Bad Ideas, Consumerism, Cultural Traits, Culture, Human Nature, Ideas, Living, Marysa, Memes

Consumerism

(About a 3 minute read)

I suspect I look at consumerism in a rather unusual and somewhat off-angle way.  In other words, I’m most likely standing off to the side of most of us when I look at it, seeing it from an unusual angle.

Kind of reminds me of the “off-angle” view I had in middle school regarding the issue of girlfriends.  Most of the boys preferred their girlfriends to actually be breathing, I myself preferred Playboy center-folds. After all, the center-folds were the more approachable girls, the less daunting ones.

Have you ever bought anything merely or just for the fun of buying?

Myself, I think that’s a fairly universal human pleasure.  I think most of us now and then buy stuff solely — or at least mostly — for the pleasure we get from buying things.

To me, consumerism is the consumption of goods, services, and anything else primarily or solely for the pleasure we humans can take in acquiring things.

In practice, consumerism can be pure — we can buy something only and solely for the fun of acquiring it — but so far as I can see, consumerism is most often merely the main or primary reason we buy something.

If we buy mainly for some other reason than the pleasure of acquisition, it’s not consumerism to me.

So, three possibilities:

A Super-Soaker water gun bought for no other reason at the time of purchase than the fun of buying it consumerism.

A Super-Soaker bought mostly for the fun of buying it is still consumerism.

A Super-Soaker bought mainly for the necessary and just purpose of soaking Marysa Storm from head to foot before she even knows what’s coming is by no means consumerism — it is instead altogether fair and righteous shopping in the eyes of the gods.

I suspect most people think of consumerism as pretty close to, or even the same as, materialism.  “Not so!”, say I.

As I see it, droves of people consume “spiritual” things all the time.  I suppose in truth, they are not technically consuming things like love, friendship, Jesus, or gratuitous anger at the truly evil folks in our world who happen to disagree with their views on politics and the proper methods of wanking.  Yet, I’m pretty sure it’s possible to, say, seek love from other people mainly or even solely for the thrill of discovering someone loves you.

“Oh, look Ma! I just acquired a boyfriend!”  A few months later, if that, and the novelty has won off.  Time to consume another one.

Could it be that seeking “likes” on social media might at times be a form of consumerism, albeit an admittedly harmless one?  According to my def, “yes”.  Shocking, I know!  Please “like” this post if you disagree with me!  Teach me the errors of my way!

An economist sees consumerism in economic terms, a sociologist sees it in sociological terms, an anthropologist sees it in cultural terms, a spiritual person sees it in spiritual terms.  They’re all WRONG!  ALL WRONG! I win! I win!  Here, I believe I am channeling my inner psychologist to see it in psychological terms.  Or perhaps, even in philosophical terms.

Alienation, Alienation From Self, Authenticity, Bad Ideas, Being True To Yourself, Citizenship, Class War, Consumerism, Cultural Change, Cultural Traits, Culture, Democracy, Economy, Equality of Opportunity, Eudaimonia, Free Spirit, Freedom, Freedom and Liberty, Goals, Happiness, Human Nature, Ideas, Ideologies, Liars Lies and Lying, Living, Meaning, Oppression, Passion, Plutocracy, Political and Social Alienation, Political Ideologies, Politics, Purpose, Quality of Life, Self, Self Identity, Self Image, Self-determination, Self-Flourishing, Self-Realization, Society, Values, Well Being

A Most Curious Journey: The 100 Year Long Transmutation of Americans from Good Citizens into Good Consumers

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Paul offers his view’s of how and why Americans have been socially engineered over the past 100 years to become good consumers rather than good citizens.

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THE CRITICS EXPLODE! “Sunstone needs to get laid.  Politics to him is what sex is to the most naive nun on earth — whoever she may be.  It is no more than a world of sins, venial sins, and deadly sins.  It is a world that his delusional mind fearfully attempts to grasp with all the misconceptions of a pure virgin.  But what fool would lay Paul Sunstone?  Not I!  And not you either!  Sunstone merely needs to get laid, but he absolutely must be guillotined.”  — Aloyse Leblanc, Le Critique Passionné de Blog, “La Tribune Linville”, Linville, France.

