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The Age Of The Chemical Consumer
It would appear that in recent years we are beginning to enter a new golden age of consumerism. As traditional brand loyalties die out, we have ushered in a new era, one that is not reliant upon possessions in the typical sense, the era of the chemical shopper.
At first there was the great automotive age, where car culture dominated the American market and huge bucking vehicles were in style; Low performance, gas guzzling machines that were the corporate seal of American approval. The ford thunderbirds and leering Pontiacs that cruised like massive predators the wide streets of the United States. These vehicles perfectly represented the minds of consumers, unimpressed by performance, reliability or value; people whose very ethics were driven by the invisible wheel of marketing genius, with no attention paid to the product, only the brand. This allowed the corporations to knowingly undersell the product, creating a void in American engineering that has never, even now, been filled.
This period, however, was doomed to end, with cheaper, more reliable Japanese imports and the tougher European ones eventually controlling the previously monopolized markets. This forced the industry to become necessarily competitive, and both the environment and the consumer have benefitted as a consequence. No longer were the incredibly harmful muscle cars so prevalent, allowing emissions and road deaths to halt their furious incline. During this time it seemed that the people had beaten the gargantuan power of blind brand loyalty, shopping with their heads rather than their passports.
The same tale is repeated hundreds of times over throughout the twentieth century. It happened with coffee, changing from Colombian/American imports to fairer, more sustainable African blends. It happened to cigarettes, where customers are swapping their brands from Marlboro and Camel, to European and Arabic brands manufactured in countries where the exploitation of workers if minimal. It would seem, and I personally take great solace in this, that given enough time, the consumer is intelligent enough to see through the illusionary world of marketing and observe every product stripped of glitter and pomp.
With the ever more apparent phenomenon of globalization, this previously American trend has now become a universal one. With every brand available in every country, we have seen consumer taste change from the quaint and provincial to that of the international. Take a drive through the English countryside, and make a note of the different garages on the outskirts of every town; Nissan, Volvo, Volkswagen and Chevrolet. The wealth of choice has meant that the newest form of blind loyalty is no longer concentrated just in the united states, or on one type of innocuous possession, making this new market more dangerous than anything previous.
Whilst household names like Pfizer grow stateside, with pharmaceutical lobbies increasingly controlling the political landscape, the trend is to fund research with the promotion of certain chemicals in mind. In Both Europe and the United States, psychological research is becoming a private enterprise that is increasingly seen as an extension of corporate marketing’s leathery wings, abusing the faith that people place in modern medicine. At the turn of the century less than one in a hundred people were diagnosed with any form of mental disorder, now, at the dawn of the new millennium, that figure is closer to one in two. Where nearly half the population is essentially crazy, you may well ask yourself, what, if anything, is normal. The internet has spawned a generation of self diagnosis, where people (teenagers in particular) appear to ‘shop around’ for defects that they are convinced the possess in order to feel individual. Bi polar disorder is the new little black dress, ADHD; your powerful muscle car. These symptomatic diseases are now products we long to possess as badges of our individuality, and the prescriptions that treat them become the brand names that legitimize them. The act of collecting these illnesses has been called empowering by some people. Having ‘something wrong’ with you allows you to take affirmative action to treat yourself, by begging doctors for meds that used to be very rarely prescribed, in short the knowledge that you are sick, but your doing something about it, has become a mark of self possession.
This movement is much like the others, driven by money and status. The youth of today sees hundreds of stars fighting through expensive bouts of rehab, combating all sorts of mental defects on their road to eventual perfection; they swallow all manner of multicolored medication in the name of cerebral balance. Your everyday kid however, is unable to afford the uppers and downers prescribed by private practitioners, so they stick to known, available brands that have a similar effect, just like product endorsement; Lydsay Lohan doesn’t wear DC shoes, but they have her face on them. Some people will blame the phenomenon of celebrity, you can try to blame their false familiarity with the average man or woman, but this is marketing pure and simple.
Fortunately there is light at the end of the tunnel. The internet can be beneficial, and due to this information revolution, people are, on the whole, more educated. People know, for example, that the chemicals found in nearly all ‘mood stabilizing’ (a phrase invented to market Prozak) drugs can be found in green tea. But this world of rapidly changing molecules and disorders being discovered on a daily basis, is it not essential that we merely switch off to the pharmaceutical fear mongering for a while? I have faith that, like all other products, the desire for psychoactive chemicals is not permanent, but were no longer merely losing our money, we are losing our minds.
