Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Bonfire of the Brands

By now, I'm sure everyone's heard about Neil Boorman's Bonfire of the Brands, where he destroyed all his branded possessions. There have already been posts on DCSC and Sharon J provoking some thoughtful comments, many about the perceived waste of resources.

I'd skated through his blog - not in great depth I have to admit, and was undecided. The cynical part of me was ready to write it off as a publicity stunt - Boorman's a nightclub promoter ... He had a PR team at the event ... He has a book coming out next Autumn ... But now I'm not so sure ...

Boorman claims to have been a brand addict from an early age. He used his possessions to project himself and invested his self-esteem in them. He believed the hype but came to a realisation that he'd been swindled.

'These brands never deliver the happiness they promise. After a while, you're left feeling empty, needing another branded hit. That's the vicious cycle ... A consumer society is an anxious society,' he reckons, pointing out that comparatively wealthy Britain came 24th in a New Scientist happiness poll - behind countries where poverty is rife.

Now no one in their right mind would argue that poverty = happiness. But we do need to accept that accumulating wealth and possessions don't complete the equation either.

More to the point, Boorman's been living up to his rhetoric, refusing to buy any branded goods for the last 6 months and continuing to do so now the 'show' is over. He has no mobile, has had to give up cigarettes and makes his own toothpaste. In an interview in the Independent on Sunday, he says, 'It will be a slower life from now on. I will have to think a lot more.'

Challenging our rampant consumerism and rethinking our priorities has to be a good thing, desn't it? While few people will go as far as Boorman has, hopefully many people will have stopped to think about his message, which wouldn't have happened if he'd simply given his £20,000 worth of possessions away rather than publicly destroying them.

And maybe some will think twice when they're next out shopping ...


Unknown said...

I read Sharon's post a while back and checked out Boorman's blog. I have subsequently been wondering about the statement he was trying to make. Did he hope to inspire others to the same action? If not, why be so public about it? There are many who would have appreciated a hand out from his branded goods - I'm inclined to think he could have donated them and still generated PR - he could have made a public dispaly of donation - not as dramatic, I admit as a bonfire, but less wasteful. If there is integrity in what he has done, then he is to be saluted for taking a stand against consumerism. But it will take more than one man burning his stuff to change the mindset of the brand conscious world.
Will he, I wonder, stop accumulating wealth and have a complete change of lifestyle? And if not, what does he plan to do with his money. And if his book is anything as successful as The Monk who Sold his Ferrari, what then? Will he stil be content to lead the slow life?
Only time will tell how much integrity there was in his actions.

Caroline said...

Yes there is integrity in his continued stance - but it's the bonfire that throws me. It just seems such a waste. And the burning - that gets to me. Too many historical correlations. I feel uncomfortable with it.
It is thought provoking though.

Marie said...

It's such a waste.

I've never understood why people want branded goods anyway. It's such a con.

The Divine Mr. M said...

I used to be a brand addict but during recent years my student finances have made it impossible to keep up the habit.

After the initial shock i discovered certain cheaper clothes stores provide equally good design at a fraction of the price. But does their growing popularity now grant them brand status? I'm confused.

I have realised that the money i've saved now that i've stopped trying to keep up with the beckhams has enabled me to fill another two book cases with books. I'd rather take that over branded jeans any day of the week.

As for branding in general there are certain brands i could never give up. Heinz baked beans being a definite.

I think i will certainly be more aware in the future what brands i am using. I'm sure there are many more than i initially thought.

As for the burning, i think he certainly would have made a better point, if queiter, by donating them to red cross etc...


Debi said...

Life's so bloody complicated, innit? We wear mostly hand-me-downs but if we have to buy anything new, it's always the cheapest.

But then we're encouraging sweatshops! BUT the expensive branded goods also use exploitative practices, they just don't pass on the profits to the workforce. BUT if you boycott everything, those people could lose their jobs, and while they're being heavily exploited, they also need the (miniscule) income ... Tricky business, living ethically!