That Cabin in the Woods sounds better and better
Slate and NPR have latched onto a “trend” — which means, of course, that it’s totally passe now — called “Hauls.”
Apparenlty, teen girls go shopping and then come home and as they take all of thier stuff out of their bags, they record it and post it on You Tube, with commentary. I heard about this on NPR first and nearly ran off the road because I was staring at the radio, mouth agape, in disbeliefe. At first I thought I’d missed a month and it was April Fool’s Day.
As I’ve been following the financial crisis, one of the things that’s struck me, again and agian, is the fact that the US economy is driven by consumer spending. In fact, it makes up more than 70 percent of our economy. It took me a while and some really long afternoons listening to NPR’s Planet Money Team before I figured out what “consumer spending” means.
I figured it was the stuff we consume: food, fuel, etc.
No, I finaly figured out that it’s what I’ve started to call Peir Barn Crap. You know what I’m talking about — the random and useless and expensive things that they sell at Pottery Barn and Pier One and all those catalogs that we get in the mail. The catalogs that encourage us to “decorate” our homes, and redo them every few years to keep up with the trends. The catalogs that want to sell us oversized things to hang on our walls, like ten foot pencils or paper flower chandeliers for $80.
That crap is the vast bulk of our economy? I was boggled. But then i started looking around.
There are several stores in Davis Sq. that sell… crap. Cute, neat, vintage, unqiue, artsy… crap. Almost everything we get from my mother is crap. The vast majority of stuff at a toy store is crap (what’s more, it’s plastic crap). Hell, even at my beloved Starbucks, the walls are lined with special seasonal stuffed animals and branded doohickeys that are, in the end, irreducably, crap.
And now we have teen girls who are buying crap and then posting about it. And other people are watching it! (I have not watched, I need to admit to that right now. I heard the story and read the article but that’s it.) Our entire culture, especially the so-called girls culture, is directed at the consumption and disposal of crap.
Now, I will be the first to admit that when I flip through Pottery Barn, I say “crap crap crap… .OOOH! I want one!” I don’t object to ALL decorative or useless things. Art is essentially useless, in a purely practical sense, but it’s vital for our soul.
But … it’s meant to be a grace note, a small touch, a sweet treat at the end of a hearty meal. But America’s diet of consuption and our diet of food has switched to mostly sweet crap and not enough real stuff.
This is all pretty obvious, of course, to anyone who spends time thinking about this stuff. But increasingly, as I have less and less control over what The Child encounters in the world, I worry about how to counteract this sickness in our society. I’m explicit about it all the time — “What’s that mommy?” “A catalog of stuff we don’t need.”
But she’s four. And perfectly willng to say, casually, “If we don’t have one, why don’t we just go buy one?”
I’ve talked to her about money and about how it impacts the environement. But it’s hard when you’re surrounded by people for whom chocolate milk is the only milk their children drink, a trio of grandmothers with credit cards and a strong desire to spoil their only granddaughter, and a coffee shop where there is a wall of constantly changing seasonal stuffed toys, right at eye level.
My major concern is that I’m not doing enough. The culture is so awful, the whole society is so saturated in this disgusting brand of consumerism, that it’s hard to escape. As a general rule, I try not to buy things we don’t need. I buy used stuff when I can. I try to limit my art to actual art, made by a person and not mass manufactured. I dont go to malls or big box stores if I can help it. (Books are the exception to all these rules, though.) But I also know that I consume way more stuff than I need, that I can be lured in by something shiny and new and want it and sometimes buy it. How do I keep those walls for her when I can’t hold them for myself?
The solution would be to go somewhere that this culture is seen as awful as it really is. But where is that? Outside of starting our own commune (SO not going to happen), I don’t know where to go.