Moving boxes and Madame Bovary
I’m always disturbed out by the bags and bags of trash that emerge as I pack up to move. And I’m someone who likes to declutter regularly. I don’t mean to be one of those sanctimonious critics bemoaning contemporary American culture. Believe me, I don’t deny that I’m contributing to the problem by enjoying my first-world, Apple product-enabled lifestyle. But really, we just surround ourselves with junk, and it is so depressing to have it stare you back in the face.
For instance—the nest of cords in the back of my desk. I haven’t touched any one of these in years. Obviously I don’t need them; I don’t remember what devices any of them are for. Into the garbage. All that plastic, all that metal wiring…people took time to engineer and design and manufacture them so I can enjoy them for two minutes and let them clutter up my workspace. And yet I don’t throw them out until I absolutely have to, which essentially means I’ve been living with garbage in my desk. Ugh.
There is so much crap that we mindlessly keep—because there is so much crap to mindlessly keep.
There was a time, before bourgeois shopping culture took off in the 19th century (hello Emma Bovary!), when people were very aware when they acquired any kind of commodity they planned to keep for the long term. Now we have to work to keep from getting buried by the useless material objects that pile up around us out of nowhere.
In Madame Bovary, the dry goods merchant Lheureux seduces Emma B. into believing in the power of commodities to validate our existence and relationships with others. But Lheureux’s cunning lay in his understanding of how simultaneously empty and addictive consumerism is, how quickly the pleasure of a new possession drains away. Flaubert doesn’t describe Emma ever throwing these items away, I assume the empty husks of enjoyment just choke her space, like my cord nest. The character of Lheuruex is a testament to Flaubert’s scathing prescience.
So, yeah. Moving. What can I say? My mind—it wanders.
Porn makes me sad as does the society which has deemed it as acceptable. Why do all boys seem to love porn? I just dont get it. It is so far from sex. The best parts of sex are the emotional elements and physical feelings but you don’t get either of those watching porn. And why jerk off to it? You’d rather watch two retarded strangers having sex than just think about the person you love? Pretty sure most guys get boners so easily its not like they need a visual stimulus to achieve this. Sex involves a wonderful collaboration between the body and mind. Pornography is mindless, it only involves the body. Surely not many people are sad and unenlightened enough to be able to pretend to themselves that these terrible actors are experiencing emotional ecstasy and deep connection with each other.
I feel that when people talk about new things they’ve tried this is just their attempt to try to fulfill some empty notion that they feel they might be missing because of watching this mindless bullshit. When did sex become another product to be sold? Everyone is buying into it! What is the hip new move of this season? Stupid sex moves are mindless, they only cater for the body and the ideas bled onto people by society which people have mindlessly inhaled without question. Stupid sex commodities detract from the emotional counterparts, there is an imbalance and it is shit, it is not sex, sex has become a whole new thing, so much so that there may as well be two separate terms.
Sole physicalities of sex are not sexy. What is sexy? Sexy should be the natural things about a person that you notice not some bullshit attempt of theirs to create a facade that fits with MEDIA PORTRAYALS. For fucks sake. A stupid bra and the fake titties that fill them is not sexy, the way a person smiles, their actions, the way their body naturally moves, their thoughts, THESE are sexy!!!!
I hate society. :(
Birth of Consumerism
The first of the most significant three movements which happened during the American 1920’s was the birth of consumerism. Consumerism has come to be a definitive feature of American culture, a core philosophical aspect of American capitalism. The advertisements which are now slathered on every surface were birthed as a phenomenon during the 1920’s. With seditious intent advertisers “…tried to undermine people’s reliance on traditional sources of advice and authority…so that they would trust manufacturers’ claims instead.” Consumerism was particularly typified in the example of the automobile, the purchase of which would often take precedent over the arrangement of sanitation. The pervasiveness of the development of consumerism can be traced to the inner functions of the capitalist economy, that is, the necessity of a market for production. Since profit is extracted from the surplus value which is the result of production, and “[b]ecause consumption creates the need for new production, and therefore provides the conceptual, intrinsically actuating reason for production, which is the pre-condition for production,” the symbiotic relationship between the extraction of profit in the production cycle and the necessity for a market to consume the products. As Marx says of the capitalist in Wage Labour and Capital, “… he must find a market for, perhaps, 1,000 times as much, in order to outweigh the lower selling price by the greater quantity of the sale; since now a more extensive sale is necessary not only to gain a greater profit, but also in order to replace the cost of production…” The lower selling price here is the result of an increase in production as the result of competition. Consumerism was the natural development of capitalism during this period, having successfully subverted the Socialist, Communist and Anarchist movements during the Red Scare, leaving only the conservative and narrowly manned trade unions who were largely more interested in working with capitalism than against it.