Thursday, January 08, 2009

A Modern Image of Evil

The image of Evil Part One: Credit Card Commercials
This visa credit card commercial pisses me off:
What do we have? A machine. A mindless bloody machine made up of people and credit (yes the check card is still a credit card and sends a certain message - the use of plastic=good). A rhythm is offered by the commercial. There is a popular song. We move to the beat like a well oiled piston - humans hypnotized - yes, and yes again - swinging our hips, legs and arms: one, two - one, two - one one, two two, one one, two two . . . people in the store, grabbing lunch. Lunch is ordered, packaged, tossed to the customer along with the drink all in time, Nothing should ruin this smooth, mindless ritual. We get to the cash register and swipe our plastic - lovely because on one had to take the time to verify our bloody identity (yes, so nice in a would where identity theft is on the rise), yet there it is - money should be fast, easy. Life should be easy. Why think? Really . . . why bother? Life is easier without thinking - just purchase mindlessly - that's nice (can you hear the smoothing music now). Then Bam - an asshole with cash! How dare this smart, intelligent man stop our mindless purchasing with plastic. Really! The music must stop. We must stop. and . . . . glare . . . . stare . . . if only looks could kill . . . embarrass this man for thinking outside the box, on his own two feet enjoying his own rhythm. How dare he have a different rhythm - and a good credit score. Screw you asshole! We hate him, we might even form a mob scene because he stopped us and our mindless swiping of plastic. Yes maybe. Like in Frankenstein, with fork-knives and pitch and fire - I see it now, the Capital One guys, "what's in your wallet" will help - we will take him down! But wait. He is gone and the music - ah the music of mindless buying is back. Thank god we can stop thinking again!
This attitude, this way of being and shopping and living scares the shit out of me. Look at our economy? Look at people's lives! And yet, those who offer us credit, visa and the rest promote this mindless spending without knowledge of responsibility. The fine print, much to fine for most of us to get allude us as we are confounded by the repercussions of our spending--the credit card companies promote a culture of irresponsibility and then they are angry when they get what they have sown. Not only are we left with stupid spending practices, but with stuff we do not need.
The image of Evil part two: Consumerism
Now, I like my stuff, my "shit," as much as the next person. I enjoy my iphone, my computer, Wii and so on - but I can walk in my house. I can say no to stuff - easily-I do not need the phone, I wanted it - there is a difference. I can actually purge possessions without worry. But I know so many people who cannot. People like Joan Cunnane (77) who was literally crushed to death by her crap because she couldn't define herself outside of stuff. Shopaholic pensioner dies in her home after being buried under mountain of unopened items | Mail Online @foleymo on twitter posted this article while promoting @seattleorganize's business of helping people organize their stuff (oh our crap). Reading the article I was horrified by what happened to this poor woman--crushed by her thousands of scarves and eventually died because of dehydration. The author, James Tozer, writes:

The neatly-organised goods took up so much space in her bungalow that she only had a 2ft wide path to get around it, and both her car and garage were packed with other purchases.

She was reported missing earlier this week when she failed to attend a hospital appointment but while police searched her home it took two days to sift through her possessions and find her body.

A link to another article tells of how "an eccentric loner" died in a similar way when he was crushed by the stuff he had collected, allowing himself a "network of tunnels built from rubbish in his home." I have known and do know people like this and they worry me. Replacing human to human contact with stuff--searing for connections to be made through the action of buying a thing is just as absurd as fighting terrorism by buying a new pair of shoes. And yet, we have been trained by our culture to define ourselves through our crap. My heart is breaking today.
We must stop. We must become the socially-osterized man in the above commercial and know how much money we have, and what we can spend, and what we really need to own. I am linking to Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping because he fights against our need to shop instead of creating real, viable human interactions. And he is right, we must stop and look community and the local for our real needs. Dr. R


  1. You know, I have worked with the elderly as a volunteer, and it is quite common that they become hoarders of crap, piling up towers of old newspapers, for example, leaving only little passageways to walk through and so on. But now they BUY the stuff they hoard!!! Scary, scary indeed. The commercial makes it all look so harmonious, so cool, so natural ...

  2. Amen, sister!

    This is why I am bothered by the federal bailout of the financial industry. I feel that we are rewarding bad behavior. As shown by that commercial, the banks and financial institutions have trained us to be slaves to buy more stuff than we need or can afford. Then, when when the chickens come home to roost, as they apparently are right now, we bail them out and the cycle starts all over again!

    Nothing, it seems, has been learned.

  3. Hi Mr Snappy and Miss Trudy,

    Thanks for your thoughts! Of course it goes without saying that I agree with you both. We are perpetuating a process that is slowly killing us, or maybe with the credit crisis you could say that the load of crap we have bought is falling on us.

    I only hope we break the cycle.

    Dr. R

  4. I sometimes wonder if our kids will be better with plastic, since that will be money for them, rather than these green pieces of paper.
    Or not.
    What strikes me is the utter uselessness of much of what we buy. Even the poorest of us will spend money just to get a "designer" label, as if that somehomw makes the product work better (when often the opposite is true).
    I suspect that we will only learn to value what is actually valuable (i.e., useful) is as a result of hardship. Hopefully it wont take too much hardship, but it probably will.
    We are a nation of very spoiled rich kids, and we will probably end up like many of them do, but without a rich daddy to save us.

  5. Dave,

    Plastic is fine if you KNOW what you are getting into - most people don't. If they did, they wouldn't open as many credit card accounts or carry such debt. But I suspect that credit card companies like it this way - they want us uneducated so we can find ourselves sandwiched between them and unforgivable debt.



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