Thursday, April 25, 2019

Our Duty to Buy Stuff (Charlotte Mason and Fashion Revolution Week)

"What we want is––not the best thing that can be had at the lowest possible price––but a thing suitable for our purpose, at a price which we can afford to pay and know to be just.
 "Looked at from this point of view, the whole matter is simplified; we are no longer perpetually running round, harassing ourselves and wearing out other people in the search after bargains. Every purchase becomes a simple, straightforward duty. We feel it to be a matter of integrity to deal with tradesmen of our own neighbourhood, so far as they can supply us. If they fail to do so, we are at liberty to go further afield; but in this case, we soon fix upon the distant tradesman who can supply our needs, and escape the snare of bargain-hunting." Charlotte Mason, Ourselves, pp. 176-177
13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.14 She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. ~~ Proverbs 31:13-16, 18

Does Proverbs 31 prove that we have a justifiable need to buyeth things? The condition, though, seems to be "wisely."

In the previous passages from Charlotte Mason's Ourselves, she focused on the issue of debt; here she is concerned with wasted time and effort. You've done the dollar math, she says; now figure out your other costs. Even being disorganized in planning, not having bought what you should have realized you were going to need (or not being able to find it in a mess) costs something. Ordering a bargain item of poor quality (Proverbs 31:18) costs return postage, and delay while you search for something better, and even (as Mason says) creates hassle for other people.

In this age of technology, we have useful shopping tools at our disposal. We can not only locate a "distant tradesman" who has exactly what we need, but we can read customer reviews of those products. We can also, ironically, find out about and order from farmers and craftspeople who produce goods almost in our own backyards. Provided we use the tools wisely, shopping both "afield" and locally has never been easier. (As many have found, too easy.)

We're also encouraged to maximize what we do have (verse 16) and use it for God's glory. If we buy land, the goal is to plant on it, and share the harvest with others. If we buy craft supplies (verse 13), we don't let them gather dust.

How does that apply to the area of clothing and fast fashion? We choose carefully, think about how we'll wear the shoes or the pants, think about whether it's the right time to buy. We read the fine print in the description, study the size charts and the reviews, figure out our price point. But then we ask one more question about the item we're considering: "Who Made My Clothes?"

If we have a feeling that we wouldn't like the answer, we'd better say no. 

This series will continue tomorrow.

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