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Consumerism’s ‘desert of the real’

Written By: - Date published: 8:48 am, January 6th, 2014 - 47 comments
Categories: capitalism, culture, Environment, poverty, quality of life, sustainability - Tags: ,

The phrase ‘desert of the real’ comes from the movie the Matrix.  This comes from the point when Neo perceives the ‘real reality” behind the computer simulated reality in which he has been living.  Morpheus says “Welcome to the desert of the real”.

Zizek Slovak drew on this scenario in his article, ‘Welcome to the desert of the real‘, which was specifically focused on the politcal and media manipulations of the events of Spetember 2001 in New York.

The Wachowski brothers’ hit Matrix (1999) brought this logic to its climax: the material reality we all experience and see around us is a virtual one, generated and coordinated by a gigantic mega-computer to which we are all attached; when the hero (played by Keanu Reeves) awakens into the “real reality,” he sees a desolate landscape littered with burned ruins — what remained of Chicago after a global war. The resistance leader Morpheus utters the ironic greeting: “Welcome to the desert of the real.” Was it not something of the similar order that took place in New York on September 11? Its citizens were introduced to the “desert of the real” — to us, corrupted by Hollywood, the landscape and the shots we saw of the collapsing towers could not but remind us of the most breathtaking scenes in the catastrophe big productions.

Reading George Monbiot’s article from early in December, “Materialism: a system that eats us fron the inside out“, I am reminded again of the phrase, “Welcome to the desert of the real”.  Monbiot’s article draws on research that indicates buying loads of stuff tends to be both “socially destructive and self-destructive”: it lowers self-esteem and results in dissatisfaction and depression.  Monbiot describes consumerism’s version of the desert of the real behind the propaganda that promises the good life through endless spending.

But there is something in the pictures posted on Rich Kids of Instagram (and highlighted by the Guardian last week) that inspires more than the usual revulsion towards crude displays of opulence. There is a shadow in these photos – photos of a young man wearing all four of his Rolex watches, a youth posing in front of his helicopter, endless pictures of cars, yachts, shoes, mansions, swimming pools and spoilt white boys throwing gangster poses in private jets – of something worse: something that, after you have seen a few dozen, becomes disorienting, even distressing.

The pictures are, of course, intended to incite envy. They reek instead of desperation. The young men and women seem lost in their designer clothes, dwarfed and dehumanised by their possessions, as if ownership has gone into reverse. A girl’s head barely emerges from the haul of Chanel, Dior and Hermes shopping bags she has piled on her vast bed. It’s captioned “shoppy shoppy” and “#goldrush”, but a photograph whose purpose is to illustrate plenty seems instead to depict a void. She’s alone with her bags and her image in the mirror, in a scene that seems saturated with despair.

The images Monbiot links to are these:

 

 

Other research cited by Monbiot shows that people in a controlled experiment, who

were repeatedly exposed to images of luxury goods, to messages that cast them as consumers rather than citizens and to words associated with materialism (such as buy, status, asset and expensive), experienced immediate but temporary increases in material aspirations, anxiety and depression. They also became more competitive and more selfish, had a reduced sense of social responsibility and were less inclined to join in demanding social activities.

Another piece of research found a two-way impact between materialism and loneliness – each having a tendency to increase the other.

So behind the consumerist facade of the alleged reality that consumer capitalism creates the goodlife, there is a barren reality of consumerism self-destructively eating its consumers.  And, at the same time, rampant consumerism is consuming the world’s resources, creating environmental destruction in ways that will ultimately destroy capitalism and its illusions.

According to a post on the Alliance Party website, citing Bryce Edwards, people are becoming burnt out or “bored with economic inequality and poverty issues“.  Or perhaps too many are just unwilling to face up the the “desert of the real” and look critically at our current system; too unwilling to consider the system they (to a greater or lesser extent) accept, needs to change.

47 comments on “Consumerism’s ‘desert of the real’”

  1. RedLogix 1

    Very finely put together post karol.

    Or perhaps too many are just unwilling to face up the the “desert of the real” and look critically at our current system; too unwilling to consider the system they (to a greater or lesser extent) accept, needs to change.

    When the mind and the heart are pulled in two directions, the heart always wins. Our hearts have been seduced by several generations of precisely calibrated advertising and propaganda, and while in our rational minds we know ‘inequality is a bad thing’ we quickly get bored with it, because there is no immediate payback. Easier to go shopping again.

    I’ll cheat and blockquote the rest of Alliance article:

    It is perhaps time think of policies that would reduce inequality and promote social justice as universal policies that would benefit everyone and present them as such, rather than as targeted at a certain sector.

    Everyone would be better off if all healthcare was free, even doctors visits and prescriptions. Everyone would better off if education at every level was totally free, right down to school camps and materials for practical classes. Everyone would be better off if interest free home loans were offered to all first home buyers (up to a set price in each area). And everyone would be better off if interest free loans were offered to all homeowners to insulate, double glaze, and install a means of heating their home up a set value (around the cost of a upgrading a modest three bedroom home, perhaps).

