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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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    The Commerce Committee has blocked an inquiry into the $300 million rural broadband initiative (RBI) despite mounting evidence it’s a massive policy failure and waste of money, says Labour’s ICT spokesperson Clare Curran. “The Government is about to spend an… ...
    4 days ago
  • TISA – Another secret trade deal you may never have heard of
      This post first appeared on The Daily Blog You’ve probably heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) by now and the widespread concerns around it but what about the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) also being currently negotiated by… ...
    GreensBy Gareth Hughes MP
    4 days ago
  • Health chickens coming home to roost as Dunedin loses right to train doctor...
    News today that Dunedin Hospital has lost orthopaedic training accreditation is a major blow and proves the Government’s prevarication is having devastating consequences, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. “Losing orthopaedic advanced training is serious. There is a knock on… ...
    5 days ago
  • $74,000 quarterly rise shows crisis out of control
    New figures out today showing Auckland house prices have spiked by a massive $74,000 in the past quarter is further evidence the city’s housing crisis has spiralled out of control, Labour’s “In spite of constant announcements and photo opportunities from… ...
    5 days ago
  • Democracy for Nauru now
    Murray McCully must send the strongest possible message to the Nauruan Government that New Zealand does not condone its actions given the disturbing developments there, Labour’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson David Shearer says. “Right now we are seeing Nauru stripped of… ...
    5 days ago
  • Recovery needs more than a rebrand
    Today’s announcement of new governance arrangements for Canterbury seems to be nothing more than a fresh coat of paint on the same old approach, says Labour’s Canterbury Earthquake Recovery spokesperson Ruth Dyson. “The Canterbury Recovery has been too slow, with… ...
    5 days ago
  • Copper decision a victory for status quo, not Kiwi households
    New Zealanders hoping for cheaper copper broadband will be disappointed by the Commerce Commission’s latest decision in the long running saga to determine the price of copper, Labour’s ICT spokesperson Clare Curran says. “In an apparent attempt to appease everyone,… ...
    5 days ago
  • It’s time for hard decisions in the Bay
     The Ruataniwha dam project is turning into a huge white elephant as the economics fail to stack up, says Labour’s Water spokesperson Meka Whaitiri.  “Ruataniwha simply doesn’t make economic sense when you look at other major irrigation schemes around the… ...
    5 days ago
  • More testing won’t lift student achievement
    Hekia Parata’s latest plan to subject school students to even more testing and assessment won’t do anything to lift the educational achievement of the kids who are struggling, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says. “New Zealand school students are already… ...
    5 days ago
  • Bad week for NZ economy gets worse
    The bad news for the New Zealand economy got worse this morning with the 8th successive drop in dairy prices at this morning’s global dairy auction, again exposing the absence of any Plan B from the National Government, Labour’s Finance… ...
    5 days ago
  • System failing to protect women and children from family violence
    Last week we called for mandatory child safety investigations in domestic violence cases. This came after the coronial inquiry into the deaths of Bradley and Ellen Livingstone and the verdict in the trial of the west Auckland boys charged with… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    6 days ago
  • Backers banking on social bonds cash?
    The Government is refusing to say what the $29 million it has set aside for its controversial social bonds programme is for, raising suspicions it is an upfront payment to the project backers, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. A… ...
    6 days ago
  • Plastic Free July
    Today is the start of Plastic Free July. Since its inception in Perth, Western Australia four years ago, more and more people and organisations from around the world have joined the call to refuse single use plastic products. Nearly all… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    6 days ago
  • State house sell off Bill gives extraordinary powers
    The Government is about to give Ministers extraordinary powers to take direct personal control of selling state houses, exempting Ministers from normal legal requirements and leaving the sale process wide open for corruption, Labour's Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. The… ...
    6 days ago
  • Cash for charter schools, mould for state schools
    At a time when state schools are struggling in old, cold, mouldy buildings and can barely make ends meet, the National Government is shovelling cash at charter schools which aren’t even spending the funding on kids’ education, Labour’s Education spokesperson… ...
    6 days ago
  • New Zealand needs a wise response to climate change
    Today in Parliament I got to hear from a group of New Zealanders who are concerned for the future of our country. Called Wise Response, the group is a broad coalition of academics, engineers, lawyers, artists, sportspeople and others who… ...
