Thursday, December 20, 2007

Stuff, part two

Following on from my earlier post on stuff and the having of too much of it, here's a marvellous video on the subject, to stir the outrage of and strengthen the desire for change among thinking persons everywhere:
[Consumption] is the heart of the system, the engine that drives it... That is why, after 9/11, when our country was in shock, President Bush could have suggested any number of appropriate things: to grieve, to pray, to hope. NO. He said to shop. [...]

Guess what percentage of total material flow through this system is still in product or use 6 months after their sale in North America. Fifty percent? Twenty? NO. One percent. One! In other words, 99 percent of the stuff we harvest, mine, process, transport—99 percent of the stuff we run through this system is trashed within 6 months. Now how can we run a planet with that rate of materials throughput?

It wasn’t always like this. The average U.S. person now consumes twice as much as they did 50 years ago. Ask your grandma. In her day, stewardship and resourcefulness and thrift were valued. So, how did this happen?

Well, it didn’t just happen. It was designed.

Shortly after the World War 2, these guys were figuring out how to ramp up the [U.S.] economy. Retailing analyst Victor Lebow articulated the solution that has become the norm for the whole system. He said: “Our enormously productive economy ... demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption ... we need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate.”

Quoted from the script. The annotations are mine.
In the immortal words of Tonto, "What do you mean we, paleface?"

Tell me again, o great capitalist, why I should make myself poor, my home a garbage dump, my neighbourhood a chemical wasteland, in order to make you a tiny bit more egregiously rich than you already are? Because I think I must have misunderstood something there.

In related news the current sidebar quote from Stephen Fry is from an essay on sustainability, climatic change and the scarcity and necessity of common sense. Long, but worth every word. Go read.

In unrelated news Theriomorph has written a marvellous, moving essay on body, embodiment and the politics of appearances. Also long, but also worth every word. Go read.

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Blogger Pacian said...

George A. Romero has always seen shopping as a kind of mindless pagan worship. cf. the original Dawn of the Dead, whose anti-commercial stance was changed to a 'more relevant' theme of post-9/11 survivalism for the 21st century remake.

"But I am doing my best to do my best."

That's classic Fry. :-)

December 20, 2007 at 2:31:00 p.m. GMT+1  

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