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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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    Social Development Minister Anne Tolley must guarantee the safety of Relationships Aotearoa’s thousands of Māori clients – some of whom are very vulnerable – following the closure of the nationwide counselling service, Labour’s Māori Development spokesperson Nanaia Mahuta says. Relationships… ...
    5 hours ago
  • ANZ has moral obligation to fully compensate farmers
      The ANZ Bank has a moral obligation to fully compensate farmers after the High Court today declared it breached the Fair Trading Act by misleadingly representing interest rate swap loans, Labour’s Primary Industries spokesperson Damien O’Connor says. The Commerce… ...
    1 day ago
  • Fairfax can’t use restructure to cut terms and conditions
    The restructure and upheavals at Fairfax should not be used as an opportunity to cut journalists’ terms and conditions, Labour spokesperson for Labour Issues Iain Lees-Galloway says. “Businesses have to adapt to new technologies and consumer demands and there is… ...
    1 day ago
  • McCully excuses unravel in Saudi sheep scandal
    Murray McCully has misled New Zealanders, Parliament and his Cabinet colleagues on the real reasons for paying millions of dollars in the Saudi sheep scandal – it’s time for him to clean, says Labour’s Export Growth and Trade spokesperson David… ...
    1 day ago
  • Nats break health and education spending promises
    National has outstanding promises of almost $1 billion to be spent on health, education and agriculture from the Future Investment Fund but has only $536 million left in the fund, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “John Key and Bill… ...
    1 day ago
  • Manurewa youth leaders acknowledged
    The depth and breadth of leadership of youth throughout Manurewa, which has been recognized at the Youth Week Award ceremony held at Parliament this week, should make the community extremely proud, Manurewa Labour MP Louisa Wall says. “The 'Limitless Youth… ...
    1 day ago
  • Oi Auckland Transport: fare’s fair
    Auckland Transport should go back to the drawing board on its proposal to charge commuters for its park-and-rides, Labour’s Transport spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “When we need to be getting people out of their cars and onto public transport, it’s… ...
    1 day ago
  • Is Nick Smith making it up as he goes along?
      Housing Minister Nick Smith must release the list of Crown land parcels which formed the basis of the Government’s Budget announcement, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. “If the public is to have any faith the Government is not just… ...
    1 day ago
  • Norway moves first to dump coal investments
    The Green Party today called on the Government to secure cross-party support to sell its investments in coal mining companies.The Norwegian Parliament's finance committee agreed in a bipartisan motion yesterday to instruct the $1.2 trillion Government Pension Fund to sell… ...
    GreensBy Russel Norman MP
    1 day ago
  • Fonterra payout $13b black hole over 2 years
    Fonterra’s dramatic cut to its forecast farmgate payout over this season and next will lead to a $13 billion black hole over two years, and shows the need for a plan to diversify the economy, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant… ...
    1 day ago
  • Labour calls for select ctte inquiry into Rural Broadband Initiative
    Labour is calling for an immediate inquiry into the flailing $300 million rural broadband initiative, before companies and consumers are forced to pick up the tab for the new $150 million broadband tax, says Labour’s ICT spokesperson Clare Curran. “Rural… ...
    1 day ago
  • Public broadcasting takes big hit under National Government
    Public broadcasting funding has been cut by 25 per cent in real terms since the National Government took office in 2009, leading to the erosion of our once world-class news and current affairs culture, says Labour Broadcasting Spokesperson Clare Curran. … ...
    1 day ago
  • Hospital food plan hits another snag
    The Government has been left with egg on its face with Hawke’s Bay District Health Board today giving a plan to outsource hospital food services the thumbs down, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. “Doing away with local kitchens by… ...
    2 days ago
  • Hospital food plan hits another sang
    The Government has been left with egg on its face with Hawke’s Bay District Health Board today giving a plan to outsource hospital food services the thumbs down, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. “Doing away with local kitchens by… ...
    2 days ago
  • Wilkinson appointment wrong in principle
    The appointment of former Conservation Minister Hon Kate Wilkinson as an Environment Commissioner is wrong in principle, says Labour’s Shadow Attorney-General David Parker. “The doctrine of separation of powers requires judicial processes to remain separate and independent from the legislature… ...
    2 days ago
  • McCully doesn’t deny bribe in Saudi sheep scandal
    “In Parliament today I asked Murray McCully directly: Why is he the first Minister in history to back a multi-million dollar facilitation arrangement which in other jurisdictions is called a bribe? says Labour’s Export Growth and Trade spokesperson David Parker.… ...