Continue reading “A Most Curious Journey: The 100 Year Long Transmutation of Americans from Good Citizens into Good Consumers”

Abuse, Alienation, Alienation From Self, Authenticity, Authoritarianism, Bad Ideas, Being True To Yourself, Capitalism, Class War, Consumerism, Cultural Traits, Culture, Free Spirit, Freedom, Freedom and Liberty, Fundamentalism, Human Nature, Ideologies, Jackie, Liars Lies and Lying, Life, People

And the Coyotes Yearned in the Night

(About a 4 minute read)

I have risen in the night
To see Mount Elbert on fire
With the white-blue light
Of the moon to turn it
Into a distant ghost.

It seemed in the peace
Of that night
Wisdom became visible, tangible,
And beautiful;
Passion for life became life itself,
And our audacious authenticity
Became the sole Truth,
More real than the true gods.

But I know that we are apes
Equidistant
From the wisdom of the bonobo
And the foolishness of chimps.

I have risen in the day
To see your self and spirit
Defeated and yoked
By the obscene demand
Of your being forced
To make a living
On the rich man’s terms.
Your authenticity is dead

Though you haven’t eyes to see the fact,
Your authenticity is dead.

You have bought the lie, my brother.
You have bought the lie, my sister.
That you cannot be yourself.

Now even your holy desire
To lie with each other’s bodies
Is sold back to you twisted,
Perverted by the merchants
Of fashion and entertainment.

By the merchants
Who are the new Shakespeares,
The new Goethes, the Rilkes,
The Einsteins, the Darwins,
The Sidharthas, the Lao-Tzus.
The sages have become prostitutes.

Even Jesus has been weaponized.
The fundamentalists
Have crucified him again,
Enslaved his ghost
To their corrupt and unholy ends.
So that now the one who came
That you might live
Has become your pallbearer,
The gravedigger who
Each day buries
Your authenticity afresh.

They tell you not to be true
To you yourself and to love,
“It’s a world-destroying sin —
Your moral duty is to go along.”

Everything good in this world
That your humanity can touch
Sooner or later is turned
By the people for whom power
Means more than truth itself.

Turned, and twisted, and perverted.
Raped, debased, and oppressed.
Sold back to you as organic,
As natural, as the truth at last revealed —
But by the painted maws of diseased whores
That you call your leaders
And your friendly billionaires.

And you, my friend, believe them —
That’s what I don’t understand.
It’s a mystery how you always believe
The old and ancient lies are never lies.

Once up among mountains
On an evening when a comet
Hung in the bejeweled sky,
And the coyotes called
(Yearning voices in the night),
I sat naked with Jackie,
My honest nude body touching
Her honest nude body
As we sat side by side.

She was seventeen that year.

Troubled with the challenges
Of any young life.
She asked for clarity and guidance
From a much older man.

I told her be herself.
In six ways and seven times,
I told her be herself.

And the coyotes yearned in the night.
The coyotes cried out to her that night.
A comet hung in the sky.

Allies, Brotherly Love, Capitalism, Citizenship, Community, Competition, Consumerism, Cultural Traits, Culture, Fairness, Free Market Capitalism, Friends, From Around the Net, Giving, Human Nature, Life, Morality, Obligations to Society, Philos, Society, Values

Never Break the Circle

(About a 1 minute read)

Years ago, there was Mike,
A Native American man who belonged
To the people of a Southwest nation,
And who was trying to teach his son
The people’s traditional values.

Can you imagine how tough that was?
Maybe the values are the same
But the world is not.
No, it’s not the same at all.
But Mike was determined,
Still made the effort.

Each weekend he drove his boy
Eight hundred miles South
To the villages where
He could play with his cousins,
Talk with his grandparents,
Learn from the whole village
How to walk with one foot on the earth,
And with the other foot firmly planted
In the spirit world.

His son made Mike proud.
Once the whole community
Gathered to share candy —
I think Mike called it,
“Halloween, Hopi style.”

Forming a circle of young and old,
The people tossed the candies around
For several minutes, catching and tossing
Back the candies, the people shared
A good thing in life, and stopped
Only when everyone had something sweet.

Everyone.

“Cooperation”, Mike told me,
“It’s how the people live.
Not like what he learns in school.
There it’s fight for yourself,
Live for your close kin alone,
And screw all the rest.”

Consumerism, Education, Happiness, Intellectual Honesty, Late Night Thoughts, Learning, Life, Reason, Thinking, Truth

Late Night Thoughts: Intellectual Honesty, Social Engineering, Meditation, and Sex Lives (July 1, 2018)

(About a 7 minute read) 

A couple weeks ago, I looked out my door to see a doe trailed by two spotted fawns passing through my yard in broad daylight — quite an unusual time of day to spot deer moving about so near to the center of the city.

