From: Arlo Bensinger (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Thu Oct 06 2005 - 19:25:28 BST
You mention two separate, but interwoven, aspects of modern American (and
perhaps "Western") society.
(1) Consumerism is the blood that pumps the heart of modern capitalism in
America. We live in debt, we buy "things" to fill voids in our psyches and
spirits, like heroin addicts needing ever greater and greater "fixes" of
consumption. This is sold to us as "normal" and "necessary" by the
entrenched powers of wealth, who depend on this conspicuous consumption to
fuel their own wealth generation. Marx had speculated that "religion was
the opiate of the masses", years ago many decreed that "television" had
become the new opiate, but I am convinced that consumerism is the greatest
opiate of the them all.
(2) This rampant consumerism is supported by a cultural dialogue that
reduces *everything* to market value. Pirsig had written "Man is the
measure of all things", but sadly today it is more accurate to say "Money
is the measure of all things". Or, in the same line, "Money is the measure
of man". Witness the decline in neighborhoods, community. People build
their social networks, if not for outright monetary of financial goals,
with almost all near- or greater-socio economic others. You can't speak of
community or social values without being accused of bringing Gulags and
deathcamps. ANYTHING that brings a challenge to "wealth", in any form, in
any degree, in any aspect, is met with scorn and ridicule. And mostly
(oddly) from the same people who trumpet the nobility of "man" or the
values of religion.
Let me relate an interesting example, Case/Khaled, that I've told before. A
few winters ago, a friend of mine had proposed to his neighbors that they
all chip in and buy a snowblower for the street. They could take turns
housing it, or agree upon setting up a common shed. Instead, many of his
neighbors decided they had to own their own snowblowers, to blow out
snow from about 15ft of sidewalk. So, this street now houses more than a
half dozen snowblowers that could each individually do the entire steet.
So, each person valued possessing their own snowblower, of spending upwards
of say $900 on a machine where one could easily do an entire street, but
now each is relegated to doing a small bit of sidewalk.
Notice that financially everyone on this street would be much better off
deciding on purchasing one snowblower, rather than the 10 or so that ended
up getting purchased. That $900 could have been banked, placed into
savings, etc. The only people who benefitted was the snowblower companies,
who were able to reap the benefits of 10 machines being sold ($10,000)
versus only 1 ($900). Also, consider additional benefits that could come
from other community endeavors. Say that community bought 1 snowblower, but
then pooled the $10k that they would otherwise have spent individually. The
could have maybe built a large jungle-gym playset for the neighborhood
kids, or a pool, or maybe this year help Mr. Jones reshingle his roof, and
next year help Mrs. Smith repaint her house. Now, was the valuation of
individual snowblower ownership "natural", or was it mediated by a dialogue
that prevents the mere mention of "communal endeavors", and marketing that
reinforces your value being higher the more you own, and a political
dialogue that says that the "individual" is somehow separate and above
community needs. I submit, that this particular valuation is the result of
market and ideological forces that benefit from consumerism, and so market
it to the detriment to all else.
Well, that's a long story to give you only a "completely agree" response.
I'll just add, once again, one of my favorite pieces from ZMM:
Phædrus remembered a line from Thoreau: "You never gain something but that
you lose something." And now he began to see for the first time the
unbelievable magnitude of what man, when he gained power to understand and
rule the world in terms of dialectic truths, had lost. He had built empires
of scientific capability to manipulate the phenomena of nature into
enormous manifestations of his own dreams of power and wealth...but for
this he had exchanged an empire of understanding of equal magnitude: an
understanding of what it is to be a part of the world, and not an enemy of it.
At 09:11 AM 10/6/2005, you wrote:
>We have been sold, in the most cynical of ways, on the idea that the "good
>life" comes from "cool stuff" Which was precisely my point about a society
>were all value can be reduced to cash.
>>IMHO, the only benefit we've had over the last 200 years is modern
>>dentistry and medicine. As for the quality of life as a whole, and I mean
>>the social aspect of us humans getting together to break bread, share a
>>drink and sing a song, things have gone backward.
>>That's why to this day, the most precious moments spent in an office, are
>>around the water cooler.
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