    GreensBy Russel Norman MP
    6 days ago
  • No alternative as waste scheme trashed
    Nick Smith must explain how he is going to prevent contamination of New Zealand’s ground and water with liquid and hazardous waste after scrapping the only monitoring scheme and offering no replacement, says Labour’s Environment Spokesperson Megan Woods. “From today,… ...
    6 days ago
  • Flawed system rates death traps as safe
    ACC Minister Nikki Kaye needs to come clean about what really lies behind the reclassification of 18 vehicles in her new motor vehicle registration system introduced today, Labour’s ACC spokesperson Sue Moroney says. "New Zealanders deserve the truth about the… ...
    6 days ago
  • Tiwai Smelter and 800 workers left in limbo
     Workers at Tiwai smelter and the people of Southland have once again been left in limbo over their future in the ongoing debacle over whether the plant stays open, says Labour’s Leader Andrew Little.  “It’s not good enough that after two years of… ...
    6 days ago
  • New twist in state house sell-off saga
    The Government has opened the door to buyers of state houses simply being landlords and not required to provide social services, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. The Prime Minister said at his post-Cabinet press conference buyers would not “have… ...
    6 days ago
  • Government fees will hit charities hard
    National’s decision to ignore the concerns of charities will see the voluntary sector face hundreds of thousands of dollars in new costs if the Policing (Cost Recovery) Amendment Bill passes, says Labour's Community and Voluntary Sector spokesperson Poto Williams. “National’s… ...
    7 days ago
  • Four out of ten for Simon’s Bridges
    The Transport Authority’s decision to fund only four of the 10 bridges promised in National’s shameless Northland by-election bribe is a huge embarrassment for Transport Minister Simon Bridges, Labour’s Transport spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “After one by-election poll showed they… ...
    7 days ago
  • Falling consents adding to Auckland housing woes
    Falling numbers of building consents being issued in Auckland will add to the city’s housing shortfall and fuel skyrocketing house prices, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford “The Productivity Commission found there was a shortfall of around 32,000 houses by the… ...
    7 days ago
  • So Mr English, do you have a plan?
    DIpping confidence about jobs, wages and shrinking exports are highlighting the lack of a plan from the government to diversify the economy and build sustainable growth, Grant Robertson  Labour’s Finance Spokesperson said. " Data released over the last week… ...
    7 days ago
  • Serious risks to tenants and assets in sell-off
    Overseas evidence shows there are serious risks around the Government's plan to sell off state houses to social housing providers, Opposition Leader Andrew Little says. “In the Netherlands – where community housing providers supply the majority of social housing –… ...
    1 week ago
  • Land of milk and money
    Kiwi families are paying over the top prices for their milk and someone is creaming off big profits, says Labour’s Consumer Affairs spokesperson David Shearer. “In 2011 the Government told us high New Zealand milk prices were a natural result… ...
    1 week ago
  • MoBIE largesse doesn’t stop with TVs and hair-straighteners
    The number of MoBIE staff earning more than $150,000 has risen 23 per cent in just a year, Labour’s Economic Development Spokesperson David Clark says. Documents obtained from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment show there are now nearly… ...
    1 week ago
  • English wants to flog state houses to Aussies
    Bill English’s admission that he would sell hundreds of New Zealand’s state houses to the Australians is the latest lurch in the Government’s stumbling, half-baked housing policy, Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “Bill English should face reality and admit his… ...
