Saturday, July 21, 2012

Consumer Culture and Science

    Over the past couple years I have thought a lot about consumer culture (yes, I am that asshole.) Most of the time I always saw consumer culture as an entirely negative thing. Example: shirt A is the same as this shirt B, but if I put this name on shirt A it is suddenly worth more than shirt B. That kind of thing never made sense in my head. Lately, though, I'm beginning to realize that I have been missing the point. What I have been neglecting is that consumer culture, like any form of culture, is critical. I have spent most my time being critical of sounds, sights, and ideas via music, art, and entertainment. I have done this because these aspects of humanity are what helped me survive adolescence. Truthfully, I never really took into consideration the actual product that was delivering the ideas or entertainment. This is probably why I don't really have any nice things, but that's besides the point. At some point in the last couple years my brain did start caring, specifically about the things I was actually consuming (read: food.) 
    Every living thing consumes. If it stops consuming it dies. We, like every living thing are machines and machines need fuel. What I have realized (in my ever expanding, probably Rube Goldberg-esque machine of a brain) is that I know I need fuel, but I want the right fuel. I do not want fuel that will make me keep running on the bare minimum until I peter out like a poorly and cheaply designed car. I want fuel that will keep my engine running like a dream, despite the dents and dings my exterior absorbs. I want fuel that will make me a Toyota.

    I have a friend with a degree in Consumer Science. I never really told her while she and I were in school (Sorry, if you're reading this) but I always thought that her degree was sort of bullshit (says the guy with an Art Education degree, sheesh!) Now, I realize that she uses her degree every single day. She is critical of the cost of the things she buys. She is critical of how the things she buys are made. She is critical of what the things she buys are made of. She does not fall for trumped up or hyped products, but is only swayed by hard facts about products she is considering buying. Being able to do all this seems to lead to an all around better quality of life, I believe.

    On the other hand, being a critical consumer can also lead to a feeling of lurking terror. That lurking terror is the terror that massive and unstoppable multinational corporations do not care about the general population's well being and quality of life. That lurking terror is that these unstoppable behemoths of business will continue to try and raise their profit margins by any means necessary, even if that requires them to offer a product that is essentially poisoning their customers and workers. That lurking terror is that not only will massive corporations poison their customers and workers with the products they offer, but they will resort to murder and bribery to keep the conscious public in the dark about such matters. I'm not saying I have any proof that such things actually happen, but I am saying the feeling is definitely there. Just saying.

Aaron C. Molden, 2012   

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