    Everyone would be better off if there was a universal basic income whether people are in paid work or not, and a universal child allowance. No one need feel guilty or inadequate for receiving help. Nor could anyone complain if everyone got the same entitlements. Though higher earners would pay higher taxes.

    My attention was drawn by that word ‘universal’. Something that’s in the ordinary best interests of everyone.

    • karol 1.1

      Thanks, RL.

      And yes, I do usually agree with “universal” (social security, financial) benefits – easier to administer, less likely to divide the “deserving” from the “underserving” poor..

      But the term “universal” in the allocation of money, doesn’t actually apply to all people, though, it is available to all people in specific circumstances. Child allowances, for instance, only apply to those with children under a certain age. The focus on “home owners” re-insualtion only applies to home owners and includes rentiers. And yes, everyone benefits from a well designed and comprehensive social security system.

      Agree with UBI.

      But I see the alliance still thinks there’d be a need for progressive taxation.

      The alliance solutions don’t provide any solutions for weaning people off their consumer addictions.

      • Draco T Bastard 1.1.1

        The alliance solutions don’t provide any solutions for weaning people off their consumer addictions.

        Neither does any other party. In fact, they all go on about higher incomes so that people can have more and thus fueling the consumer addiction.

        The only way to address this would be through the removal of money and moving the economy to full democracy. Then the discussion and voting would be about what everyone gets and how to provide it. No more of some people having more than others which forces poverty upon the many.

    • karol 1.2

      On “universal” and its diverse meanings or uses: Just read Morgan Godfery’s latest post on Maori politics. And am reminded of the “universalising” tendencies of western imperialism – including the more liberal versions of it.

      Parekura understood that Maori politics is (literally, culturally and spiritually) relationship-based. That’s not to say Maori politics can’t think beyond its relationships, rather the practise of Maori politics is particularised.
      […]
      The art of Maori politics reflects the importance of its intellectual foundations: ideas like rangatiratanga, mana whenua, mana moana, whakapapa, kanohi kitea, ahi kaa and so on. Each idea is relationship based – for example mana whenua is about the local relationship with the land – and each idea manifests itself differently from hapu to hapu, iwi to iwi and locality to locality. For that reason, it’s difficult to universalise Maori politics.
      […]
      The New Zealand political tendency (and the Western tendency, see colonisation and globalisation) is to universalise its values and experiences.
      […]
      The logic of Maori politics is different. Parties and candidates that particularise and integrate with Maori concepts will be more successful.

      “Universal” – different meanings, and implications when applied to various aspects of financial arrangements and/or culture.

      • weka 1.2.1

        “My attention was drawn by that word ‘universal’. Something that’s in the ordinary best interests of everyone.”

        Yeah, this.

        In the recent debate here I’ve been thinking that one of my reactions against one of the presented arguments is my discomfit with pitting the working/underclasses needs against those the middle classes. Didn’t want to say anything because I was unsure how much of that discomfit was from my own residual middle classdom. But I think that the pitting against fails for 2 reasons.

        One is that we need the middle classes to change (themselves and society), and telling them they’re greedy selfish fucks who have to learn how to share and care is not a winning strategy. They still have lots of resources for making change and we need to find ways of engaging that.

        The other is that the middle classes who are feeling the pinch are less likely to attend to overall poverty issues when they are being told that others are more deserving than they (plus the bit above about being told they’re greedy selfish fucks). This is just human nature, and a feature of the middle classes who will see their own suffering within its own context not the context if people they don’t have much or anything to do with.

        (just made some broad generalisations there).

        I like what Edwards is saying in the Alliance article. If we make this about everyone, then we are promoting the very community and bridge building that neoliberalism has tried to detroy. We can also reframe wellbeing as people can feel good about themselves when working towards the good of the whole community as well as their own needs.

        The question then is this: can we develop politics that are proactive in promoting universal wellbeing at the same time as keeping a dialogue going about the very real issues that affect the worst off?

        (The danger in the universal approach is that it risks being co-opted by the middle classes who think they are working for everyone but are in fact just reinforcing their own privilege first (looking at you Labour, and you Josie Pagani et al).)

        • karol 1.2.1.1

          Some very good points, weka.

          It’s about a kind of double-focus – double helix – everything connected ultimately.

          I think there is in fact, no clear cut divide between middle and working classes. In marxist terms, most of us are the proletariat, selling our labour to the ruling classes. We are all given a certain amount of privileges, some more than others – that suck us into the system. Many in the “middle classes” are one misfortune away from joining the least well off – so tend to cling to our privileges. And the ruling class will start to withdraw privileges if we look to be too blatantly, and too effectively challenging the system.

        • KJT 1.2.1.2

          If everything is universal there is less motivation for the upper classes to sabotage it.

          Because they are getting it to..

          Look at super.

    • weka 1.3

      Our hearts and our minds, but also our dna. Part of this picture is that deeply embedded in us via evolution is the urge to gather and store resources – humans for most of their history have had cycles of excess and lack, that’s been the norm, so we are probably hardwired to make the most of abundance when it is in front of us (hardwired here doesn’t mean compelled, it means that we have a built in propensity. We still have choice too).

