• xenopolitix

418. Limitation (IX)

It is often assumed that to oppose commercialism and consumerism represents a left-wing position; yet this is not really so—actually, when the left opposes commercialism and consumerism it does so in a specific way, and does not, in fact, oppose either in reality; and this is because while property, profit, and markets are all normal and admirable aspects in any society, salesmanship and advertisement are not—consumerism is not.

A politician is a salesman; he sells a vision and looks for buy-in to his vision: the vision will change your life—how the vision will be brought to reality or paid for is neither here nor there. Advertisers and salesmen do the same job, and to roughly the same market: women, children, and the young—these are the consumer classes. These are people who want hedonistic illusions, either because they are narcissistic or because they lack experience. The ultimate product that comes from sales is the pyramid scheme—it sells nothing, except the promise of money for nothing. By contrast, quality sells itself; hence there are hardly any ads for Bentley or Tesla cars.

The requisites for a satisfactory life are modest: fresh water, food, somewhere to sleep, some greenery, and some friends or family; perhaps quite difficult to sustain, but within everyone’s reach—certainly in the West. Anything over and above these things is hedonistic indulgence; a temporary thrill with no deep impact. This is not to say I am against hedonism as such, but the consumer culture makes hedonism the number one priority—hedonistic indulgence and narcissistic status competition top all.

The left’s response to this is twofold: straight-out communism never promises to abolish consumer culture; rather, it says: “Come the revolution, everyone will have a government-issued iPhone whether you work for it or not.” Aside from the fact this is not possible, it also preserves consumer culture intact; it just says that consumer culture should be even more accessible to all than it already is. Khrushchev debated Nixon and claimed that Soviet citizens would have more kitchen hardware than Americans—never happened, case closed. Today you can even buy a Domino’s pizza on credit, thanks to an app; yet this attitude, basically irresponsible, melds naturally into socialism: “Look at the capitalist exploitation; they even try to get you into debt for a pizza; under socialism delivery pizzas will be free.” This leads into a sterile “conservative” or libertarian position where people go: “F*ck yeah! I love my iPhone and pizza on credit! I love capitalism.” This, in turn, serves the left’s point—and since it serves irresponsible behaviour, such as pizzas-on-credit, it is functionally leftist.

The other left-wing position, seen in environmentalism, finds consumer competition—correctly—superficial and inauthentic; yet the response is a narcissistic rage, a desire to flip the table completely (Extinction Rebellion and their apocalyptic visions) or perhaps to indulge in demonstrative self-flagellation—only drinking soy milk, for example. The basic consumeristic position is adapted to a purely moralised position; the commonality is that both are narcissistic displays and bids for status. The real exit from consumerism is to tend your garden, not to indulge in “anti-consumerism activism” whereby you swap from salesman to politician. This is often what young people do; they realise consumerism is vapid and empty, moralise its unfairness, and so become politicians or activists. Yet they are still stuck in the same dynamic, consumption and status competition.

The lie at consumerism’s heart is that if you buy an item it will change your life; yet only births, deaths, and marriages are life-changing events—everything else is a hedonistic extra. Consumerism is akin to TB, a disease that used to be called consumption; it eats away at your soul just as TB eats away at your lungs. The meme ecology produced “the coomer”—a parody of a chronic masturbator—and he eventually morphed into “the consoomer”, the chronic consumer; and the mutation is true because both are sterile activities that consume individuals as they themselves consume.

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