Over the past few years, I’ve been disentangling myself from capitalism’s insidious grip. It’s not an easy process, and it’s not something I’ll complete within my lifetime, but I still find it’s worth doing. I will preface by saying that I’m approaching this from a place of immense privilege. I’m self-employed and I have no mortgage, no debts, a fairly minimalist lifestyle and my children are now adults. That said, I hope readers might find something useful here. Even the smallest steps can help us feel we have agency in a world constantly pressing us to consume.
- Eat a plant-based diet. I don’t need to cover the horror of both the meat and dairy industries and their contribution to suffering and planetary destruction. These industries teach us we should expect to eat meat at every meal and consume lots of dairy for our health. Turns out, that with the exception of B12, we can get all of our macro and micro nutrients from plants. And in doing so, we no longer contribute to vile industries we’ve been programmed to support. I’ve also saved quite a bit of money as a plant-based diet is much cheaper.
- Eat when hungry. This doesn’t seem like a revolutionary act, but trust me – it is. To make more money, the food industry expects us to stuff ourselves daily, and often with processed foods. We’re told we need to eat three meals a day and we’re bombarded with advertisements for snacks. Eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner at set times is designed to fit the work day, not our natural desire for food. I’ve found that I like to have a big meal between 11-12 and a smaller meal around 4-5, and I might have a snack in the early afternoon if I really want one. I eat to fit my schedule, not capitalism’s.
- Stop shopping. This was a weird one for me because I thought I enjoyed shopping. I felt compelled to ‘treat’ myself to all sorts of things – a new dress, a watch, some trendy appliance for the kitchen. But it turns out that I actually don’t like shopping at all. I was doing it because I thought it was what I was supposed to do, and that if I didn’t, people would judge me for not having the latest trendy things. Turns out, no one cares, and if they did, that’s their issue, not mine. Being programmed to want and spend is one of the biggest cons of capitalism because we don’t need loads of stuff. My stress levels have fallen immensely since I stopped shopping.
- Say no to the beauty industry. This was a huge change for me. This blog was founded on beauty reviews and my love of all things cosmetic is well documented. I bought just about every beauty product there was, and went yearly to have fillers and botox. I told myself I was doing these things for myself, but I realise I was trying to make myself look a certain way for others to see – literally spending thousands of pounds so that I could satisfy the perceived approval of other people. That is just nuts. I now use only one skincare product and that’s because I like it. I don’t even dye my hair any more. I look the way I look and if others don’t like it, they can go find a bucket to puke in.
- Don’t drink alcohol. I’ll start by saying I am not a teetotaller. I might have one drink a year if I feel like it, but there are often years that pass when I don’t drink anything. It’s expensive and toxic, and the culture of drinking does not appeal to me on any level. For a long time, I thought it was a bit of harmless fun, but these is nothing amusing about casual alcoholism. Yes, I laughed at the sitcom character whose entire personality was drinking and getting drunk, but I just don’t find it funny any more. The alcohol industry is exploitative and ruthless. No thanks.
- Do the bare minimum. I am self-employed and have recently set very strict boundaries with my work. I refuse to work long hours or worry myself sick over things I can’t control. I no longer do anything ‘extra’. The world doesn’t care how hard I work and there will be no achievement medals waiting for me at the end of my life. The UK government has made it nearly impossible for me to enjoy my job any more, so I have stopped trying. I earn enough to live a modest lifestyle and that’s fine with me. Rejecting capitalism has made this process a lot easier.
- Reject hustle culture. About twenty years ago, I discovered soap making and loved it. I’d never had a hobby I enjoyed as much, and was so into it that I often dreamed about new soap recipes to try. About a year into making soap, I decided to open a small soap business. It did well, but after a couple of years, the enjoyment went out of the process. The thing I used to do for fun had become demanding, and I found myself resenting all of the time and energy I was putting in just to keep up with orders. Yes, a lot of orders was a nice problem to have, but I burned myself out. I closed my soap making company and haven’t made soap for fun since. Monetising my passion ruined it completely.
- Be a Zuckerphobe. Ah Meta. Or Facebook. Or Instagram. Or whatever insidious app Mark wants us to download and use so he can track us, harvest our data, and sell it to those who seek to influence us. Facebook has rotted millions of brains with its misinformation, and Instagram has made an entire generation of young people feel inadequate and unattractive. Both drive the need to consume, photograph, and portray a lifestyle that just doesn’t exist. I deleted all of my Zuckerberg apps after the Cambridge Analytica scandal came to light. I refuse to take part in Meta’s techno-capitalist dystopia.
- Practice low-key gifting. I’m about to sound horrible and ungrateful, but I don’t like being given things I don’t need or want because of some arbitrary date on the calendar. I’m extremely careful about the material things I bring into my house, and everything I own has a place and a purpose. To receive expensive items that I don’t have a place for puts me in an awkward position. I’m mindful of this when I give others gifts. I always check wish lists and never, ever go off-piste unless the item I gift is edible or something tiny and useful like a fridge magnet, a pack of blank greeting cards, or something hobby-specific like packets of seeds for someone who likes to garden.
None of these suggestions are a judgment on anyone who isn’t interested. They’re simply a few things that have worked for me and made me feel a little more in control of my life, my money, and my mental space. I realise that this list only scratches the surface of my ingrained capitalism, but it’s a start. If nothing on this list appeals that’s fine, too. I will suggest one other exercise: the next time you feel lazy, unattractive, guilty, left behind, or anxious; pause and think ‘who does this feeling benefit?’ If the answer isn’t you, it’s capitalism.