      The really bad bit IMO is that capitalism and the consumerist society have now trained that propensity in such extreme and bizarre ways. I have no idea how that could be undone. Some people frame it as a spiritual crisis (I don’t mean religious). Which is possibly true, and is akin to what karol raises in terms of impact (depression etc). But again, where is the answer, the how to change? (and please don’t tell me to smash capitalism or a variation of, because that’s not a how either).

      This is why Peak Oil and Peak Everything are probably the saving grace of the whole mess.

      • Ennui 1.3.1

        Not sure Peak anything will be a saving grace, there seems to be a human urge to keep consuming even when the end result is patently obvious. Hence I reckon the oil will all get used up even if it kills us all in the process. Its actually as K points out profoundly depressing if you dwell on it too much.

        So how to change? IMHO that’s a very individual choice: cut your carbon foot print (not as easy as it sounds…there are countless gotchas), stop consuming what you dont need…..even that is difficult. I plant things, grow things, gather the same…this however probably has only a tiny impact on my consumption.

        To keep the sanity, hows this for a quote from one of the most divisive dangerous and damaging men in history…”If I knew the world was going to end tomorrow I would still plant this apple tree today”. (Martin Luther).

        • weka 1.3.1.1

          Individual choices yes, and then encouraging that amongst our fellow humans. There are lots of self-interest benefits to reducing consumption and planting apple trees :-)

          We need that AND other strategies. Individual choices alone aren’t enough IMO.

          Re Peak Everything, once people have to think about food and fuel shortages in their daily lives, a fast reprioritising of what is important in what and how we consume will ensue 😉

      • Bill 1.3.2

        Just not sure about any evolutionary urge to gather and store. Maybe I’m being simplistic and missing your point, but I have no basic urge (as I presumably would) to blanch and store excess garden produce for example – even though I recognise that would be an intelligent thing to do and that it’s well within my ability to do so. As a result, a fair amount goes to seed if it’s not given away. Anyway…

        That aside, the implication is that capitalism and consumerism is merely reflective of and a natural progression or expression of these urges to gather and store…except that we now gather and store ‘stuff’ instead of nuts and berries.

        If that was the case, then any explanatory analysis on the formation of capitalism that points to the inordinate amount of violence and compulsion that accompanied capitalism’s rise… that claims it was necessarily unleashed to overcome and defeat resistance…would have to be viewed as completely beside the point …even wrong headed.

        I tend to go with the ideas along the lines of that we used to fill our lives (and find meaning) by filling it with relationships (community). And I think it is no small coincidence that consumerism has risen as community has diminished.

        So, now we are atomised and alienated to a remarkable degree. And we compete rather than cooperate to attain even the most basic of material goods or necessities…it’s ‘natural’ we are told or tell ourselves…always been this way, we say…. while overlooking the very unnatural historical record of resistance and compulsion.

        Anyway, if we achieve the basic material needs and if we aren’t bound by poverty, then maybe it’s just a simple fact that we are encouraged through fashion and advertising to tend towards filling any ongoing sense of dissatisfaction or sense that ‘something is missing’ via the obvious route of buying stuff and craving stuff and generally, in summary, of ‘chasing the dragon’.

        Other routes, such as religion or drugs are available, but they ain’t exactly encouraged (not so money to be made there). And community? Forget it. It was community that had stood in the way of what we have today. And hey, anyway – you have the power to choose and make decisions ‘down the mall’. So you are a fully engaged and normal, functioning person.

        Solutions? Well, opting out and simply not buying stuff does nothing much…not unless it’s done in conjunction with reclaiming and exercising meaningful power over our own life’s. And we can’t do that in isolation…we need each other – community. And, I’d argue, that has to be done with a commitment to rediscovering and developing democratic ways of interacting and doing things at every opportunity that presents itself, otherwise we wind up right back where we started in one form or another – if we even ever leave in the first place.

        • Saarbo 1.3.2.1

          “I tend to go with the ideas along the lines of that we used to fill our lives (and find meaning) by filling it with relationships (community). And I think it is no small coincidence that consumerism has risen as community has diminished.”

          Yes, and the driver of the loss of “community” is the demise of the 40 hour week, when people have to work through the weekend then there is no way they can socialise normally.

          Sports clubs no longer function they way they used to in the 70’s because too many young people have to work weekends, other institutions that used to facilitate community building suffer in a similar way I am sure.

          • Bill 1.3.2.1.1

            Yes, and the driver of the loss of “community” is the demise of the 40 hour week..

            There are lots of drivers, but sure, the loss of the 40 hours working week is one. There’s a host of others, some blatant and others more subtle, some with large impacts and others with smaller impacts. The deliberate physical dispersal of inner city communities post WWII in some places…TV…a shift away from the situation where your neighbour was probably also your workmate…the automobile…the rise of the ‘out of town’ supermarket that killed smaller local businesses….and on, and on, and on.

          • Flip 1.3.2.1.2

            ‘Private wealth public poverty, private poverty public wealth.’

            A saying picked up from somewhere that says it well.

