Archive for November 29th, 2008

Deep, Dark Black

Sharon November 29th, 2008

I don’t have a lot of patience with consumer culture today.  Maybe it is that we still haven’t heard the news from Eric’s College roommate and his family, living in Mumbai, and we’re getting worried.  Maybe because I don’t necessarily want to be a member of the same species of people who trample folks to death to get first shot at the discount tvs.  Maybe I’ve just eaten too much and know how much wood I’m going to have to split to work off the cranberry bread.  I don’t know.  All I know is this – Black Friday will turn out to have been black indeed.  No matter how good the deals in your local mall, they’ll be better in February when all the going out of business signs are hanging out.  And then there won’t be nearly as much junk to spend on – which will be good, because most of us won’t have nearly enough money.

 Most of the most desirable black friday items were electronics, high tech gadgets designed to make your tv picture bigger, let you get your internet messages in the airport toilet, let you pretend to ski without actually getting any real exercise or allow you to make calls from right next to someone’s ear.  That is, all the stuff that has led to a world of people who don’t really know what to do with each other.  We spent Thursday reconnecting with family, and on Friday, we went to express our love by making sure we don’t have to do that again until next year.

I didn’t buy nothing yesterday, I admit.  It was too good a chance to take my kids to the science museum in Boston while I’m here.  So I bought tickets, half of lunch with friends at a thai-buddhist vegetarian restaurant, and while I was in the neighborhood, picked up a songbook for a friend, Goodnight Moon in Hebrew for another friend, and some sheets of beeswax for a homeschool project making Chanukah candles.  And I’m not claiming any level of moral purity as I sit here on my laptop.

But it isn’t just that it has to stop – and it does – did you see that we now have 73% fewer zooplankton than we did in 1960?  Nearly every sea animal or sea animal eating creature in the world is heavily dependent on zooplankton.  That’s why even if we could find a magic bullet to go on the way we could, it would just put off the inevitable reckoning.  But it isn’t just that it needs to stop – it is that it is stopping. 

The economy is a game of music chairs, and the chairs are disappearing.  When the music stops for each of us, and our chair is gone, for a time we will rely primarily on the resources we’ve built up now.  Those of us left holding the big screen tvs and the designer handbags will have them – or whatever their resale value is.  And those who have ties - biological or chosen – will have those.  The truth is that our consumer culture needs us to be isolated, fragmented, alone, empty – or advertising wouldn’t work, the nonsensical reasoning that we have to have this year’s big thing wouldn’t work.  The primary project of consumer culture is to drive us apart, to make sure we do not share, we do not combine resources, or even consult on how ridiculous the things we are being told are.  And it has worked magnificently.

The music is hectic, the chairs are disappearing, we’re going faster and faster.  And pretty soon it stops.  What will you have when it just…STOPS?