- By Morgan Southwood
The Holiday season is almost upon us again, friends and neighbors. For the last four or five years now I've wished that I had the money to spend it in a totally non-Christian country, like Nepal, but since I'm stuck here I'm forced to be a grudging participant in the Christmas season consumer frenzy. Last year I boogied on over to the mall to pick out a toy for some unprivileged (what a euphemism, huh?) kid. My Mom's workplace sponsors a family from the battered women's shelter and I wanted to help out a bit.
I very seldom go shopping anymore for anything but groceries; being a starving student, my finances simply don't allow for it. I've been tossed out of consumer culture by virtue of necessity and now when I go into a shopping complex I find myself simultaneously appalled, amused, and disgusted by our schizophrenia as a society.
Frankly, I'm at a loss to explain how and why we produce so much essentially worthless bullshit. I'm not a spiritual guru nor an intellectual ball of fire: this indictment isn't issued from a particularly enlightened person. But it's a worthwhile indictment nonetheless, because it says a lot about our priorities as a society under our Capitalist economic system and the possible future of our species.
How in hell did this happen? In one shopping complex, you can buy bath beads of every scent imaginable, bike license plates with your name on them, personalized shot glasses, Britney Spears trapper-keepers, plastic vampire fangs, fifty different Hummel figurines, candles shaped like frogs, hair extensions, novelty hats for your dog, nativity-scene snowglobes, talking South Park dolls, lava lamps, vibrating tongue barbells, acres of lipsticks, incense that is supposed to smell like pot, Hello Kitty alarm clocks, and bras with rhinestones on them. You can buy contact lenses that make your eyes look like cue balls, robotic parrots, and Chia pets. You can buy a poster for your wall that says: NO FARTING. It's obscene, it's one of global Capitalism's most abysmal failures-countless hours of labor, and countless laborers, put to work producing inane useless shit.
What on God's green earth is the matter with us? Are we crazy? Is this the result of ceaseless 24/7 corporate media indoctrination and socialization that teaches us from the time we are infants that to consume is to be happy regardless of what we are consuming, or are American proles in general just post-industrialized nitwits? The question is proffered-where, exactly, does this cosmic buck stop?
I'm not faulting our capacity as a species for production-we're the only creatures who can invent and produce anything at all; it's one of the things that makes us human. We've made it all, the good and the bad, it all comes from the same place. Violins and nuclear bombs, antibiotics and napalm, libraries and landmines. If so motivated, we could use this capacity to put a pair of good shoes on the feet of everyone on earth, a warm coat on everyone's back, and mittens on every cold child's hands. We could easily put a simple, nutritious meal on everyone's plate and a roof that doesn't leak over everyone's head. As a species, we could give everyone who can't see or hear well a pair of glasses or a hearing aid.
For the first time in all of human history, we've finally reached the true Age of Enlightenment, an era of plenty, a time when it is no longer necessary for anyone to do without good clothing, food, and shelter. For the first time ever, much of the suffering in the world is unnecessary, and can be easily eliminated. Do you appreciate the significance of this possible but as of yet unrealized ambition? Is this potential not what we as a collective species have been trying and toiling so hard to achieve since the dawn of recorded time? The material capability to provide enough for all? We could realize this potential here, now, for the very first time, we could make and produce and provide remedies for all the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to. The ability to do so is technically in our reach.
And what do we make instead? Plastic Taco Bell Chihuahuas holding fake roses in their teeth.
And, oh yeah: Happy Holidays.
Morgan Southwood is a senior majoring in Political Science at the University of Nevada, Reno. She can be e-mailed at email@example.com.