In one of my first courses at UBC, a professor lamented over all we have lost in Western-culture by prioritizing the individual over community. Having lived my entire life immersed in aforementioned Western-culture, it wasn’t until this past summer, when I spent some time living in Spain, that I experienced first hand what a community-centred and less materialistic life could look like. The people I met in Spain had much smaller living spaces and less belongings than the people I know in Canada, but they spent so much more time socializing and their lives were less structured and rigid than the ones I observe here (I am generalizing - I am sure this is not the experience of everyone in Spain, or here, but this is what I have observed).
This experience led me to reflect on why it is that people are so much less social and less happy here, and why this leads to us filling a void in our lives with material objects. I believe that a return to a more communal and social style of living would solve many of the consumer and social problems plaguing society today, and that it is very possible for our society to trend in this direction. It is difficult to make this switch when individualism has been so ingrained in Western-culture, but there are so many simple ways to go about doing it. My roommates and I have begun taking turns cooking dinner for one another once a week - this has led to us having less food waste in the house, as well as an opportunity to eat together and socialize that we didn’t always have time for before. Clothing swaps, repair pop-ups, and similar circular-economy community-minded events are also on the rise, and can help contribute to making our culture shift away from the individual. Sometimes these actions can feel small given the enormity of problems like consumerism, but they have the potential to have large ripple effects, and can increase your own quality of life.