The End of Valentine
Christmas, New Year, Valentine, Easter, … shops want you to believe that it’s time again to spoil yourself and your loved ones, and that you will fill the empty hole in your heart only by getting the latest and the greatest ‘things’…
Since getting involved in the retail industry, I have struggled to jump on the next ‘event’, the next ‘theme’, the next ‘trend’... Even when I do, I find myself reluctant and unhappy. Because, deep down I know that, happiness does not come about in owning a ‘thing’. Happiness comes from gratitude. Yet I have set up a charity to sell ‘things’. How does it line up with what I know about happiness?
I believe a person can be happy without lots of things. Ideally, everything that a person owns has a special meaning to him/her; otherwise it has no value. I’m trying to bring such things to Australia. Things that are made by hand using century-old techniques; things that are made with special materials; things that carry a special meaning; things that give people hope. Australians love travelling; yet when we travel, we are often bombarded with cheap souvenirs. They are not just bad for the environment, but also promote mass production and cheap factory labour market. Just like the creative people in Australia who makes beautiful things with their hands, there are many talented artisans in developing countries. They are often forced by ‘economic development’ to give up their handicraft skills and find a job in factories. Many of them struggle to make ends meet. When we visit their countries, wouldn’t we love to have purchased something that they hand crafted using traditional techniques? Yet we are often denied of such opportunities. They are also denied of such opportunities. It is a tragedy.
So how can we change things? ‘Fair Trade’ has evolved into ‘Ethical Consumption’, and I hope it is the future of all consumption. As the next Valentine approaches, I reluctantly put out the same advertising catch phrases like every other shop; but deep down I know that consumers know better. If you love someone, every day is a day to say ‘I love you’ and every day is a day to spoil him/her but it doesn’t necessarily involve gifts.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this:
Love does not need to be reinforced with gifts; but if you do buy gifts either for yourself or for your loved ones, then please buy gifts that are meaningful to you.