        • weka 1.3.2.2

          Just not sure about any evolutionary urge to gather and store. Maybe I’m being simplistic and missing your point, but I have no basic urge (as I presumably would) to blanch and store excess garden produce for example – even though I recognise that would be an intelligent thing to do and that it’s well within my ability to do so. As a result, a fair amount goes to seed if it’s not given away. Anyway…

          Evolution doesn’t compel individuals in the way you suggest. Consider the idea that humans are hardwired to desire fat and sweet foods. This is because the people that survived to reproduce were those that were most likely to not only have access to nutrients for survival (fat) and grow big brains (sugar), but they were the ones most likey to eat more of it. This doesn’t mean that all people now are like that, just that the propensity is there. Further theorising, human cultures have long been tribal and interdependent ie the tribal unit also gained evolutionary advantage by certain behaviours, so it’s possible that not everyone in the tribe needed to be a hoarder.

          However I wasn’t really meaning a squirreling away type of thing. I was more meaning that because many gatherer/hunter peoples evolve through boom and bust cycles within their lives, if they came across a bee hive full of honey say or a herd of bison, then their survival was dependent on taking advantage of that right there and then to the fullest, and those people that did that the best survived better and passed on the ‘gene’ for doing best to their offspring. It’s my favourite theory currently for the human tendancy to overshoot. Most cultures have done it, some have learnt from it and adapted to try and not do it, others haven’t.

          There is probably another evolutionary aspect there – that having lots makes one satiated. This obviously works on a food/physiological level. I’m suggesting it might work for things like firewood, tools, clothing, etc too.

          That aside, the implication is that capitalism and consumerism is merely reflective of and a natural progression or expression of these urges to gather and store…except that we now gather and store ‘stuff’ instead of nuts and berries.

          If that was the case, then any explanatory analysis on the formation of capitalism that points to the inordinate amount of violence and compulsion that accompanied capitalism’s rise… that claims it was necessarily unleashed to overcome and defeat resistance…would have to be viewed as completely beside the point …even wrong headed.

          Only if you think that things are uni-causal, or that one valid cause negates another. I don’t see any contradiction between the evolutionary ideas I’ve suggested and theories around the rise of capitalism say 5,000 years ago (if that’s what you were referring to). My main issue with the 5,000 yr theory is that there is still no explanation as to why people chose to settle en masse in the first place. But maybe I’ve misunderstood and you were meaning the last few hundred years (even then, I don’t see a contradiction). I often wonder if our disagreements or missing each other are because of timeframes.

          I tend to go with the ideas along the lines of that we used to fill our lives (and find meaning) by filling it with relationships (community). And I think it is no small coincidence that consumerism has risen as community has diminished.

          Completely agree.

          • Draco T Bastard 1.3.2.2.1

            My main issue with the 5,000 yr theory is that there is still no explanation as to why people chose to settle en masse in the first place.

            That’s been known for some time – the development of agriculture between 7,000 and 10,000 years ago.

            • weka 1.3.2.2.1.1

              What I meant was it doesn’t explain why people chose agriculture in that particular way. Other people at other times made different choices, or evolved differently.

              • Draco T Bastard

                What I meant was it doesn’t explain why people chose agriculture in that particular way.

                Because it resulted in a more stable food supply. Of course, we’re really only hypothesising over that as we have only archaeological digs as writing didn’t appear until about 5000 years ago.

                The first statement of yours I quoted has absolutely no connection with the second. There’s no way that I could get your second statement from your first.

                • weka

                  It’s one sentence in a very long post about something else entirely, all written while I was very tired. Really, this is what you want to talk to me about?

                  I understand well enough the theories about the rise of agriculture and the relationship between that and capitalism and other things. I’m surprised you don’t know this about me because we’ve had this conversation quite a few times before, and there aren’t that many people on ts who talk about this stuff.

      • Draco T Bastard 1.3.3

        But again, where is the answer, the how to change? (and please don’t tell me to smash capitalism or a variation of, because that’s not a how either).

        Replace capitalism with democracy and a resource based economy. How to do this is education about how bad the present system is and a vision of how a democratic resource based system would be better for the majority of people, i.e, using present democratic systems forcing the change against the wishes of business people and the two main political parties.

  2. just saying 2

    And yet, whether at the back of our minds, or on the tip of our tongues-
    everybody knows…

  3. tricledrown 3

    Other research points out that money can only buy a limited amount of happiness.
    Once your income hits $75,000 or more the maximum gain is only a meagre 3%.

  4. Pasupial 4

    Karol

    Spelling error “speicifcally” in 2nd line below clip.

    Otherwise an important, if depressing, post for these; after holiday budgeting every penny days. Those images mainly have me wondering at the credit card balances of the youths depicted.

  5. Ad 5

    The heroic positioning here – that those who refuse to shop are resisting an enormous insidious complex – is just a wee bit simplistic and self defeating.

    There are many false binaries one could put up as alternatives. I don’t need to repeat comparable cartoons about all kinds of activists that we get on Whaleoil and others.

