When it comes to rallying cries, nothing works better than a call to remember something. “Remember the Maine” worked like a charm as a rallying cry during the Spanish American war. “Remember Pearl Harbor” worked even better as a rallying cry during World War II. Now there is a possibility for a new rallying cry in the war against global warming, overconsumption, and ecological ruin. The new rallying cry: remember the Shoe Man.
The Shoe Man is a term we may use for the poor troubled soul who
recently had to accompany his girlfriend on an excessive shopping
trip. After buying lots of expensive stuff, the woman wanted to go to
one more shoe store to buy more shoes. The man complained that the
woman already had enough shoes to last a lifetime. After arguing with
the woman, the man then jumped to his death from the seventh floor of
a shopping mall, crashing into a display counter on the ground level, as described here.
The death of the Shoe Man is a kind of miniature metaphor that may
symbolize the peril of our consumerist creed, the unofficial religion
preached to us by many a slick television commercial. The Shoe Man
died unexpectedly, as a side-effect of reckless overconsumption and
runaway consumerism. The same thing may happen to many millions of
humans if man continues his current ways, in reckless disregard of
the ecological limits of our planet. We may shop and spend our way to
an environmental hell, as our planet gets hotter, our water supplies
diminish, and our oceans get more and more acidic.
Every time you buy something, it increases your annual carbon
footprint, which is basically how much you are contributing to the
global warming problem. The carbon footprint of a pair of shoes is
between 20 and 200 pounds. Buying a pair of leather shoes might
easily be the equivalent of dumping your body weight in carbon
dioxide into the atmosphere.
Sadly we do not have imprinted on our brains the message “Respect
the planet's limits.” Madison Avenue has imprinted on our brains
the mindless message: for the rest of your life, accumulate more
and more and more stuff.
Consider the common case of a person who labors long hours to fill
up closets with clothes worn only a few times, and fill up a kitchen
with appliances not used very often. Such a person is rather like
the silly squirrels who spend so much of their time working very hard
to gather acorns, and then end up using only 25% of the acorns they
But perhaps the Shoe Man may not have died in vain. We can use his
death to help keep in check the kind of reckless overconsumption that
pushed him over the edge. Here's how it could work.
When your husband asks for some cash to buy another electronic
gadget he doesn't need, just because the gadget is the hot new thing,
say to him: remember the Shoe Man.
When your wife asks for the credit card to buy another outfit she
doesn't need, just because all her friends are dressing that way, say
to her: remember the Shoe Man.
When your child asks for some money to buy some useless plastic
thing he doesn't need, mainly because he can make a picture of it and
use it as a cool Facebook post, say to him: remember the Shoe Man.
And if any of these people ask you, “Who is the Shoe Man?” you
can answer like this: the Shoe Man
was a poor guy who jumped to his death from the seventh floor of a
mall, because his lady love bought too many shoes – don't
make me into the next Shoe Man!