Nothing you can buy

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Nothing you can buy will ever make you more whole. It’s always a good time of year to remember that gem of truth from Kate Tempest’s Hold Your Own, writes Liz Breslin.

Liz Breslin
Liz Breslin
It’s especially a good time of year at this time of year where the cycle of capitalism goes into overdrive. You know, the one whereby people marketing things convince you there is a hole in your life that can only be filled by the things from the people marketing the things.

And, spoiler alert: it’s a lie. It’s worse than a lie. It’s a calculated ploy of a lie to persuade you to Do Capitalism to make things better, humming comforting tunes about silent nights while the stocking lists scream in your head.

Nothing you can buy will ever make you more whole, but boiler suits are so last Tuesday, bike shorts and blazers and bucket hats and notquitemaxi dresses and bright white trainers are the thing and that overall dress is really cute. It’s going to make you feel, you think, like a million dollars, even though it costs less than 50 and that’s practically free, give or take the child labour that you’re trying not to inhale in store. And feeling better about yourself will mean that you can Do the rest of your Capitalism more effectively. Until the buzz wears off again.

Nothing you can buy will ever make you more whole, but what if it’s a sewing kit you’re shopping for to fix up last year’s (or let’s be real, last week’s) dress, because it was never made to last and the tears are starting to show? Do Capitalism to fix capitalism? Better. But still not ideal.

You will, you resolve, Do Capitalism consciously. Since nothing you can buy will ever make you more whole, and since you’re going to spend money anyway, you promise yourself that from now on you’re only going to be spending your Capitalism Capital on the kind of things you want more of in the world. Independent journalism. Organic overalls with proper provenance. Books. More books. It might be Iceland that has some kind of enlightened book-reading ceremony around this time of year. It might be Facebook that’s telling you such things, which may be possibly fake, and definitely targeted, news.

If nothing you can buy will make you more whole, how does that work, you wonder, with Doing Capitalism to access shared moments? This depends, you suppose, on whether you can experience that experience outside of capitalism — where are the places capitalism is not super-involved, superimposed or super-secretly responsible? No, really, where are those places?

You know that nothing you can buy will make you more whole, but there’s always someone or something telling you otherwise. Black Friday, Green Monday, payday, the weekend. There are only 17 days until Christmas. THERE ARE ONLY 17 DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS. Everyone else is doing it. It’s easier not to resist.

It’s easiest not to think too much at all, and just get on with doing. The ground under your feet starts to look shaky. You watch documentary after documentary that traces the faultline from your wallet all the way to the bank balances of the people behind the companies behind the exploitation of everything that is nature, everything that is sacred, everything beautiful, everything profane.

Nothing you can buy will ever make you more whole, so what can you do with the broken bits? What can you do that doesn’t buy in? Craft, dance, mend, sing, listen, laugh, breathe great swaths of air, colour outside the lines. Share. Hold. Hold your own.



Where is Capitalism not? In Dunedin owned business, at the haberdashers, from the widows who sew for a mite.

Boilersuits were big in the 1980's. Public service women were ordered home to put on a nice shift.