Last Friday I visited the supermarket. As a willing contributor to Dutch economy and my own fridge I entered the shop not knowing that I was soon to be confronted with some deep thoughts on society. As I stood before the fruits and vegetable section question number one arose: should I buy the cheap or fair trade bananas? I wondered whether fair trade is really a product of fair trade, whether buying expensive fair trade bananas would make a difference at all. Eventually I compensated the cheap bananas for fair trade coffee pads.
While finding the things I needed another thought crossed my mind. Grocery shopping confronts us with our multiple choice society. We can choose between healthy or unhealthy, cheap or expensive, environmental conscious or self-centered, but we need to choose. Am I willing to pay more for better tasting chocolate sprinkles? Do I spend my money on fruits or cookies? How regularly do I like to eat meat? We define the world by making decisions. It’s all in our hands.
The last thing that came to mind during this supermarket visit was the highly social environment. Here you’ll find a cross section of Maastricht’s student population. While we’re deciding what to buy, considering the countless possibilities and the influence of our consumer’s behavior on the world, we are constantly looking, watching and observing other people. While shopping individually we realize that we are not alone in our individualism. We are part of something bigger.
It’s generally agreed that a consumer society is a product of individualization and some proclaim it is a result of greed and a ever wanting to have more. But I participate gladly, because consumer society makes us aware of our way of living life – a life we share collectively. It makes us aware of the impact of our choices and how we influence the world around us. What about another ordinary visit to the supermarket?