    2 days ago
  • National must back our future doctors
    National must support our future doctors and agree to the calls from the Medical Students’ Association and the Young Nats to lift the arbitrary 7 year cap on student loans for medical and dental students, Labour’s Tertiary Education Spokesperson David… ...
    2 days ago
  • Taxpayer the loser after Government folds
    Steven Joyce today admitted the main exhibition hall at the New Zealand International Convention Centre is 19 per cent smaller than what was described at the time other bidders were edged out of the process, Labour’s Economic Development spokesperson David… ...
    2 days ago
  • Govt’s lack of ambition for women
    Yesterday, the Government put out a media release entitled “Number of women leaders continues to grow”. It was to inform us that the percentage of women on state-appointed boards has increased to 41.7%, up from 41.1% in 2013. Well, woo-hoo… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    2 days ago
  • Auditor-General exposes Key’s scapegoating of Council
    The National Government's blaming of Auckland Council for the city’s housing crisis has been exposed as scapegoating in the Office of the Auditor-General’s latest report, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “The Auditor-General says Auckland Council’s part in fixing the… ...
    2 days ago
  • Reform – not money – needed for meat sector
    The National Government continues to throw good money after bad at the meat industry instead of addressing the fundamental problem of its dysfunctional structure, Labour’s Primary Industries spokesperson Damien O’Connor says. “The latest Primary Growth Partnership grant to the venison… ...
    2 days ago
  • Government cuts corners on school bus funding
    The safety of children – not cost cutting – should be the main objective behind the Government’s funding of school buses, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says. “Buried in the detail of this year’s Budget are $19 million of funding… ...
    2 days ago
  • Women the losers under National’s cuts
    National’s poor performance in appointing women to state sector boards is set to get worse with funding cuts to the nomination service provided by the Ministry for Women, Labour’s Woman’s Affairs spokesperson Sue Moroney says. “Minister for Women Louise Upston… ...
    2 days ago
  • Help sought by agencies now asked to help
    The organisation Social Development Minister Anne Tolley has tasked with setting up an emergency hotline for stranded Relationships Aotearoa clients has just lost a bid for a government contract to launch a new national helpline, Labour’s Acting Social Development spokesperson… ...
    2 days ago
  • Wellington got loud again on climate
    On Monday night, in Wellington, I attended the last of the Government’s climate target consultation meetings. It was quite well attended with maybe 150 people, not bad for a second meeting with very little notice and, as far as I… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    2 days ago
  • Final nail in coffin for Solid Energy workers
    Today’s confirmation of job losses at Solid Energy’s Stockton and Spring Creek mines shows the urgent need for new economic opportunities on the West Coast, Labour’s MP for West Coast-Tasman Damien O’Connor says. “Our economy can no longer rely on… ...
    3 days ago
  • Ramadi proves Iraq deployment high risk, low benefit
    The fall of Ramadi and the collapse of the Iraqi Army proves Labour was right to be concerned about the deployment of our troops to Iraq, Labour’s Defence spokesperson Phil Goff says. “The fall of Ramadi brings IS fighters within… ...
    3 days ago
  • English admits new taxes on the cards
    Eight months after pledging “no new taxes” at the election Bill English today admitted he would bring in more sneaky taxes along the lines of the border tax, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “Not only did National bring in… ...
    3 days ago
  • What the Dickens is going on at SDHB?
    Problems at the financially-strapped Southern District Health Board appear to stretch to its HR department with information obtained by Labour showing it still records staff leave entitlements using manual book-keeping methods. “The Board’s draft 10-year plan document forecasts a cumulative… ...
    3 days ago
  • Teachers turn backs on new professional body
      The fact that just 56 per cent of nominations for the Education Council came from registered teachers shows the profession has turned its back on Hekia Parata’s new professional body, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says. “Answers to written… ...
    3 days ago
  • No spade work done on big building plan
      Only a quarter of the 500 hectares of Crown land the Government wants to use for new homes is understood to be suitable for building on, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “This was National’s bold new idea to… ...
    3 days ago
  • National: Seven KiwiSaver cuts in seven years
    National’s campaign of KiwiSaver cuts has reached seven in seven years as it dismantles KiwiSaver block by block, Labour Leader Andrew Little says. “KiwiSaver is critical to establishing a savings culture in New Zealand but National has taken a jenga-style… ...
    3 days ago
  • Tolley’s actions contradict reassurances
    Social Development Minister Anne Tolley has serious questions to answer following the forced closure of Relationships Aotearoa just days after her reassurances she was looking at ways to keep the service operating, Labour’s Acting Social Development spokesperson Annette King says.… ...