    1 week ago
  • Exports continue to fall as Government fails to diversify
    The Government quickly needs a plan to diversify our economy after new figures show that exports are continuing to fall due to the collapse in dairy exports, Labour's Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson says. “Dairy exports fell 28 per cent compared… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Government inaction leads to blurring of roles
    The Treasury wouldn’t have had to warn the Reserve Bank to stick to its core functions if the Government had taken prompt and substantial measures to rein in skyrocketing Auckland house prices, Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says. “The problems… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Courthouse closures hitting regions
    The Government’s decision to shut down up to eight regional courthouses, some supposedly only temporarily for seismic reasons, looks unlikely to be reversed, Labour’s Justice spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.“The move has hit these regions hard, but appears to be a… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • A Victory for Te Tiriti o Waitangi
    This week my partner, who has a number of professions, was doing an archaeological assessment for a District Council. He showed me the new rules around archaeologists which require them to demonstrate “sufficient skill and competency in relation to Māori… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Tough bar set for Ruataniwha dam
     Today’s final decision by the Tukituki Catchment Board of Inquiry is good news for the river and the environment, says Labour’s Water spokesperson Meka Whaitiri. “Setting a strict level of dissolved nitrogen in the catchment’s waters will ensure that the… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Minister for Women and National missing the mark – part two
    The Minister for Women was in front of the select committee yesterday answering questions about her plans for women. Some useful context is that we used to have a Pay and Employment Equity Unit within the then Department of Labour… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Lavish penthouse spend confirms culture of extravagance
    At the same time thousands of New Zealanders are being locked out of the property market, the Government is spending up on a lavish New York penthouse for its diplomats, Labour’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson David Shearer says. News that taxpayers… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Māori Television exodus cause for concern
    The shock departure of yet another leading journalist from the Native Affairs team raises further concern the Board and Chief Executive are dissatisfied with the team’s editorial content, says Labour’s Māori Development spokesperson Nanaia Mahuta. “Annabelle Lee is an experienced… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Million-plus car owners to pay too much ACC
    More than a million car owners will pay higher ACC motor vehicle registration than necessary from July, Labour’s ACC spokesperson Sue Moroney says. “During a select committee hearing this morning it was revealed that car owners would have been charged… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Bill will restore democracy to local councils
    A new Labour Member’s Bill will restore democracy to local authorities and stop amalgamations being forced on councils. Napier MP Stuart Nash’s Local Government Act 2002 (Greater Local Democracy) Bill will be debated by Parliament after being pulled from the… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Minister for Women again misses the mark – part one
    Yesterday I asked the Minister for Women about the government’s poor performance on it’s own target of appointing women to 45% of state board positions. I challenged why she’d put out a media release celebrating progress this year when the… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Banks enter Dragon’s Den in pitch for Government’s mental health experi...
    Overseas banks and their preferred providers were asked to pitch their ideas for bankrolling the Government’s social bonds scheme to a Dragon’s Den-style panel, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. Dragon’s Den was a reality television series where prospective ‘entrepreneurs’… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Global Mode bullying won’t stop people accessing content
    It’s disappointing that strong-arm tactics from powerful media companies have meant Global Mode will not get its day in court. Today a settlement was reached terminating the Global Mode service, developed in New Zealand by ByPass Network Services and used… ...
    GreensBy Gareth Hughes MP
    2 weeks ago
  • More questions – why was the Former National Party President involved wit...
    Today in Parliament Murray  McCully said the reason Michelle Boag was involved in 2011 in the Saudi farm scandal was in her capacity as a member of the New Zealand Middle East Business Council. The problem with that answer is… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Minister must explain Maori TV interference
    Te Ururoa Flavell must explain why he told Maori TV staff all complaints about the CEO must come to him – months before he became the Minister responsible for the broadcaster, Labour’s Broadcasting Spokesperson Clare Curran says. “Sources have told… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • KiwiSaver takes a hammering after the end of kick-start
    National seems hell bent on destroying New Zealand’s saving culture given today’s news that there has been a drop in new enrolments for KiwiSaver, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson.  “New enrolments for the ANZ Investments KiwiSaver scheme have plunged… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Straight answers needed on CYF role
    The Government needs to explain the role that Child, Youth and Family plays in cases where there is evidence that family violence was flagged as a concern, Labour’s Children’s spokesperson Jacinda Arden says. “The fact that CYF is refusing to… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Prime Minister confuses his political interests with NZ’s interest
    The Prime Minister’s statement in Parliament yesterday that a Minister who paid a facilitation payment to unlock a free trade agreement would retain his confidence is an abhorrent development in the Saudi sheep scandal, Opposition leader Andrew Little says.  ...
    2 weeks ago
  • #raisethequota
    Last Saturday was World Refugee Day. I was privileged to spend most of my day with the amazing refugee communities in Auckland. Their stories have been inspiring and reflect the ‘can-do’ Kiwi spirit, even though they come from all different… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Dairy conversions causing more pollution than ever, report shows
    The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) released two reports on freshwater quality and management last Friday. The water quality report shows that dairy conversions are hurting water quality and says that despite great efforts with fencing and planting, large… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Employers want urgent action on health and safety
    Moves by National to water down health and safety reforms have been slammed by employers – the very group the Government claims is pushing for change, says Labour’s spokesperson for Labour Relations Iain Lees-Galloway. “The Employers and Manufacturers’ Association has… ...
    2 weeks ago

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