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Fri, Jan. 9th, 2009 01:36 am
Capitalism: doesn't it make you (mentally) sick?

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ajkandy.myopenid.com
ajkandy.myopenid.com
Fri, Jan. 9th, 2009 01:29 am (UTC)
competitive un-consumption

Ultimately it comes back to Buddhism, doesn't it? And all its dictums about the path to nirvana being in the elimination of desire. It is of course, the supreme irony that millionaire rock stars are the ones to paste Make Trade Fair signs on their pianos (while I don't doubt their sincerity).

There is an amount of truth to this, and yet, being only second cousins once removed from the great apes, we still have social hierarchies, pecking orders, mating displays, aggressive, dominant and submissive behaviours (think about all those different ways to pronounce Chinese words, depending on the social status gap between the conversants). How do we square up the desire for a more equitable world with the consequent idea that we have to greatly reduce our id and ego in the process?

I've never bought into the model of human consciousness that makes people into lumps of plasticene, to be molded by whatever random media we happen to be watching or reading. I'm also offended by the way that some on the Left buy into this argument when it bolsters their arguments about people's desire for unearned riches (from watching Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, no doubt), but then they decry this same impulse when the Right want to slap 'Explicit Lyrics' stickers on CDs. Which is it to be, then?

I think it is rather the reverse -- our choice of television programmes, pop music poses and reading material reflects our own concerns about the world, or class-consciousness, or status desires. And there seems to be an infinitely sliced variety of this on offer, which just makes it another long-tail product of a relatively free market, doesn't it?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Jan. 9th, 2009 01:36 am (UTC)
Re: competitive un-consumption

I don't think you need to subscribe to tabula rasa models of humanity to see that television takes something that might be a minor part of our psychological make-up -- envy, greed, want, insecurity, comparing our lives to the lives we see onscreen -- and reinforces and heightens it.

For instance, I didn't watch any TV today. I did, though, read a lot of articles on the internet, and I played a lot of Wii tennis. If I'd chosen to watch TV, I'd have been subjected to more normative and, I think, anxiety-creating messages about myself (for instance, compared with the people on TV I'm a pretty weird guy with a weird lifestyle, and I might have started to feel, well, weird about that). Instead, I feel rather good for having beaten my computer rivals at tennis, and read some articles that made me feel smart and informed. My mental health levels are better than they might otherwise be. (Watching The IT Crowd makes me happy, though.)


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Jan. 9th, 2009 01:43 am (UTC)
Re: competitive un-consumption

Hey Nick,

There's no doubt some element of it out there, but to another degree, you have to be desirous / insecure enough to buy into that model. If there's anything I've learned in my life it is that the people who are secure in their own skins (no matter what their material circumstances) can view the world through a more equanimous lens.

I spend 99% of my day on the Internet as it's my job, and it's equally easy to fall into the jealousy and desire trap when you're behind a desk in an office, and reading other people's Twitter tweets about how wonderful their lives / jobs are. The grass is always greener on the other side of the modem, of course. ;)


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Jan. 9th, 2009 04:38 pm (UTC)
Re: competitive un-consumption

So you didn't buy your Wii then, did you shoplift it? Would that lesson your chances of going mento.


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krskrft
krskrft
Fri, Jan. 9th, 2009 01:44 am (UTC)
Re: competitive un-consumption

Well, I do buy into the concept of people passively accepting ideas that have been mythologized over centuries, or even decades. Official, patriotic ideas do actually seem to permeate and take root in the culture. One can best see this in the "American Dream" myth, the one of picket fences and the 2.5-kid nuclear family, etc. And really, the "American Dream" is just a 1950s, suburban reinvention of the prevailing ideal of spreading out on the frontier. We have so much space in America that there always (it is perceived) exists a new frontier, room to spread out all the things you've acquired, in privacy from neighbors. The individual estate.

As far as media messages of the moment, however, I agree with you that those are largely ephemeral, more a reflection of what people (or a certain segment of people) desire than any kind of overt mind control meant to make people change their desires.


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ajkandy.myopenid.com
ajkandy.myopenid.com
Fri, Jan. 9th, 2009 01:46 am (UTC)
Re: competitive un-consumption

Ah well, I'm Canadian, so it doesn't count :)


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ajkandy.myopenid.com
ajkandy.myopenid.com
Fri, Jan. 9th, 2009 01:48 am (UTC)
Re: competitive un-consumption

oh, but on the notion of the American Frontier:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUKOebCbINc


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