A day or so later, presumably the same doe and fawns — but I’m not sure about that, since I didn’t get their names the first time around.

Since then, just the usual three or four raccoons, and those at night — nearly every night.

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The truth isn’t neutral, is it?  I don’t mean “neutral” in the most important sense — in the sense of being objective.  But rather how we so often feel emotionally about it as being either for or against what we believe or are willing to accept.  As everyone from Plato to the present has known, emotional attachments or aversions can distort rational thinking.

On a perhaps more abstract level, we are subject to cognitive biases — Those are genetically inherited, systematic ways our brains function that cause us to deviate from rational thinking.  The most famous of them seems to “confirmation bias” — a tendency to  “search for, interpret, focus on, and remember information” in a way that confirms our existing notions and expectations.

So far as I can see, there are only two practical remedies.  First, a good education in critical thinking skills,  beginning early in life, and very much including the effects of cognitive biases on us, but also including logic and semantics.  Still, I don’t think that would be enough.

To me, the key is to recognize how much  easier it is for us to notice that someone else is gone off the rails in their reasoning, than it for us to notice we ourselves have.

And then build on that.  Teach the kids to seek out and find people through-out their lives who they can reliably trust to give them honest and accurate feed-back or reality-checks on their reasoning.

I suspect a likely side-effect of that kind of an education would be a general awareness of the importance of intellectually honesty.

Yet, I have little hope any such education will become generally available — at least not anytime soon.  We don’t have the best tradition in America of funding schools well, for one thing.

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July Fourth.  I do not know how far we have departed from the concept of “citizenship” that folks like Alexis deTocqueville noticed we embraced back in the early days of the Republic, but I suspect it’s a great deal further than most of us would be comfortable with — assuming we were to fully grasp what we have lost.

Volumes can and have been written about that, but I would like to focus on Edward Bernays and what he called, “The Engineering of Consent”.

As Bernays believed back in the 1920s, when he founded the public relations industry in America, that the social and psychological sciences had advanced to the point they could be used to engineer consent — or systematically get folks to “support ideas and programs”,  as he sometimes put it.

Not just through normal, more or less amateurish, means of persuasion, but through greatly more effective and reliable “scientific” means.

Now, despite his goals, Bernays was not the evil villain of Hollywood melodramas.  For one thing, he urged professionals in his newly created field to guard against any temptation that might involve them in such nefarious things as undermining the Constitution — especially, the “freedoms of press, speech, petition and assembly”.   Moreover,  his motives seem decent enough in some ways.

Bernays was Sigmund Freud’s nephew, a Jew, and quite aware of how mobs could quickly turn into pogroms against innocent people. Like many people, he thought democracies were especially susceptible to mob rule and violence.  So, it seems that one of his goals was to find ways to defuse those mobs before they even happened.

Yet, regardless of his motives, Bernays made what I regard as more or less a pact with the devil, for his strategy to make democracy safe for everyone has now had a hundred years to bear fruit — and what fruit!

In a nutshell, this was his strategy: Persuade people to seek self-fulfillment through consumerism so that they would be so satisfied with the acquisition of ever more and more material goods and services, they would not feel any need or desire to “take on” or change the status quo.  In short, they would be content with their lot.

Put differently, he sought to change the American culture and mindset from a people intimately concerned with politics as a means to at least create the best possible conditions under which people could seek self-fulfillment, to a people intimately concerned with consumption as the best possible means.

I think if deToqueville can be at all relied on for a glimpse of the political activism of the early Republic, then a comparison of that activism with today’s relatively insipid and dispirited activism is instructive.  We have, to some large extent, realized Bernays’ dream of turning us from a nation of citizens into a nation of consumers.

Should you be interested to learn some of the details, I recommend the award winning documentary, The Century of the Self.

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I read a startling statistic awhile back.  About 40% of married, middle-age women in America report no longer being interested in their sex lives, and that their husbands no longer satisfy them.

Perhaps it’s selfish of me to have immediately thought of myself, but it’s just a fact that I do take pride in how satisfied my two ex-wives were during our marriages.  A whole lot was wrong in both marriages, but not so much the sex.

I often heard them say the sex was “extraordinary”, “mind-blowing”, or even once or twice, “Had never been better”.   At least, those are the sorts of things they would tell me on the nights they came home very late.

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There are so many hard things in life, and I think most of us are all too aware of at least the big ones.  Raising kids, saving up enough money for the rainy days that come too soon and too often, being laid off,  looking for work, struggling for a promotion, and so forth.  The list just goes on.

