are we citizens or consumers?
Citizens Advice Scotland annual conference 2007
Consumerism is a false prophet.
A prophet actively funded and promoted by governmental institutions, their quangos, and the financial services sector.
A prophet who promises equality of choice and assumes everyone has the same opportunities in the UK.
What choice does a CABx client have when they live in a damp, cold, house and get by on a basic State pension?
Consumer champions such as Which? are pushing for supermarkets and banks to own and control legal services in Scotland.
That is the same banks who have been involved in mortgage exit fee scams and are facing refund claims of over £1bn; the same banks who have been scamming British citizens for billions of pounds in unfair bank charges.
When I criticised Which? about their policy here they threaten to sue: http://www.govanlc.com/which.htm
Will deregulation and free market economics benefit CABx clients or multinational companies and a handful of millionaire Scottish lawyers?
Consumerism knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
It has resulted in an all time high level of personal debt in the UK.
We've 1.3 trillion pounds in personal UK debt, have overtaken the USA on a pro-rata basis, and our personal debt now exceeds our GDP: http://money.guardian.co.uk/news_/story/0,,2154384,00.html
We also have record levels of personal insolvency and global warming thanks to carefree consumer consumption.
Who is it that sticks up for the most vulnerable and exploited members of our society? Interestingly it's not the official, publicly funded consumer associations. No.
It's people like you and me, CABx, law centres, money advisors, welfare rights officers, shelter housing aid centres and many other agencies in the voluntary and public sector, working at the coal face, with the day in day out problems of Scotland's most vulnerable citizens.
I believe the public interest must always outweigh the 'consumer interest'.
I believe in a culture of peoples, not 'commodities'.
We need laws and regulations to protect people from exploitation and consumer harm.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown talks of 21st century citizenship as combining individual aspirations and freedoms with a supportive and empowered community. We may disagree on what citizenship means, but if we think of ourselves as citizens we can acknowledge that personal freedom comes with a responsibility to ourselves, our community, and the environment.
Thinking of yourself as a 'consumer' absolves you of any responsibility for your neighbour, your community and the wider world.
The consumer view of the world has become morally bankrupt in the 21st century.
We are citizens.
for further discussion of this topic: The Herald, 14 March 2007
15 August 2007
images from the CAS 2007 annual conference