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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Buy More Stuff

There's a group in San Fransisco who calls themselves "The Compact," after the Mayflower compact. Their basic miss
ion is not, as the name might suggest, to escape religious persecution or to have slaves do work for them, but rather to buy nothing but necessities for a year. Evidently, many groups like this exist in other places.

I am going to admit: I really fucking hate people like this.

For one, let's dispense right away with the claim that they are somehow just doing this out of belief and are really 'not trying to convert anyone.' Look: the media in this country, while fairly invasive, has not yet developed magic. If people found out about this, it's not because you're doing everything in your power to hide it. Maybe they found out through the Yahoo group - if you're not trying to get more people to join, why have a Yahoo group? Like, honestly, I tried to drink for three straight months a couple summers ago. One of my friends tried to quit the internet for a while. The general rule is - if a story gets national coverage, and it's obviously a human interest story, it's not being done against the covered group's wishes.

My biggest problem with groups like this is the tacit assumption they take that 'consumerism' is bad. Even the term, 'consumerism,' implies that buying things is a culture or some sort of religion, as if the process of engaging in a transaction for something that lends you some level of comfort or happiness is equivilent to making a life choice. But as with anything, being a 'consumer' is only harmful if it wrecks other portions of your life. Which is true of anything. Jogging is bad if it leads you to neglect more important things, like drinking or hitting on 19 year olds.
"If it's national news when a small group of professionals decide not to buy anything new, and it bothers people so much, it really speaks to how deep we are into consumerism in this country," he said."

I think it might have more to do with the fact that it's being done as a conceit thing. A group of people at a dinner party say, "Hey, wouldn't it be so delightfully bohemian of us to not buy anything new for a year?" There's a group of people who do this: they're called the poor. Or the homeless. Or the people who put the holes in my Abercrombie Destroyed Kilburn Low Rise Jeans. It's an affront to people without opportunity when you squander yours. And it's not as if it's being done in furtherance of some higher aim - Pat Tillman gave up a career in the NFL (granted, for the Cardinals) to join the Army. Carnagie gave up large chunks of his wealth to fund public goods like art and music. These tools aren't sacrificing in the name of anything. They're just being smug bastards.

"Another stream of criticism has focused on whether the Compact will ultimately hurt the economy. If everyone stopped shopping, the argument goes, wouldn't that kill a huge sector of the national economy?

No, the Compacters say, it wouldn't.

"Wal-Mart is doing a lot more to kill jobs in America than we are," Perry said."

It won't undermine jobs because there are like 300 of them, and it's only February. Just wait until July, when it starts getting hot and suddenly the A/C isn't working so great. The worse part is the Wal-Mart comment. Wal-Mart is killing jobs? I mean, I guess in a very, very superficial sense that's true - Wal-Mart is literally supplanting jobs that were there before, and there is a net decrease in the number of people who are working at selling a specific class of goods in any given area after they move in. But by freeing up low-level labor employees, the aggregate economy is healthier because fewer people doing more jobs is called "Teh Efficiency."

The guy who made that comment works for a Silicon Valley tech company. I'm curious what he feels his role is, if not killing jobs. The tech revolution has destroyed more jobs than any movement in history - and that's unequivocally a good thing. You know why? Because a guy who's not spending 12 hours a day in a factory is a guy who can work in more humane conditions, and can spend his paycheck on a Lacoste polo that he'll wear with plaid shorts, loafers without socks, and collar up, as he plays golf.

Obviously it is the perrogative of these people to spend their money however they want. Something tells me they probably eat vegan, low-salt tofu that costs more than what most people in the world spend on a meal in a month, in an effort to prove that the self-enjoyment a 'non-consumerist' lifestyle affords them makes them very happy.

It's honestly, in large part, the hypocrisy that gets to me. I hate consumerism - but I'm okay with consumerism supplying my lifestyle. I hate buying things - but will still live in a reasonably nice house. I wish capitalism would die - but not before I use it to create a group on the internet, through Yahoo, that allows me to talk to people who bought machines that are solely a consumerist product. If this were just about cutting back, not buying pointless gadgets, then just get some self-restraint. But the fact that it's set up as predicated on principle is nauseating.

Honestly, I can't wait until some San Fransisco hippie gets it in his head to start a Chinese exchange program. Back pre-WWII it was actually a popular thing to do for the affluent and educated young people in Vienna to go work on a Co-op in the Motherland. Then they'd grow out of it. If people in America really believe that metaphysical superiority will be garnered by forsaking material culture, it would help if they could just switch places with a Chinese rice farmer. You get to go work yourself to death, they get to live in your San Fransisco loft. It works out for everyone!

cranked out at 8:31 AM | |

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