Colombo Telegraph

The Need For A National Consumer Network

By Arjuna Seneviratne

Arjuna Seneviratne

Stop Being Voters And Start Being Citizens: The Need For A National Consumer Network

We have been railroaded into living in a consumer society. This is not a good place for the citizens of a nation but it is where we are. Time was when most of what we wanted we produced ourselves or bartered for. We were piecewise content and groupwise satisfied. Then came this folderol about growth and we embarked on a mad journey to tie ourselves to marketplaces, buy beyond our need and live beyond our means. We allowed ourselves to be taught that all of that was a great good, a wholesome and satisfying existence.

Let us said aside the insanity of the “greed is good” slogan. We have something that tops that. It is called “debt is good”. Right? Yeah. Haha! Funny one … that.

We have just 65 trillion dollars’ worth of useable cash in the word and the global debt right now is 57 trillion dollars and climbing at around 7 million dollars a minute and somewhere in the early part of next year, we, as a human civilization, will literally have borrowed more than we can physically cover with cash. So, it is high time that we stop attempting to hoodwink ourselves that we can “create wealth” out of debt as has been a major component of the mantra of mainstream economic theory.

The truth of the matter is that the belligerents will have to increase the rate of cannibalization of earth resources to live a little while longer. In that process, they will use every trick in the book, every manipulation that human negative ingenuity can cough up, every form of threat, every type of pressure to ensure that a select few, at least on paper, are going to pull through and survive past Armageddon despite the fact that “Armageddon” by its definition will wipe out all of us.

Funny… that. Yet, while truth stares them in the face, they have already decided that they must now consume even the meager resources generally available to the large masses of people. They have decided that they must commandeer and control the food, the land, the water, the air, the medicine, the education, the rare earth metals, the fossil resources, the renewable resources and the governance of nations.

These actions speak of crazed minds broken away from anything human and blindly believing that everyone else’s death would ensure their life. Those “everyone” know better but they are in greater part to blame for their own misery. You see, that collective or the majority “we” have always been sold on the fact that those we elect have our best interests at heart. We believe therefore, that instead of taking a strong, collective stance on who flies and who dies, we will vote someone into power and let that someone figure that out. We figure that in the end, we will, willy-nilly, come out unscathed regarding not the simple stupid fact that we are part of the “everyone” already marked for death by that select few.

We must realize that no one in any kind of leadership position anywhere in the world is going to cut us even the slightest slack. We must stop being voters and start being citizens.

We must forget the various intergovernmental task forces, the leadership summits, the high level forums. As we all know, those have amounted to nothing and will continue to be less than relevant as problem solving tools for us as time goes on.

We, the people, must provide the solutions and the first part of that work is to prevent window-wash, eye-wash, shot-gun “solutions” from being promoted. Those have political and business convenience at their root and they have failed us in the past. Miserably. We must be ready to drill down into the realities of unfair trade, unfair acquisition, unfair exploitation. We must be ready with alternative research and counters and proofs on the fairytale claims and blatant lies of vendors and manufacturers who routinely exploit people of science with money to “validate” their claims. We must be able to understand what sort of legal and regulatory relief there is. We must be aware of the ways in which we can engage directly with such frameworks and institutions. We must be, not simply active consumers which we are anyway, but also, very informed ones that can collectively discuss issues and come to collective agreements on solutions. We must be capable of moving beyond the voters’ mantras of “there is no other solutions”, “this is the only solution”, “it is either my way or the highway” and be clear headed, factually concise, science based, diplomatic, collectively mission driven and capable of understanding that there is, in most cases, more than one way of solving problems. We, the people, determining our own future, must be strong and collected towards third spaces, grassroots action, dialogue after action, engagement of authorities, regulators and politicians not as counters but as collaborators to ensure that we all survive.

As a trigger to action, here are a few questions that you might want to cut your teeth on for starters. Join us on the National Consumer Network of Sri Lanka (NCNSL) community pages on FB to discuss all of this further:

  1. All prices of most goods and quite a lot of services are “credit card prices”. These are inflated to the tune of 22% of the actual price. Now, if you pay them in cash, most sellers will offer you a 10% discount when actually they should be giving you a 22% discount. Who is taken for a ride? YOU! Why? Because you just don’t know and more importantly, you have been drugged by TV adds that have lied to you through their teeth into believing you are getting a zero interest deal on installments. Who profits? The vendor? Nah. It’s the banks! What is the Central Bank of Sri Lanka doing? Nothing. Do we want them to? Yes. How? Collective lobbying and diplomacy. Who strategizes it? We do. Let’s discuss it.
  2. The amount of electronic cash that is being used for transactions has skyrocketed in the recent past with such instruments as Easy Cash, SMS may-ins etc. They are set to become the preferred method of purchasing goods in the very near future. They are a huge bank. Who regulates it? No one. Who should? The Central Bank. Should we enforce it? Yes. How? Collective lobbying and diplomacy. Who strategizes it? We do. Let’s discuss it.
  3. The biggest “growth” sector in the world today (including Sri Lanka) is health. We have a proliferation of hospitals. Why? Because people are getting sicker now. Why? Because the air we breathe, the food we consume, the water we drink is poisoned. How should be stopping all of this? That’s the entire state machinery right there that needs to step up and do its job. Are they? Well, some of them are trying but are they able to move forwards? Not with the oil mafia, the agrochemical mafia, the gas mafia and the drug mafia. Do we take them on? Yes we do. How? Let’s discuss it.
  4. 92% of the pediatric beds of urban Sri Lanka are filled with children with respiratory diseases . Why? Because of the smog. Who should regulate this? The Central Environmental Authority. Are they doing their job? No. How can we get them to do that? We can go to courts, get a writ of mandamus and force them to do their job which they have shirked for years. Who is preventing them from doing it? The political machinery of the country. Do you want to vote for them again? No. How do we get it through to them that we will no longer tolerate this? Let’s discuss it.
  5. We used to have a Cosmetics, Devices and Drugs Regulatory Authority but now we have a National Medical Drug Regulatory Authority. Cosmetics are no longer regulated! Yet, they are the cause of more health issues than medical drugs. Why? Do we need this changed ASAP? YES! Can we do it? Of course – as a collective lobby. Let’s discuss it.

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