    Monbiot is one of those commentators who sees the world as so fucked that the message is one of simple melancholy. It’s as unhelpfully extreme as Gordon Gekko snarling “Greed is good.”

    • Tracey 5.1

      if you have time could you further clarify these two points from your post?

      “…and self defeating”

      “There are many false binaries one could put up as alternatives. “

    • Naturesong 5.2

      For a slightly more in-depth, though still really a summary, of the history leading up to this state of affairs check out the BBC documentary series The Century of the Self by Adam Curtis.

  6. Tracey 6

    Some things are worth repeating

    “were repeatedly exposed to images of luxury goods, to messages that cast them as consumers rather than citizens and to words associated with materialism (such as buy, status, asset and expensive), experienced immediate but temporary increases in material aspirations, anxiety and depression. They also became more competitive and more selfish, had a reduced sense of social responsibility and were less inclined to join in demanding social activities.”

    This past few days I have been thinking more and more about Plato’s cave and those shadows

  7. infused 7

    Thought this was pretty much common sense.

  8. infused 8

    Also, reason most of these kids are rich these days is the tech bubble is flairing up again. So many new companies getting millions, if not billions thrown at them.

    • Tracey 8.1

      “Celebrities, businesses and even the US State Department have bought bogus Facebook likes, Twitter followers or YouTube viewers from offshore “click farms,” where workers tap, tap, tap the thumbs up button, view videos or retweet comments to inflate social media numbers.

      Since Facebook launched almost 10 years ago, users have sought to expand their social networks for financial gain, winning friends, bragging rights and professional clout. And social media companies cite the levels of engagement to tout their value.

      But an Associated Press examination has found a growing global marketplace for fake clicks, which tech companies struggle to police. Online records, industry studies and interviews show companies are capitalizing on the opportunity to make millions of dollars by duping social media.

      For as little as a half cent per each click, websites hawk everything from LinkedIn connections to make members appear more employable to Soundcloud plays to influence record label interest.

      “Anytime there’s a monetary value added to clicks, there’s going to be people going to the dark side,” said Mitul Gandhi, CEO of seoClarity, a Des Plaines, Illinois, social media marketing firm that weeds out phony online engagements.

  9. tricledrown 9

    So what is the altenative to all this endless consumerism.
    How do we change.
    Just looking around my house the number of gizmo’s we don’t need 3/4’s of them .
    But jobs will Go in the short term so what do we do instead.
    We need to look at viable alternatives if you want people to change.

    • Ennui 9.1

      Tricledrown, could not agree more: one of my bad acquisitive hobbies is looking (and rarely buying) old kitchen utensils, tools etc that predate plastic and mass production….things like hand cracked bean slicers, hand powered mincers etc. Wonderful, the funny thing is most of them cant easily break, are as good as new and do a better job. We have progressed (?).

      • karol 9.1.1

        I’ve tried moving away from plastic containers to china or glass. Unfortunately the glass breaks much more easily.

        • Ennui 9.1.1.1

          Catch 22. I do some bottling and preserving, especially at this time of year. Glass is best for that, having said that for general dry storage plastic is good and lasts (without breaking) forever.

        • Naturesong 9.1.1.2

          Glass is pretty good actually.

          I have my Grandmothers old glass lemon juicer (just a representative, so you can see the type of juicer I’m talking about).

          It is heavy, roughly finished, you can see and feel the obvious ridges from the mold it came from.
          About 100 years old now, it was a cheap item back then, and is hardy enough to survive being dropped on the wooden kitchen floor more than a few times.

          It’s my most treasured kitchen utensil (except for maybe my two main chefs knives) and is a constant reminder that if you buy a tool, it is best to get one that will last for a lifetime (as it will pay for itself many times over).

          • karol 9.1.1.2.1

            My mum had one of those juices. Currently my kitchen floor has ceramic tiles – very unkind to glass dropped on it.

      • infused 9.1.2

        Can’t beat old utils…

  10. captain hook 10

    the present state of rampant consumerism is like a psychotic grab for anything you can get before the shit hits the fan.
    the world is slowly going mad and its a race before it all craps out and keeping up with the joneses in a futile contest of emulation that is doomed to failure.

  11. captain hook 11

    and once the good earth produced trees and animals and now its malls and plastic fluffy jobs for deluded infants.
    not looking good.

  12. Danyl 12

    The ‘Desert of the Real’ concept traces back through Baudrillard to a very short story by Borges:

    . . . In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.

  13. Ad 13

    So lets try a few things out here.

    1. Shopping is better at feeding our libidinal drives than sex now is. As cigarettes are just a nicotine delivery device, so shopping is a desire-delivery device. And even more accurate and sustained for hours of pleasure in its targeting.

    2. Shopping is far more real than commenting about it on the Internet. A bit rich pal.

    3. The author is simply spurning the analog world (represented by shopping) because they can’t afford it. Shopping is confirmed as the nexus of desire that only the 1% can do at will, precisely because authors such as Monbiot despise it and despair of it. The Queen of the Elves said “All shall love me, and despair.” She was talking about the Smith and Caughey’s sale.

