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Inner Perspective

Consumer or Citizen

By May 20, 201610,158 Comments

Annie Leonard’s piece, How to Be More than a Mindful Consumer, poses an important thought: “ … we must stop thinking of ourselves primarily as consumers and start thinking and acting like citizens.”
Let’s define both consumer and citizen.
According to, consumer can be defined in two scenarios:

  1. a person or organization that uses a commodity or service.

Yes, this makes sense. We use a commodity, or a product, or a service. Therefore, we consume it, and this makes us a consumer.
Let’s look deeper to see what economics means.
Economics is the science that deals with the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services, or the material welfare of humankind.
The first part is logical: production, distribution and consumption were all part of my economics subject at university. And the ‘material’ part makes sense. As for the remaining part, I don’t recall learning about the supply and demand of material welfare of humankind. So let’s park it for later.
Back to scenario two for our definition of consumer.

  1. an organism, usually an animal, that feeds on plants or other animals.

Yes, agreed. An organism consuming a plant or another organism.
Where ecology is the branch of biology dealing with the relations and interactions between organisms and their environment, including other organisms.
And this can be further defined to human ecology: the branch of sociology concerned with the spacing and interdependence of people and institutions.
And again, right here in the human definition it becomes interesting, particularly the word interdependence, which is defined as:
the quality or condition of being interdependent, or mutually reliant on each other.
So now let’s consider our two interesting mattes:
Material welfare of humankind
The quality or condition of being mutually reliant on each other
Annie Leonard discusses Haitian women and a US CEO.
The Haitian women:

  • work 8 hours a day
  • work in 30 degree plus temperatures
  • cannot drink water while doing their job
  • earn at the top tier $15.00 per day

So, this can be defined as a sweatshop.
They are sexually harassed, miss putting their children to bed, and dare not share their story because they will lose their job.
Not cool.

  • probably works 17 hours a day
  • works in climate controlled offices and aeroplanes
  • probably drinks water and Champagne during some days
  • earns $2,424,000.00 per day*
  • * This is not a typo and no asterisk is required. But if there wasn’t one, this figure would be difficult to fathom for some. No, for most.

So how can Not cool + Unbelievable be within the realms of
Material welfare of humankind
The quality or condition of being mutually reliant on each other
The answer: They cannot
So how does citizen stack up?
1.a native or naturalized member of a state or nation who owes allegiance to its government and is entitled to its protection (distinguished from alien ).
And one of the definitions of alien: a person who has been estranged or excluded. inhabitant of a city or town, especially one entitled to its privileges or franchises.
Let’s consider our Haitian women. For allegiance to their country, they’re missing out on their entitlement to protection, and do not enjoy privilege or franchise. Rather, they are excluded.
How about the US CEO? He owes allegiance and enjoys protection, on a global level. He isn’t estranged or excluded, and he’s enjoying privileges and probably owns a few shares in franchises of several profitable, dividend paying global corporations.
How can the difference between citizens be so vast?
The difference comes about because of my consumption and your consumption.
When we consume, we don’t only vote with our feet. We vote with our dollars.
And dollars are powerful.
Dollars dictate how a person is treated. And, dollars influence how we perceive other people. It’s sad, but it’s true.
We’re all born into this world naked. And when we purchase clothes, for ourselves and for our children, we choose how we contribute our money. And we give citizens privileges, or we make them aliens.
Small change for some means a big difference for others. It’s time to be serious about the material welfare of humankind. And the time is now to make your dollars count, for everyone.
Bianca Ross is a writer, researcher and author of the children’s book series, Herbert Peabody,