One of those things, though, is especially curious to me.  As fully as possible appreciating people we are profoundly familiar with.  Most of  the time, I think I do.

But sometimes I meet a new person, and after I’ve gotten to know them a bit, I have the strangest moment of discovery when I realize that I quite likely appreciate them more than most anyone greatly familiar to me.

What to do about that?

New Years resolutions and other self-admonishments just don’t work for me here.   They’re ok up to a point, maybe.  So long as I keep reminding myself of them, I seem to make some progress, but then within a few short weeks, I fall off the bandwagon.

Trying to make a habit of appreciating someone also doesn’t work.  When I get into a genuine habit of “appreciating” someone, it soon becomes artificial.  “It’s Tuesday — time again to tell my brother how much he means to me.”

About the best thing I’ve found has been meditation.  Meditation seems to sharpen my senses a bit, making me more aware for at least a little while of what’s going on inside (e.g. hunger) and outside of me (e.g. the raccoon crossing my yard, a shadow in the night).   In an analogous manner it seems to sharpen my awareness or appreciation of people on the days I mediate.

Moreover, if I meditate frequently enough, then appreciation seems to become, if not permanent, at least somewhat more lasting than the other methods I’ve tried.

Last, it can have the peculiar effect of my seeing someone, not just in terms of what he or she means to me, but somewhat more objectively.  Perhaps.

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Colorado Springs is a conservative town.  It also has quite a few “city deer”, and they are so numerous now that they are viewed by many of us as a problem.

A while back, there was a serious proposal put before the City Council to solve the deer problem by legalizing hunting the animals within city limits.  With rifles and shotguns.

Not all my conservative friends are just as bonkers as I am, but it’s sometimes reassuring that at least some of them are.  So long as they don’t make the rules.

Business, Consumerism, Economy, Education, From Around the Net, Goals, Happiness, Internet, Learning, Life, Meaning, Outstanding Bloggers, Play, Purpose, Quality of Life, Stolen From The Blogosphere, Talents and Skills, Vacilando, Work

Vacilando: “Not All Who Wander Are Lost”

(About a 7 minute read)

In Spanish there is a word for which I can’t find a counterword in English. It is the verb vacilar, present participle vacilando. It does not mean vacillating at all.  If one is vacilando, he is going somewhere, but does not greatly care whether or not he gets there, although he has direction.   — John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America.

Traveling can sometimes be a straightforward, grim business of getting from one place to another as efficiently as possible.  The goal looms large then, it becomes the lens through which everything else is seen.

Is the airport crowded?  The goal sees the throngs of people as nothing more than an obstacle to it, certainly not an opportunity for people watching.  The flight is delayed?  The goal is annoyed, irritated, and in no mood to fully enjoy the chance to finish reading a novel.  At the hotel, there’s just enough time to shower, change, and then for one last time prepare for the business meeting.  The goal doesn’t even think of exploring a nearby restaurant.

As a rule, the more efficiently one pursues a goal, the more ruthlessly one turns chance opportunities into distractions, annoyances, obstacles, or into things ignored, completely unseen.  In the end, one whittles down traveling to the point its only reward is attaining the goal.

Vacilando is almost the opposite of straightforward, grimly efficient travel.  It still has a goal, but the goal does not dominate the journey, it is not the lens through which everything along the way is single-mindlessly seen.  Vacilando, so to speak, is travel with a sense of humor.  The chance opportunities are not the obstacles of straightforward traveling, but rather the punch lines of vacilando.

It seems to me that vacilando, as a concept, should not be confined to merely labeling one kind of traveling.  For I believe the concept is more broadly applicable to life itself.  When we vacilando through life, we have some destination in mind, but we are in no efficient rush to reach it.  We are open to chance opportunities, detours, explorations, adventures.  And why shouldn’t we be?

In a discussion of vacilando over on the blog, Singledust, Frank Hubeny remarks:

It seems to me best to be more concerned [in life] about the means rather than the ends which we may not understand and which may turn out differently (both better or worse from some perspective) than we anticipated.  [bracketed material mine]

Indeed, no matter how firmly we believe in our life’s goals,  no matter how fixed an idea we have of them, life all so often plays with our expectations, throws back at us something that is not quite what we had in mind.

I remember a friend of mine, Al, who in his sixties perfectly reconciled himself to ending his life as a single man.  Then at 66 or 67, he had a heart attack.  That landed him in the hospital where a much younger 34 year old nurse took notice of him.  The two ended up moving in together.   And I’ll wager there’s not a person on earth over the age of 15 who doesn’t have dozens of such stories.  Stories of our firm and solid expectations knocked to pieces by life’s apparently endless fascination with messing with us.

