Issue #017 Published: 29-03-2018 // Written by: Jess Henderson


The pull of consumerism is everywhere. We are bombarded with messages seducing us to buy. They incept us with the notion that possessing things confirms our success, confirms we are doing okay. They ensure that things will bring us happiness.

Smart phones have given marketeers a direct channel to our emotions around buying. A direct channel to our attention – through a device designed to addict us. 

Resist the message to buy. Resist the temptation to spend money. Get off the couch. Get out into the world where social interactions relieve the emotional tensions advertisers play on. The ultimate anti-consumerist move is to socialise.

“Refuse to isolate yourself.” 
John Waters during his spectacular 2015 RISD graduation speech on creative rebellion.

“...the whole selfie, internet narcissism trip – they’re training people to stay inside.” 
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge in conversation with Douglas Rushkoff on Team Human, Dec 2017

“Distraction is a corporate neutralising agent. Distraction and isolation.
Subvert these control mechanisms.”
V Vale on NTS radio show Lucifer over Los Angeles, Dec 2017.

We are lucky to have spaces in Amsterdam that allow us to simultaneously resist consumerism while still socialising. These spaces are our beloved autonomous spaces. Places that de-commodify social relations*. Places that are hubs for actual interaction and creation. 

The places that make up the Amsterdam Alternative.

*To put it in Marxist terms, in these autonomous spaces we are no longer subject to the law of value.

Why autonomous spaces are important
Within our daily lives, most of our social interactions have become determined by money. We spend much of our time and creative energy making money so we can pay rent, buy groceries, be insured, and what’s left is ‘free time’.

In our ‘free time’ we tend to come together in places where social interactions are still determined by money. For generations before us, socialising happened more at home. But as our apartments shrunk and our society became less collective, we began to meet outside the house.

Cafés, bars, restaurants, commercial music venues and cinemas – in all these places there is a clear producer-consumer exchange.

We consume a cup of coffee, drink a beer, or watch a band play, while someone is earning money from their production, and our consumption, of them. Somebody who probably would not be there doing this if it were not for the wage earned.

Not in autonomous spaces. Autonomous means free to act independently. It means self-run and self-governed. It means not-for-profit.

Autonomous spaces are important as meeting places where people can break through their individualised existence and share knowledge, ideas, and desires.
The ‘continent’ notion in this Donne quote touches on what makes autonomous spaces work – and important. To be aware of, and be part of, a larger whole contributes to our feeling of connection to that continent, and thus we become conductive to a sense of responsibility to maintain it.

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main”
From ‘No Man Is An Island’ (1624) by British poet John Donne
(We don’t see this piece in full often enough)

These spaces are yours
The live shows, the festivals, the screenings, the discussions, the VoKu’s... all of these are there for YOU. These spaces are made possible by volunteers, purely for the love of protecting our cultural spaces and filling them with life and life-fuel. 

Harness them and dive into all they have to offer. Escape the monoculture rampant in our city, subvert control mechanisms, counter consumerism, and come home to places that want you and need you.

Not every city has havens that actively subvert consumerism – ours does. 
All we have to do to protect them, is go there. 

Written by Jess Henderson of Outsider, an initiative for offline action.
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Illustration: Cris Kuhlen