Tuesday, 25 December 2007

I think I've fallen out of love with Shopping

This is an interesting article from Straits Times on 24 December 2007.

To a certain extent, I share the same sentiments. Am I not glad that Christmas is finally over... no more shopping for Christmas gifts! But don't get me wrong, I love to see the smiles on my friends' faces when they open up the Christmas gifts I have got for them.... those are priceless!

But I think I'm only having a tiff with Shopping. Falling out of love with it? Never!

By Tessa Wong

'TIS not the season to be thrifty, and these past few weekends, I have been joining my fellow Singaporeans in the annual ritual of Christmas shopping on Orchard Road.

But while most are savouring the headlong plunge into this festive orgy of consumerism, I have been feeling repulsed by its excesses. Worse, I think I have fallen out of love with our national hobby.

I am not sure how it happened.

After all, I have always been a steadfast sucker for Orchard Road at Christmas, and not just because of the traditional season for great bargains.

Something about its bright lights, rain-slicked streets, and tinselled glamour had always entranced me. I had always found the bustle of the crowd romantic and convivial, even while getting painfully elbowed in the ribs by over-zealous aunties rummaging around Tangs' handbag section.

This year, after several frustrating shopping expeditions, I was consumed by a wave of irrational hatred of all things shopping - the baying, jostling crowds spending mindlessly, the over-the-top decorations and sale promotions aimed at coaxing every last dollar from shoppers.

The whole spectacle just seems crass, tawdry and manipulative.

But I wonder if betraying my shopaholic roots means I have somehow betrayed my national identity too.

After all, bragging about our love for snagging great bargains is part of our national psyche; so much so that we have elevated it to a kind of spiritual experience.

I used to feel strangely patriotic doing Christmas shopping on Orchard Road - it almost felt like I was doing my duty as a citizen, by helping to boost my country's economy while communing with my fellow Singaporeans.

But I have since realised that shopping per se is just a worthless vessel of my cultural identity.
Even if I am buying gifts for others, how does purchasing products make me a better, truer Singaporean? Why should I be proud of a love-to-shop and love-to-eat mentality? Is wanton consumerism and gluttony all I am capable of as a Singaporean?

I seriously hope not.

So this Christmas, I am trying something new.

I will still accept gifts because I do not want to insult anyone by refusing. But I will estimate the cost of each one, and donate that amount to charity. The same goes for presents I have already bought.

I have also been raiding my home for items to donate to the less fortunate, along with corporate gifts I have received. Most importantly, I have vowed to cut down on shopping for non-essentials by half next year.

If less is more, then I hope to make room for an abundant life, free of clutter, in the coming year.

Wish me luck.

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