Posts Tagged ‘choosing to work’

As the review puts it, this is the litterbox they would use on the Death Star.  I don’t know what my cats would think of it.  My own thought is that this is a spectacular example of conspicuous consumption of a special geeky sort. And that brings me to this article, which is more of a plug for the new book Spent than it is a review.

PacManPlantingholeThe idea that display consumption [which is partly for your ego, but also to signal your personality and ability to afford x or y] drives consumer behavior isn’t new to me.  I am firmly convinced that’s why my cousin drives a Hummer [or did, before his business model tanked], and why I have trouble finding anything I want to buy at the mall: he has people to impress, and I don’t think it’s worth the trouble to wade through all these other people’s fashion expectations, except in very particular circumstances. In kindergarten, we were given crayons and told to draw the most wonderful shoes we could imagine.  The other girls were drawing elaborate high-heeled shoes, or fancy slippers, or go-go boots, and I was trying to invent a low purple shoe-boot with golden cleats, although I’d never seen such things before. [When I finally laid eyes on a pair of Dunham hiking boots in the 1970s, oh, I was soooo happy.]

What I’d like to put together for my students is that display consumption helps explain two other sorts of non-optimal behaviour — flouting environmental regulations and the infamous Western Diet.

Putting your mansion in an area ridiculously prone to flooding or fire is just another way of saying that you’ve got the resources to replace your home [with or without federal disaster aid]. You may not, of course, _really_ have those resources, but that’s what you want to display.

And if for centuries only the rich could have white flour [because it took a lot of effort to make, and had to be paid for in some way], then could it be possible that’s how the meme of “more processed,

No, I was taking the picture!

more refined” =  “better for you” got entrenched?  Certainly, now there are food industries, which would like to justify their existence, and many middle management/research folk whose livelihoods depend on this system. The biological imperatives for high calorie, low effort foods plays into this system as do cultural ideals about what “prosperous” looks like.  Is it tanned or pale? Is it fat or thin? Is it the person who doesn’t have to do physical labor, or is it the person who chooses to do physical labor? [This reminds me of the woman who was yelling in the street one day, demanding to have someone explain to her why it was white folks ‘wanted to act like farmers?!!’ — our neighborhood has quite a few avid gardeners, and the idea that we would expend energy that we didn’t have to just boggled her mind.]

No, I was taking the picture!

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