    4. Shopping is perfectly gendered as a response to patriarchy. Male cortisol levels achieve those of fighter pilots when faced with a supermarket and children and female spouse. Women get to enjoy transaction and value and courtship, without any of the actual mess of relationships (which are predominantly male). Males need man-crèches to enable shopping. Overall, malls subvert patriarchy.

    5. Shopping is the most intellectual activity most people do. As a reprieve from driving and domestic drudgery, watching television, and the ridiculous elitism of sport, shopping is a perpetual calculation of desire, timing, savings, credit, usefulness and anomistic uselessness, art, glamour, beauty, and of course class calibration. Shopping is the only artform devoted entirely to pleasuring you across the whole field of your mind’s happiness.

    6. Shopping, not video games, is the primary replacement for art. Advertising deploys all the techniques that five millennia of art making have taught us. And then, with a personal transaction of value, gives you something in return to make real in the world. Shopping in this sense is magical behaviour, all the religion we will now ever need.

  14. Flip 14

    Wow. The commentary here was outstanding. It gave me so much to think about and it is great to see thoughts put so well. I kept writing responses but they kept getting longer and were taking some time by which time the moment had past.

    There will have to be many changes to change this self destructive behaviour but I’ll put up a couple of the ideas I had written in a response to http://thestandard.org.nz/new-zealand-is-doing-nothing-about-climate-change/ which would help move us to a less consumeristic society and prolong the planets resources and humanities quality of existence.

    1. Tax waste. Waste in production, waste in usage and waste in disposal. Waste should not be a tradeable commodity. (including GHG) The tax would be used to reduce resource demand, recycle and reuse waste if possible, and to provide for the loss of the resources for future generations.

    2. .Have a ‘Ministry/Commissioner for the Future’ to represent future generations who are not represented in our current systems. All policies/laws would have to be reviewed and account for future generations needs.

  15. Tracey 15

    We still have my mother in laws dryer. It is over 35 years old. Things are deliberately not made to last together with bullshit pricing for parts and repair.

