Friday, June 27, 2008

Lifestyle Matters.*

I had a strange realization this morning as I was sitting at my desk and sipping a "quad, nonfat mocha, with light ice and no whipped" from the predatory corporate retail "coffeehouse" whose product I have become sadly addicted to. Against a fair amount of conscious effort, I have adopted a consumer "lifestyle" as part of my identity. This insight came on as I was reading a book of essays by a whiny liberal author who often appears as a commentator on NPR. The truth is that this awareness is potentially accessible during most of my waking hours. At the same time it is also far from profound- anyone in America that doesn't know that such a dynamic is at work is either completely oblivious, or hopelessly naive.

How did all of this occur to me? The author of the book I was reading mentioned self-consciously sipping on a latte. He was obviously aware of the associations commonly made with this libation. For those of you who voted for Bush in both 2000 and 2004, a "latte" is a coffee drink made with... um, coffee... and milk(!). More specifically it is made with shots of espresso- which is basically strong coffee. Now you know the truth. If you hang out with someone who drinks strong coffee with milk, then he/she is probably a "liberal"- which means that he/she hates family values, loves faggots, and wants to kill as many babies as possible. All of this especially applies if they call this concoction by a foreign name (usually chosen from a European country that hasn't won a war in centuries).

I suppose that most people can't be bothered with this type of self-realization. Yet they no doubt recognize the cues in their fellow citizens. If they didn't, how else would they be able to determine who belonged in their neighborhood, or church, or social club? They can't very well be expected to wait out in the parking lot to see what type of automobile each drives. Perhaps we can get the media to get behind a new promotion- key chain jewelry! That way you wouldn't have to subtly place your car keys in a conspicuous place on the table the next time you decide to buy a Jellybean Mojito for that attractive stranger. He/she could just look at your bling, and immediately recognize a fellow Lexus driver.

Presumably I'm not the only one who is mortified by the ubiquitous "lifestyle" categorization of modern global capitalism. Otherwise there wouldn't be any clothing without obnoxious brand advertising prominently displayed across its surface. And it would be impossible to buy flavored water in a plain container (oh right, never mind about that one). But I am certain that I'm part of a very small minority. If this were not the case, then the malls would disappear. Plus Hollywood might make something other than the next extended commercial. It doesn't seem that we are in any danger of these things happening. In fact this is the type of monoculture our society seems to be happily trying to push on the rest of the world. It's become our principal export (besides weapons, of course).

Perhaps you don't even understand why I'm complaining about this. Am I somehow against individuality? Isn't one's "lifestyle" what truly distinguishes them from the masses? Read that again and answer the question without irony. It's becoming more difficult to actually find an American that doesn't use "lifestyle" to define themselves. It's too convenient an option. Who has the time and energy to attempt an alternative. Increasingly all criticism of the paradigm vanishes. Still the question remains- what about personality as a motivating force? What about the freak that dares to be different in his/her own head, rather than just on the surface of their body. Where's their marketing demographic? Do they exist if they don't have one? This is the true 21st Century existential threat.

* Yes... I realize that this is an obvious rant, and likely completely gratuitous for anyone reading this blog, but I just happened to be truly sickened today by the fact that "freedom" is increasingly reduced to consumer choice here in the United States.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

right on....keep it comin....MP

9:36 PM  

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