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Consume


A while ago, a friend of mine from college told me that there were three basic rules to economics:

  1. People Are Stupid.
  2. People Are Evil.
  3. Where The Lines Meet.

I’m not really into consumer products in three particular ways. First, I’m not really interested in most of pop culture. Second, I value experiences and objects with personal meaning over possessing large amounts of stuff. Third, I value quality of items for those items I do own. Also, I find the physical experience of being at the mall among the teeming masses to be a physically sickening experience. I don’t have this same experience in urban cores or even at occasional forays into ‘upscale malls,’ and I think it’s more just the random stupidity combined with brightness combined with pervasive advertising.

First, pop culture. I could really give a crap, and I’ve never really been interested in most of pop culture with the exception of music aside from its potential to be remixed and punned upon. I don’t watch a lot of television, and therefore miss out on a lot of crap. I think, though, that if you don’t pay attention to pop culture tv to some extent, you become frozen in time and start making jokes about the cartoons you watched in childhood all the time, which is pathetic.

Second, I have become over the last several years fairly uninterested in owning things without personal meaning. I used to own a house which was full of stuff, but I’ve since downscaled a lot. Those things that I kept are mostly things linked to some sort of personal experience. People experience through narrative, and I’ve chosen to keep those things that remind me of parts of my personal narrative. Maybe I’ll post about some of them here eventually. Because of this, I’m willing to give away things or share things with my friends, because I’ve come to value friendship more than how much random crap I can pile up. This isn’t to say, of course, that my eventual plans don’t include another house and more crap, but this time I will have crap in line with my values.

Third, I want to own quality things. One of the variants of the poverty trap in this and other nations is that, for the most part, cheaper things wear out quickly. If you spend $50 on shoes that last a year because you didn’t want to spend $85 on shoes that would last three years, you are participating in false economy. Lack of wealth pressures people to participate in false economies because they need the extra, say, $35 for other things so they cannot afford to spend less money.

I am not interested in buying things that will wear out, it’s part of my upbringing. Unless I’m participating in a destructive environment like camping on an alkali flat for a week, I want my things to last. If I care enough about a thing to get it, I care about it enough to keep it. This tendency on my part is so extreme that I engage a friend who is ‘easily distracted by fashion and novelty’ to advise me on fashion and style, because otherwise I will buy things that appear of good quality, in the usual colors, and consider the matter closed

The mall, to me, is where people spend too much money (stupid) on large quantities of poorly manufactured goods (evil) where their expectation of value matches what they have to spend (where the lines meet.) Because of this tendency, I think that the mall, and ‘mall culture,’ brings out just about the worst in people; it fosters an unhealthy relation between people and their possessions, divorcing objects of meaning and encouraging raw purchase over experience.

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