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    Waiting lists to get on waiting lists are the new norm for thousands of New Zealanders living with chronic health problems, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. “The Government’s underfunding of the health sector is forcing district health boards to… ...
    2 hours ago
  • Delays in spending damage Whanau Ora
    Criticism from the Auditor General that a greater proportion of Whanau Ora funds could have been directed to families rather than administration is something that needs to be investigated thoroughly, says Social Development Spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni.  “To quote the report… ...
    3 hours ago
  • Walking the talk on sexual violence
    Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis is putting election campaign promises into action, organising a hīkoi to raise awareness around sexual violence. The 17-day MASSIVE (Men Against Sexual Violence) walk – from the electorate’s southern boundary to the northern tip… ...
    5 hours ago
  • Govt dumps infrastructure costs on Akld ratepayers
    The Government’s failure to invest in infrastructure to service its Special Housing Areas is dumping massive costs on Auckland ratepayers, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. Auckland Council has declined to approve three new Special Housing Areas on the city… ...
    6 hours ago
  • Labour reforms encourage bad employers to be bullies
    The Government’s changes to labour laws have created a climate that allows bad employers to bully their workers, Labour’s spokesperson for Labour Issues Iain Lees-Galloway says. “Tauranga worker Bertie Ratu was threatened by her employer Talley’s for asking her local… ...
    6 hours ago
  • Parliament workers on zero-hour contracts
    The Government must take urgent action and insist the contractor who employs workers at Parliament on zero-hour contracts end these unfair work arrangements, Labour Leader Andrew Little says. “Speaker David Carter has confirmed in his reply to questions from Labour… ...
    6 hours ago
  • RMA: We need to know
    Environment Minister Nick Smith needs to spell out to New Zealanders what they can expect from his substantial reform of the RMA, says Labour’s Environment spokesperson Megan Woods.  In an open letter to the Minister, Megan Woods has urged him… ...
    8 hours ago
  • He Aituā! He Aituā!
    “Papā te whatitiri! Hikohiko te uira! Ka wāwāhia ki runga o Hikurangi maunga, o Waiwhetū kainga. “Kua katohia e te ringa kaha o Aituā i tetahi pou whakarae o te reo Māori. Nō reira kei hea taku manu tui… ...
    1 day ago
  • Stratoil – Iwis do what National will not
    Tomorrow, Far North tribal representatives for the Te Hiku o Te Ika tribes will be travelling to the head office of Statoil to discuss the opposition to its oil exploration program in Te Reinga Basin. Statoil have decided to begin… ...
    GreensBy Gareth Hughes MP
    1 day ago
  • Mana whenua head North to oppose oil drilling
    It was good to hear the news that a mana whenua delegation is heading north, a long way north, to make their views known about the proposed  oil drilling off the Northland coast. The roopu will be representing iwi and hapu… ...
    GreensBy David Clendon MP
    1 day ago
  • Ministers must act on 111 failure
    Lives are being put at risk if the company contracted to manage emergency 111 calls can’t cope with increased numbers, Labour’s ICT spokesperson Clare Curran says. “Saturday’s situation where people calling the emergency services were unable to get through and were… ...
    1 day ago
  • People trying to save lives don’t deserve abuse
    WorkSafe New Zealand staff trying to save lives on farms shouldn’t be subjected to a tirade of verbal abuse from a Member of Parliament, Labour’s spokesperson for Labour Issues Iain Lees-Galloway says. “Chester Borrows has labelled WorkSafe New Zealand officials… ...
    1 day ago
  • Action on laws needed in Privacy Week
    The Government must speed up promised law changes to reassure the public their private information is in safe hands as the country marks Privacy Week, Labour’s associate Justice spokesperson Clare Curran said today. “The previous Justice Minister Judith Collins announced… ...
    1 day ago
  • Māori Caucus call on iwi leaders support
    Labour’s Māori caucus has sent an open letter to iwi leaders around the country seeking their support for meat workers currently in employment negotiations with Talleys.  “We are aware that when Talleys locked out workers for a period of 89… ...
    1 day ago
  • National still splashing cash on charter school experiment
    New figures confirming that charter schools are still being funded at up to four times the rate of their state school counterparts shows just how desperate the National Government is to make its experiment a success, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris… ...
    3 days ago
  • Regions pay price for inaction on housing
    New figures put the cost of an average Auckland home at $800,000 and show large parts of the country facing stagnant or falling property values, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “The QV data released today shows residential property values… ...
    4 days ago
  • Regions pay price for inaction on housing
    New figures put the cost of an average Auckland home at $800,000 and show large parts of the country facing stagnant or falling property values, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “The QV data released today shows residential property values… ...
    4 days ago
  • PPP schools not at expense of community groups
    The Government must guarantee community groups will not be the losers out of its signing of a $298 million deal for four more public private partnership (PPP) schools, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says. “Community groups will find it more… ...
    4 days ago
  • Surplus: The biggest broken promise ever
    Bill English has failed to deliver on his double-election campaign promise of a surplus by this year, instead delivering seven deficits out of seven budgets, says Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson. “The Government spent seven years and two election campaigns… ...
    4 days ago
  • McDonald’s serves up some McHappiness
    Unite Union and McDonald’s have given New Zealand a perfect way to celebrate May Day by reaching a settlement that strikes another blow against zero-hour contracts, Labour spokesperson for Labour Issues Iain Lees-Galloway says. “Earlier this week it looked like… ...
    4 days ago
  • Justice delayed and delayed and delayed
    Today we found out that the case of the prominent New Zealander  charged with indecent assault will retain name suppression until the case goes to court in about a year. Putting aside the appropriateness or not of granting name suppression,… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    4 days ago
  • No golden age for books
    The ‘indefinite’ postponement of an initiative designed to encourage people to read Kiwi books will be a major blow to local authors, publishers and booksellers, Labour’s Arts, Culture and Heritage spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.News that the annual NZ Book Month… ...
    5 days ago
  • Cracks showing in economy of milk and houses
    Fonterra’s latest cut to its forecast farmgate payout confirms that an economic black hole of $7 billion is opening up that will seriously affect the regions, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “The cut confirms the long term trend of… ...
    5 days ago
  • Human Rights – An Issue for Everyone
    This week, the issue of human rights has been everywhere in the news. We have seen John Key prioritise a free trade agreement with Saudi Arabia over all else with no guarantee of human rights clauses being included. We have… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    5 days ago
  • Govt inaction on housing keeping rates high
    The Government’s failure to rein in the housing crisis means the Reserve Bank Governor cannot lower interest rates despite inflation being at 15-year lows, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “Inflation is below the target band and the economy has… ...
