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28 April 2003 @ 08:44 pm
Dr. Stranger, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Consumerism...  
Spurred by discussion in East Asian Studies today, I would like to file yet another gripe with the system of economy/economic governance we find ourselves under today.

People used to make things, completely on their own. If you were a potter, you made bowls and pots, if you were a tailor, you made clothes, etc. Then, later on, people became part of an assembly line. And a person would make a zillion little bits of something a day. Now the machines do that. What do people do? They work in the service economy. Like Billy Crystal says in City Slickers, "What do I do? I sell air!" When all you do is sell air, empty space is all you have to show for it.

It was bad enough when people had to buy things to prove how worthy they were as human beings, how "classy" (what an terrible word!) they were. The new car showed you were somehow better than the neighbor who didn't have or couldn't afford the latest model.

Now, people aren't even that connected to each other anymore. People don't consume to prove their worth to others, they consume to prove to themselves that they have an identity. That they exist. In a world where people are expected to be pleased to sell hot air to one another, the only thing you have to show for what you did and who you are is what you buy with that money. Not only are people isolated from each other, they are isolated from themselves.

I think everyone has an internal need to be creative, to have something to show for themselves. Even if it's just in their spare time, to write, to draw, to code their own program, to make quilts and clothes like my mother, to create a small world of 1954 Kansas centered around a railroad layout like my father, to do SOMETHING that not only helps keep you in touch with other people, it keeps you in touch with yourself.

Sure, I still buy stuff. We all do. But I want to choose those things I buy out of who I am, not have them choose my personality for me.

And, also, thanks to all the people who are involved in a creating and participating communities like LJ. It's keeping connections where they should be, and I love that.

End of rant.
Mood: ranting
Music: Coldplay - Everything's Not Lost
(Anonymous) on April 28th, 2003 06:10 pm (UTC)

And, also, thanks to all the people who are involved in a creating and participating communities like LJ. It's keeping connections where they should be, and I love that.
p.m./a.e.xoexohexox on April 28th, 2003 06:27 pm (UTC)
where can it be said that connections -shouldn't- be?
Laudrelaudre on April 29th, 2003 01:00 am (UTC)
You know -- this reminds me of an insight I had a few months back, about one of the reasons I respect the blue-collar ethic more than the white.

Even people who work on an assembly line can point to a finished product and have something concrete, something tangible, to show for it. People who fix things also have something concrete to point to at the end of the day.

Yet people who work in a white-collar field, an office job... their product is ephemeral. It's the air that Billy Crystal is talking about -- sometimes not even that. When a CEO goes home at night, sure, he's probably got a nice, big house, several cars that cost more than the house I live in now, but how does he explain to his kids what he does?

A mechanic can take his kids to the garage, and they can see what he does. A construction worker can point to a building and explain to his kids how he laid the marble tiles in front of it. A factory worker can bring home an example of what she puts together.