To attempt to journey through life as straightforward as a bullet shot at a target is perhaps a species of insanity.  It certainly sets one up for disappointment, which if not entirely inevitable, is surely the odds on favorite bet of the gods.  But worse than any disappointment at not reaching one’s goals, might be the missed opportunities for exploration, discovery, growth, and unexpected fulfillment.

I have read of psychological studies that find people towards the end of their lives value the experiences they’ve had far more than the possessions they owned.  If they have regrets they are usually not for failing to own a bigger house, a faster boat, more jewelry, or finer clothes; their regrets are for missing their kid’s performance in Arsenic and Old Lace, failing to take that trip down the Amazon, so seldom eating as a family, forever putting off the dance lessons, making excuses not to attend the family reunions.

But those are merely regrets for what one knows one missed.  Whole new worlds can be closed off to us when we wear the blinders of too efficiently  pursuing a narrow goal in life.  It is both tragic that today’s economy forces so many of us to almost single-mindlessly live as if enslaved to financial goals.  We work longer and longer hours to meet the obligations of our mortgage, our kid’s higher education, our retirement fund, and so forth, taking fewer and shorter vacations, spending less and less time with our family and friends, ruling out so many life enhancing things that we no longer have the time for.  For far too many of us, the journey through life is becoming an unending business trip.

That’s unlikely to change unless and until enough people rise up to demand a more equitable share of the world’s wealth — for we live in an ironic age:  The world economy is the richest in the history of humanity, and grows leaps and bounds by the minute, yet because those riches are increasingly concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the average person in most developed countries now struggles harder than his or her parents and grandparents did forty or fifty years ago, when the global economy was a fraction of what it is today.

Is vacilando still possible?  Surely to some extent it is, but I wonder whether it is a realistic option on a large scale.  I spent five and half years at university, taking courses not only in my major and two minors, but in nearly every major field of science with a little English literature thrown in for the fun of it.   Yet, tuition was low back then and I graduated virtually debt free, and with an education that has endlessly enriched the quality of my life.  Today’s graduates, however, must “rush” through university in four years, least they rack up too big of a bill, and yet, they still graduate with an average student debt of $37,172 .  Vacilando on a large scale might be all but dead.

Dead or not, it still strikes me as a worthy ideal, and it still seems obtainable on smaller scales — How one spends a weekend, or even a single day.  Even, if one has the time, how one approaches an activity, such as a hobby.  Are you planning out what you wish to accomplish as if your hobby were a military campaign, or are you meandering through it, exploring as much as progressing?  On a small scale, vacilando still seems possible.

D. H. Lawrence somewhere in The Virgin and the Gypsy writes that the challenge for youth is to find the “unexpected and undiscovered door” to their future fulfillment in life.  An implication is that that door is different for different people, for it cannot be found once, it’s location marked, and then maps to it distributed to others.   Yet, discovering it, and then passing through it, is essential to living a fulfilling life.  Lawrence’s door, I think, represents the juncture where our talents meet the needs of society, for it is there that we find our bliss in life.  And I believe, based on my experience, that life has a way of leading us to that door when we respond sensitively and inquisitively to the chance opportunities life offers us.

As I mentioned earlier, there is a discussion of vacilando going on over at Gina’s blog, which can be found here.   Or you are more than welcome to comment on it on this blog.  Either way, please let me know what you make of the concept!

Last, J. R. R. Tolkien reminded us that, “Not all who wander are lost”.  That seems to me to capture something of the core spirit of vacilando.  To wander, but with a sense of direction.


Hat Tip to Aayush, who’s explanation for the name of his blog, The Vacilando, got this whole thing started.  Aayush is an admirable 16 year old blogger whose clear, easy-to-read prose could be that of a 32 year old.

Authoritarianism, Capitalism, Class War, Consumerism, Economy, Equality, Equality of Opportunity, Greed, Oppression, Political and Social Alienation, Politicians and Scoundrels, Politics, Quality of Life, Quotes, Society

The Peasants versus the Uber-Rich and the Coporations (In Three Short Quotes)

“Give me control of a nation’s money and I care not who makes the laws.”

Mayer Amschel Rothschild

“History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling the money and its issuance.”

James Madison

“If you can control a people’s economy, you don’t need to worry about its politics; its politics have become irrelevant.”

Wendell Berry