and cyber space are also cluttered. There are servers somewhere that all this is stored in. The world, in general, needs the volume turned down a bit.

  2. What can be argued here is the way the “stuff” is pursued. Are we against collecting and piling up physical stuff? In order to reduce waste, to save the earth, to educate masses…..Or are we against (over) consuming in general? What is the name for electronic consumerism? Some folks do buy books to hold in their hands when reading, because they also like the smell of the paper, the texture of the pages. On the other side, kobo & kindle book-lovers continue to buy, and buy, and buy books they love to read without turning paper pages, but are piling some cyber space with electronic waste….

  3. Pingback: “..you are not your f!@* khakis” : Living Green Magazine

  4. I’m down!
    thanks (:

    and you’re right, it starts early on. Can’t believe the kit kids have these days. I got my first cell-phone when I was 20. And got rid of it 8 years later.

  5. good question: the acquisition of identify one. You addressed the challenge of standing out in an increasingly crowded society, the flag waving of “Me, Me,….Me”. Unfortunately we are conditioned from early age via the infamous show and tell of kindergarten to bring our things, our stuffs, our toys, our……shit, to the classroom to compete with the other Johnnies and Marys via our consumptions. This goes on and on all the way to the “that’ll show ’em”, $20,000 coffin of expensive brass and threatened hardwoods.

    So the answer to your query is……..education.

    p.s. I love the way you are addressing consumerism in these last few posts. Excess, non-essential pollution needs to be disdained for the criminality that it represents……I want YOU on my team.



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