This was meant to be a two-part series. But I decided to write again on the theme when I read about a potential ‘billionaire’ candidate running for the President of the United States. For a moment, I was wondering how and why people love and die to flaunt their wealth, flashy billionaire lifestyles, expensive material possessions such as real estate, private jets etcetera. I sat down thinking

  • What could possibly be the drive behind using the billionaire-league tag as probably one of the means to influence the voters and win the elections?
  • Isn’t there any other worthy and relevant thing or attribute that can better reflect their capabilities of leading a nation?
  • Or is he possibly sending a message that an ordinary citizen, who is not wealthy, can never be a good fit to the role of the President?

I know I am wrong in the context of criticizing others personal lives, but 24-karat gold plated bathrooms and toilets seem too far-fetched for me as an individual with conscience.

I apologize for using unparliamentary words but I seriously wonder, after all, what difference it can make when one pees in a gold-plated toilet versus an ordinary ceramic toilet. I would be very grateful to know and experience the difference, if at all there is any.

This is certainly not an attempt to throw mud on just one person for showing off but the biggest worry, again for me as an individual with conscience, is this phenomenon is seen across the world and is becoming more and more visible. It is certainly not new to see people bragging about their wealth (read material possessions). It might be happening from the time when the second ever human on planet earth was made to believe the other had something to show off. The world has witnessed several people who lived unjustifiably profligate lives including emperors, kings, queens, and dictators.

The list includes, surprisingly, many so-called people’s’ leaders who clandestinely accumulate wealth but act ostensibly ordinary in the public domain as if they are one among the poor and underprivileged and I can’t but wonder how strikingly opposite the tactics of influencing voters are in the U.S. and in India.

Again, I wish to quote Bill Gates whose words are profoundly deeper in meaning and are important for leading a more contented life. He said, if at all, he is to be ashamed of something, if at all, it would not be his income or wealth but his consumption.

It is my personal view that beyond a point any material thing will not matter in life. Going back to the people who have (and had) golden toilets, golden guns, even had seatbelts in their privates airplanes made of gold, thousands of pairs of shoes, 36-bathroom villas, $35000-a-night hotel suites, etcetera, the only question I would like to ask, if ever I get a chance,

what is the real pleasure you people are deriving out of all these?

After all, only one of the 36 toilets can be used when one get the nature’s call. Obviously, his/her excreta will not smell like rose or jasmine even if the toilet is a gold-plated one. I cannot really think about what people get out of their $35000-a-night room after all, one needs a decent bed to sleep and other necessary amenities, which are quite available even at $100 or less.

I am neither questioning anyone’s wealth nor I am too naïve to poke my nose into their personal lives. But what are the implications – direct and indirect – of their extent of consumption and their profligate behavior on others particularly children, who grow up observing everything happening around them?

I was born and raised in a middle-class family (Indian and not American or European), so my understanding and perspectives are different. It is perfectly justified and understandable that different cultures have their own definitions of basic necessities and luxuries when it comes to material possessions. For example, a car is still a luxury for us but cars are necessary in many countries. So, I am not really comparing apples to oranges here.

My point is, whatever may be the culture, there are certain limits beyond which one’s consumption needs to be viewed objectively whether it is backed by one’s conscience or not.

There are no standards; no scales; no rules of thumb; and there can never be a universally acceptable guide for conscious consumption. It all boils down to one’s own self – his/her conscience – judging one’s actions. It is certainly not philosophy; it’s just common sense.

For a moment, just think about those who smuggle precious animal skins and parts like the horn of the rhinoceros, ivory, etc. Why there is a market for these because there are people in the world who – without conscience – ready to pay for these sans the realization that it is nothing but an act of cruelty. Those who make their living out of selling these items do so because there is a market for these. The same ideology applies to consumption of drugs like opium, and illegal or counterfeit products and also involving in human trafficking simply because there are consumers out there willing to pay without consciously thinking about the implications of their actions.

My point here is if people become conscious about their consumption, these can change forever for good.

“Sustainability” – probably the most ransacked and misused term – is actually a reflection of people’s conscience in deciding what to consume and what not. If I were a conscious consumer, I care about the planet earth and its ecosystem. Similarly, if I were a conscious consumer, I would avoid those products that are made using child labor. However, the list of criteria like these that emerged since a few decades ago may possibly be incredibly long.

Let me discuss further,

  • what all these have to do with food that is consumed every day and the industries related to it; implications in the context of food waste, agriculture sector, and ecosystem balance
  • how to cultivate the motivation within and resist any influence from others?
  • how to shape the younger generation to be ‘conscious’ consumers for the sake of a better tomorrow

                                                                                                                                        To be continued…

For previous posts in this series.. click here

Part 2 – Cutting Food Waste: How “Conscious Consumption” can help?

Part 1 – Why Bill Gates is right about consumption?