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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Choice, Consumption and Control

Choice is something we all seem to treasure..

Particularly shopping... especially choosing among a selection...

Do we buy the Tide detergent in the cheery orange bottle? or Cheer in the depressing dark blue container? Or Era in the ripe-red packaging?  Maybe we try this new Gain in the pastel green bottle with the new apple scent?

Or which winter or springtime jacket do we purchase-- the one made by Nautica or from North Face? Or Timberland?  And while at it, a new pair of jeans might be nice--  Those Lee brand relaxed fit look nice... Oh but so do those Wranglers.. And Rustler is very inexpensive.. maybe that's the pair to buy...

And which shoulder-strapped travel bag to buy?? The one from Jansport or Eastpak?  The one from Eagle Creek sure looks nice...

And we make our selections, pay at the register, snugly wrap our hands around the store bags, and smile as we feel the glowing warmth and exhilaration of Freedom while walking to our cars.

Take that Communist Soviet Russia, with your long lines for toilet paper!
But we're not conscious of the fact that all four laundry detergent brands are made by Proctor & Gamble so really your money is going to the same place.   And if you've ever spent 15min staring at the fabric softener sheet boxes to decide between Bounce and Downy, well..  um..  same company..

And we're certainly not expected to know off the top of our heads that every single clothing brand mentioned above is owned by the same company-- VF Brands.   And that the Lee jeans which cost double the price of Wrangler is made of the exact same materials on the same machines at the same plant...

In Mexico...

And oh yes, the three choices in travel bags... all VF Brands too...

Now this is no slight or indictment on these corporations... it just goes to show how easy it is to dupe people into believing they have freedom and choice when its really quite minimal when you progress through all the branding..

A funny side note...  In economics, the term 'consumption' means the using up of goods and services.  The more traditional definition is that of a disease; specifically a progressive wasting away of the body especially from pulmonary tuberculosis..

Kinda interesting, yes?
~ Val Kilmer as "Doc Holliday" -- making consumption look super-cool

But really in this world... this late 20th to present early 21st century existence, its the only freedom we seem to be allowed left--  freedom to consume.

Date night at home-- Do we cozy up for a romantic comedy..  Perhaps rent an exciting thriller with car chases and guns galore?  Or a silly comedy to unwind with?

Chances are the same movie studio made all three films.

So what did freedom mean before all this technology and the cultivation and perfection of the art of advertising i.e. creating 'need' and 'want' where otherwise it didn't exist?

Freedom meant something religious.. to practice one's faith even if different from the majority.  It meant to choose where to live, even if that meant packing up the ole' Conestoga wagon and trekking through two-thousand miles of danger; dust, dirt and desertion...

Freedom meant thinking as one wished.. Expressing as one wished.. No fear of arrest.. or fines.. or job loss..  And freedom meant to pursue whatever dreams of a better future one may have inspired in them...  To create a product or a service... To leave a destiny...
Freedom meant to fail then get up, dust off.. try again.. and if failed again, well.. get up again re-dust off and try once more...

A lot of that is lost today..  its hard to pinpoint who took it..  The 'Man' is as good a scapegoat as any...

But its also our fault.. our parents.. their parents...

Technology breeds convenience... Why venture off in the pursuit of food, learn the skill of killing an animal for its meat and skin to make clothing from, etc, when everything one needs can be found within a short convenient drive to your local Supercenter.

Just go to college.. that's the answer of course.. Problem solved..

Can't honestly say which is better... Certainly can admit if all modern convenience suddenly went Kaput! then the vast majority of us would all be seriously Fucked!

And here's the devil of it all:  Technology may breed convenience but that breeds boredom...  So we went from a society in colonial and pioneer days singularly focused on survival to one singularly focused on boredom-killing...

And few outlets serve that purpose than shopping...
And what do you need to make shopping Truly enjoyable? (Besides money or credit cards that is)...  Selection

20 different brands of detergent... Does it really matter to the shopper that 4 corporations are combined responsible?  Not really...

We contently are oblivious to the fact that our two political parties are owned by the same 'company' much like Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell are all owned by the same conglomerate...  Real choice would be too difficult..

The perception of choice is quite enough, thank you...

To feel free.. truly free in this life we live, we really only demand one thing:  That when we go to the store, there is a blue bottle, and a red one..and orange..and green and white..and teal... and we select what we wish, and merrily push that cart...

Savoring democracy... the freedom of choice.

Well after such a lengthy post we all here are ready to do some mall shopping..  Think a visit to The Gap would be fun... Or stop by Banana Republic...  Then again Old Navy has some really super stuff... Or go online to check out one of those newer clothing retailers like Peperlime or Athleta..

Oh.. wait!  All owned by Gap Brands, Inc.

Shit.