    5 days ago
  • What do our refugee policies say about us?
    It is my pleasure to share with you a blog from Hester Moore who is currently interning with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees in Cairo, after graduating from the Univeristy of Canterbury. Sometimes, as a nation it is… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    5 days ago
  • Tamaki state housing transfer risky and desperate
    The Government’s transfer of 2800 state houses to the Tamaki Redevelopment Company -- to be announced at 9am today -- shows it's desperation to off-load state houses and show some kind of action against Auckland's out of control housing crisis,… ...
    5 days ago
  • Tamaki state housing transfer risky and desperate
    The Government’s transfer of 2800 state houses to the Tamaki Redevelopment Company -- to be announced at 9am today -- shows it's desperation to off-load state houses and show some kind of action against Auckland's out of control housing crisis,… ...
    5 days ago
  • Woodhouse should close work visa loophole
    The Immigration Minister must revoke the work visas of temporary Chinese engineers working on KiwiRail trains and close the loophole that allows their employers to avoid New Zealand employment laws, says Labour’s spokesperson for Labour Issues, Iain Lees-Galloway. “New Zealanders… ...
    6 days ago
  • Job losses show folly of Chorus’ copper cuts
    Chorus and the Government are neglecting the copper broadband network, leading to 145 potential job losses at Transfield Services as well as poor services in the regions, says Labour’s Broadcasting Spokesperson Clare Curran. “Steven Joyce and Amy Adams have made… ...
    6 days ago
  • National quietly ditches its surplus promise
    National has quietly dropped its long-promised return to surplus by this year by removing the date it will get the books back in the black from its online campaign material, says Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson. “National’s pledge to reach… ...
    6 days ago
  • Even cheap houses now unaffordable
    New housing affordability data show that now even the cheapest houses in Auckland are unaffordable for first home buyers, says Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford.  “The AMP360 Home Loan Affordability Report reveals Auckland's lower quartile house price has leapt to… ...
    6 days ago
  • Key’s careless chatter tips off Arabic media
    John Key has shown a frightening lack of judgement in disclosing to an Arabic media outlet that Kiwi troops are in the UAE awaiting deployment to Iraq, Labour’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson David Shearer says. “At the same time the Prime… ...
    6 days ago
  • Child poverty will not be solved by vouchers
    New Zealand has debilitating levels of child poverty, entrenched violence against women and children, and the ongoing effects of colonisation on Maori are brutalising communities. When we dwell on the statistics – which mostly we don’t because it all seems… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    6 days ago
  • Simon Bridges spent over $6500 on Northland
    Transport Minister Simon Bridges spent over $6519 on travel and flights to Northland for the by-election – spending around $1000 a week, Labour’s Acting Leader Annette King says. “Simon Bridges’ desperate dashes to Northland got him in political hot water.… ...
    6 days ago
  • Firing squad deaths deplorable
    The execution of eight men by an Indonesian firing squad is deplorable, Labour’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson David Shearer says. “New Zealanders do not support the use of the death penalty under any circumstances. ...
    6 days ago
  • Aged care workers need more than talk
    Yesterday AUT released the New Zealand Aged Care Workforce Survey 2014. The conditions of aged care workers are important for many reasons. We have an ageing population and people are going into care/requiring care later than before, so it’s critically… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    6 days ago
  • Aged care needs urgent attention
    The Government must stop neglecting older New Zealanders and the people who care for them and give urgent attention to a sector that is in dire straits, says Labour’s Associate Health Spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway. “The lead author of the New… ...
    6 days ago
  • Passing the buck a disaster in the making
    Moves to overhaul the social services sector are nothing more than privatisation in drag and are a potential disaster in the making, Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni says. “A report from the Productivity Commission supports the Government’s push for… ...
    6 days ago
  • Tauranga’s oil spill shows potential for devastation
    When the Rena ran aground off the Bay of Plenty coast, the impact was overwhelming. Some 2000 dead birds were found, and up to 20,000 birds are thought to have been killed. Taxpayers paid nearly  $48 million in the aftermath… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    6 days ago
  • More hype and half-truths from Coleman
    The rising incidence of rheumatic fever has nothing to do with ‘families having a better understanding of the disease’ as the Health Minister wants us to believe but everything to do with his failure to address the root causes of… ...
    1 week ago
  • Regional air routes must be maintained
    The Government must use its majority shareholding to make sure Air New Zealand cooperates with second tier airlines stepping into the regional routes it has abandoned, Labour’s Transport spokesperson Phil Twyford says. Air New Zealand’s cancellation of its Kaitaia, Whakatane,… ...
    1 week ago
  • Action needed on decades old arms promise
    Nuclear weapons states must honour the unequivocal promise they made 45 years ago to disarm, says Labour’s Disarmament Spokesperson Phil Goff. Mr Goff is attending the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference at the United Nations in New York. ...
    1 week ago
  • Worker safety top of mind tomorrow and beyond
    Workers’ Memorial Day, commemorated tomorrow, is both a time to reflect and to encourage a better safety culture in all workplaces, says Labour’s spokesperson for Labour Issues Iain Lees-Galloway.“On Worker’s Memorial Day, working people across New Zealand will remember those… ...
    1 week ago
  • Communities forced to stomach water woes
    Confirmation by Health Minister Jonathan Coleman that he is to wind up a water quality improvement scheme will leave thousands of Kiwis with no alternative but to continue boiling their drinking water, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. The Drinking… ...
    1 week ago
  • Labour calls for immediate humanitarian aid for Nepal
    The Government should act immediately to help with earthquake relief efforts in Nepal, Labour’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson David Shearer says. “The Nepalese Government is appealing for international assistance following yesterday’s massive quake. The full impact is only now being realised… ...
    1 week ago
  • New holiday reflects significance of Anzac Day
    Anzac Day now has the full recognition that other public holidays have long enjoyed, reflecting the growing significance it has to our sense of identity and pride as a nation, Labour MP David Clark says.“The importance of the 100th Gallipoli… ...
    1 week ago
  • Housing crisis hurting export growth
    If Steven Joyce wants to revive his failing export growth target he needs to make sure the Government gets to grips with the housing crisis, says David Parker, Labour’s Export Growth and Trade spokesperson. “Our exporters are struggling to compete… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Gallipoli’s lesson: never forget, never repeat
     A special monument to one of our greatest war heroes should be a priority for the new Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, Labour Leader Andrew Little says.  “This will honour the spirit of Lieutenant Colonel William Malone, who led 760… ...
    2 weeks ago

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