    3 days ago
  • SkyCity downsize another broken promise
    The downsized SkyCity Convention Centre does not deliver on the promised iconic world-class centre and shows the true extent of Steven Joyce’s incompetence, Labour Leader Andrew Little said today. “New Zealanders were promised an iconic world-class convention centre that would… ...
    3 days ago
  • Te Arawa partnership model a step closer
    Councils around New Zealand have an opportunity to improve their consultation with Iwi Māori by following Rotorua District Council’s Te Arawa Partnership Model, Labour’s Māori Development spokesperson Nanaia Mahuta says. “The Rotorua District Council will today decide whether to adopt… ...
    3 days ago
  • Labour mourns Dame Dorothy Fraser
    Labour Leader Andrew Little said the party is today mourning the loss of the youngest person to join the Labour Party, Dame Dorothy Fraser, who went on to be a stalwart of the Dunedin community and tireless worker for others.… ...
    4 days ago
  • The ultimate scapegoat: PM blames fruit fly for new tax
    The Prime Minister has found the ultimate scapegoat for breaking his promise not to introduce a new tax – the Queensland fruit fly, Labour’s Biosecurity spokesperson Damien O’Connor says. “John Key’s first policy upon taking office and assigning himself the… ...
    4 days ago
  • How many victims missing out on protection?
    Hundreds of domestic abuse victims could be missing out on getting protection orders because they are unable to get legal aid, Labour’s Justice spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.“In the last two years some 351 people who applied for legal aid for… ...
    6 days ago
  • Government kicks hardworking whanau
    A major incentive to help young Kiwis and people on low incomes to start saving has been kicked out from under them with the National-led Government ramming through short-sighted legislation under Urgency today, Labour’s Maori Development Spokesperson Nanaia Mahuta says.… ...
    6 days ago
  • Speculator tax political stunt gone wrong
    Bill English’s admission he doesn’t know whether National’s new speculator tax will have any effect shows last weekend’s announcement by the Prime Minister was a desperate political stunt, says Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. “This Government is so desperate to… ...
    6 days ago
  • The value of parenting
    This week, as part of the Budget, the government introduced a bill to address child poverty. This bill will require parents receiving income support to look for part-time work once their youngest child is three years of age rather than… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    6 days ago
  • Another new tax, another broken promise
    National has unveiled yet another new tax in this budget – a rural broadband levy that will almost certainly result in an immediate price hike for internet and telephone connections across New Zealand, Labour’s ICT spokesperson Clare Curran said “The… ...
    1 week ago
  • Anniversary of Sri Lankan Tamil Massacre
    This is not going to be a happy story but if the Green Party of Aotearoa doesn’t want to know who else will? May 18th marks the anniversary of what is known as the ‘Mullivaikal massacre’ of Tamils in 2009 at… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    1 week ago
  • Labour MPs join youth to take part in 40 hour famine
    A team of Labour MPs took part in the 2015 World Vision 40 hour famine and we were told by World Vision and the young people, that it was the first time MPs had joined them and how appreciative they… ...
    1 week ago
  • Rodeo: ‘Family entertainment’ or animal abuse?
    Recently  TVNZ ran a story with confronting footage showing rodeo animals being punched, repeatedly shocked with electronic prods and having their tails violently twisted over their backs. It was clear that significant force was being used behind the scenes to make… ...
    GreensBy Mojo Mathers MP
    1 week ago
  • Budget puts the squeeze on police
    The Government has cut funding to the New Zealand police force in the latest Budget, says Labour’s Police spokesperson Kelvin Davis. “The reduction is a whopping $15.3 million that could put front line officers at risk. ...
    1 week ago
  • Crucial social services take another hit
    The Government looks set to slash half a million dollars of funding for critical social services, including Women’s Refuge and Barnados, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni “Taking $500,000 from organisations aimed at improving the lives of vulnerable families… ...
    1 week ago
  • Saying it Loud on Climate in Christchurch
    The Government’s Christchurch consultation meeting on New Zealand’s emission targets was inspiring – not for what was in the Ministry for the Environment’s (MFE’s) defeatist video about the obstacles to changing to a low carbon future, but for what the… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    1 week ago
  • Budget silent on small business
    The Government has completely ignored one of the most important sectors of the economy – small and medium-sized enterprises – in Budget 2015, Labour’s Small Business spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says. "A stunning 41 per cent of jobs were created by… ...
    1 week ago

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