ESSAY: Rules for Renegades

Adapted from the forthcoming book Renegade Consumer: The Battle for Your Economic Freedom.

Yes, renegades need rules. A compact list of rules helps condense the complexity of the renegade position into something you can use to guide your daily decisions and life while you are finding your new balance point.

If you're going to try to gain some sanity as a consumer and instill it in others, you need to focus—focus on what's real and what's illusory, on what's really in your best interest and what's not, and most of all on the goal of freeing yourself from the conditioning of the hustlers’ sea of manipulation in which you swim.

Since it will be a long while before we can escape this sea, the options are swim or sink. The starting place thus becomes learning to swim even though the system desperately wants you to sink and love it. These rules can help you keep swimming—and help you find your way to shore.

  1. Don’t Buy It
  2. Look Closer
  3. Disbelieve
  4. Blank It Out
  5. Fight Back
  6. Enjoy Life

Too cryptic? Let’s take them in turn.

Rule 1: Don't Buy It

The battle cry, "Don't Buy It!" is repeated throughout these writings. It is at the core of the renegade philosophy. It has several levels of meaning, the most important of which is the injunction against believing the nonsense forced on us through marketing and consumerism-drenched media. It also means not buying the pitch that’s trying to get you to consume yet more.

As a working rule, though, it's more straightforward. Don't buy it, in the most literal sense. Don’t put your cash in their hand for whatever they’re selling. Use the financial analysis tools of the last chapter to help you make your judgments. The more rigidly you can keep this rule, the more success you will have at developing your renegade perception… and at increasing your rejection of fostered consumption.

Rule 2: Look Closer

In the world saturated with marketing efforts and advertising and filled with a consumerism-driven society, very little that you see is what it purports to be. Always look closer at everything, even when it seems to be the most prosaic and straightforward claim or presentation. Always assume there are hidden aspects you're not seeing… because nine hundred and ninety-nine times out of a thousand, there are. Whether it’s old historical tales, today’s economic report or the copy on the back of a product’s box, the truth is deeper and more complex than the surface presentation. Learn to look deeper… look closer.

Rule 3: Disbelieve

They're lying. It's that simple. All advertising and most marketing is lying on some level, so accept nothing at face value; find the truth beneath it. Actively disbelieve what they are telling you and do your utmost to assemble any truths you can find instead of the other way around. Believe in yourself; believe in the renegade philosophy; disbelieve their deceptions.

Rule 4: Blank It Out

Learn to not-see marketing efforts. Don’t let it catch your attention; if it does, look away and brush off any notions it may have conveyed. This is a difficult rule to follow, but if you learn not to take the poison into your system, you won't have to neutralize it later. Advertising is by far the most visible and prevalent facet of marketing, of course, so it’s okay to start by focusing on it. Over time, you’ll learn the other poisons of marketing and thus how to avoid them.

To begin the pushback, make a conscious effort to “not see” ads in any medium. Look elsewhere. Think about something else. Change the channel (or turn off the idiot box!) Turn the page. If all else fails, actively deconstruct the ad, preferably out loud for your companions—or even just yourself. Like classical avoidance training, if you condition yourself to instantly take apart and negate ads as you view them, you will have armored yourself in one of the strongest possible ways against marketing's influence. And found a ready way to amuse yourself in the bargain.

Rule 5: Fight Back

Being a renegade means more than passively steering around the obstacles and isolating yourself from the hustlers; that comes perilously close to being an illusory solution. Renegades hit back. Given the slightest opportunity—or making our own—we screw up advertising campaigns and derail marketing efforts whenever we can. We pass along the renegade manifesto. We openly smirk at people who “go shopping” and show off their latest worthless crap. We find ways to dissuade people from buying things they don't really need, especially if they're doing it on credit or at the expense of their financial health. Teaching them the renegade tools of purchase analysis is productive.

We don’t do this through hip and easy “culture jamming” and smirking among ourselves, but by hitting the hustlers where they live—in the wallet—and fellow consumers where they are following the wrong gods home. Most importantly, we all look for ways to escalate the effort. Telling a neighbor is one thing; taking an opportunity for a public comment—letter to the editor, op-ed, blog post—is better. Using a public platform to introduce a renegade comment, better yet. Using a position of authority to carry a stronger and more detailed version of the message, still better.

It’s not a matter of putting your dukes up. It’s a matter of keeping them up and being ready to throw the first punch every time the opportunity arises… and doing it within legal bounds. Going extralegal to battle the hustlers can only be counterproductive, and will be unnecessary once enough of us realize how fragile their position is.

Rule 6: Enjoy Life

There are rules no one should have to tell you, but it's a good bet that you've been brainwashed out of understanding them. Life is for the living of it—so live it. Live it big, live it small, but live it and enjoy it. You might even have to buy some crap now and again. The trick—and the underlying rule here—is not to let buying and having crap define “fun” and “enjoyment” and ultimately “happiness” … because renegades know buying crap is fun only if you've been brainwashed into believing so, and having crap does not add to your happiness.

Remember, as I've said from the very beginning, that there’s a critical difference between consuming to live and living to consume. The goal is to get back to that first option and learn to consume to support your life, not live to support your consumption. The end result of being a successful renegade is that you get to determine what makes you happy and pursue it to the ends of the earth. You no longer have to live someone else's definition—a definition that arose only to sell you crap. Learn to see life through new eyes—renegade eyes—and love it.

Renegade One