On Showing Off

….After witnessing the behaviors of the indigenous people, the government was appalled at the ritual of Potlatch. They saw the ritualistic act of giving away nearly all of one’s hard-earned possessions as a sign that the indigenous people were ‘unstable’. Under the encouragement of the Indian Reserve Allotment Commission; the Indian Reserve Commission; and the Church, this behavior was deemed possibly as a destabilizing force in the nation because it was so dramatically opposed to the values of the ideal “Christian capitalist society”…..  [Wikipedia]

Ever since her triumphant return to the Plutocratic Corporate States of America [PCSA] Mrs. N. has been intrigued by something she was told and something she observed while touring through The Netherlands, which was a lot like touring Holland.

People in The Netherlands don’t put bumper stickers on their cars.  Announcing on your automobile what university you or your children attend, what political party you support, or, what your particular religious affiliations are is considered to be a form of showing off that is culturally unacceptable in polite society.  It isn’t done.  They are against showing off.  Imagine that.

On the flight home to Utopia Mrs. N. could not help but wonder why The Netherlands did not place very high on the list of countries that are the “ENEMIES of FREEDOM”?  North Korea has a crazy leader, nuclear weapons and tortures and starves its people into obedient submission.  They are on the list.  Iran, since its Islamic Revolution, refuses to permit international corporations to loot their natural resources with impunity.  They are on the list.  Granted, both North Korea and Iran have earned a place on any decent capitalists list of bad actors… but, none of them dare to hold the Goddess of corporate consumerism up to ridicule!  None of them DARE to even hint that showing off, the very foundation of American Exceptionalism, and the driving force behind the most powerful economic engine ever constructed by man is… rude, or…culturally unacceptable in polite society.  

Why the citizens of the Plutocratic Corporate States of America [PCSA] haven’t bombed the Dutch (who don’t amount to much) back to the Stone Age for their insults to our way of life remains an enigma.

[On the other hand]… In his book Escape from Evil, Ernest Becker describes modern consumerism as a second rate religion.  He goes on to say… “today we are living with a grotesque spectacle of unrestrained material production, perhaps the greatest and most pervasive evil to have emerged in all of history.”

Hmmmm

OK, so what are we supposed to do if we can’t show off?  Just how are we supposed to feel, WHAT are we supposed to feel about a person we observe talking into their I-phone 5… when we have an I-phone 7?  How much are we capable of appreciating a kitchen with formica countertops and a white stove (that isn’t gas)?  Above ground pools?  How do we begin?  Are they “good” in the sense that children can get wet and laugh and make good memories in them, all on a hot summer day, or, are they bad in the sense that they detract from the appearance of neighborhoods with in-ground pools, forcing the passer-by to experience vague feelings of embarrassment for someone, or, a whole family, that they have never even met?    What’s worse, a snob, or, a phony?

Culture gives us our reasons for doing stuff.  It tells us what is valuable and what isn’t.  It tells us exactly what REAL is and WHY it is.  Provided one understands a culture one can, if one is careful, disagree with some of the aspects and ideas promoted by a particular culture without getting oneself tortured, killed or, otherwise inconvenienced.  You have to be careful.  But, it can be done.

The Dutch continue to walk the Earth…  after all

Mrs. N. is of the opinion today that one of the most curious things about homo sapiens in the Age of Consumerism is their extreme passivity.

Billions live in want and filth, short pathetic lives that make those of us in the West want to look away… change the subject.  Two and a half billion people will live their entire lives without ever seeing a flush toilet.  On the other hand, just about all of them will get to see TV.  On the TV will probably be re-runs of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and definitely will be commercials that will be centered on someone showing off and bragging about something THEY have that YOU don’t.  In the case of the billions and billions that don’t have Jack-Shit…. That would be just about everything under the sun.

What strikes Old Mrs. N. as curious is how this nonsense manages to perpetuate itself.  I understand greed.  What I don’t understand is what “makes” those in need and those who want “feel” like it’s somehow their duty to accept the status quo, ignore the utter unfairness, and actually look up to and treat with respect those who flagrantly parade and display the fact that they have ever so much more than they could ever need, or use.

Is that innate?

Are we hard wired to kiss ass when we are confronted by a bird with more feathers in its tail than we have?  Is it as simple as that?  Does that little quirk of a possible neurological left over from another time and place hand the keys to the Kingdom over to the graceless Plutocrats among us?  Can they sleep tight and secure knowing that the masses are hardwired for kowtowing…. and not throat slitting and bloody murder at the thought of the greedy laughing and eating cake while the less fortunate suffer and starve?

Or, is it culture that, universally, somehow, teaches us all that “IF” a person has more “THEN” that person not only must deserve more, but, should have power over those with less?

Is it some of both?

It’s gray and dripping here in Dixie and I’m wondering how it will start.  If it will start.  I’m wondering what idea, what group, what person will prove to be the catalyst that starts the chain reaction that transforms the greedy among us into the repulsive that are no longer tolerated in our midst..  Who will begin to Judge and when and how will the Judging take place?  What will it take?…  How bad does it have to get before the phrase… “Tis better to give than receive” .. is considered to be more than something dumb to put on a… bumper sticker?

Such a transformation will be hideous and painful and it may never work for long, if it works at all.  We just may not be up to the task.  Inequality, needless suffering and pain may just be our lot as humans… pathetically squishy experiments in sentience that we are…  Or, maybe there is a kid out there right now dragging a sharp key along the side of a new foreign car that costs more money than he will ever earn in ten years… and he has a toothache, and no money for the dentist.

He is hungry.  He is hungry a lot.  He is dirty too, most of the time, but, he has this thing with putting words together.  And his eyes have this special “something” that you really can’t explain that makes you feel good as you listen to his words flow out in a way that makes you feel inside that he is nothing but right about everything he says.

I would advise him to lay low.  I would advise him to quietly build an army of like thinkers as fast as he can.  I would tell him that drawing attention to himself would be deadly too early on…

Who am I kidding?  If I were honest I would tell him that he is already dead if history is any judge of what is to come.  The Plutocrats have their hounds out perpetually sniffing all around for the likes of troublemakers such as he.  It will be a miracle if he lasts the year.

Given enough time they say that anything can happen.

Given enough time they say it has to.

The question is, how much time have we got?

Kiss, kiss

Mrs. N.

 

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “On Showing Off

  1. I think bumper stickers display a difference between extroverts and introverts — the people of Europe have close neighboring countries and over time learned to get along in their neighborhood. We have few neighbors and are like the noisy neighbor in the woods playing their obnoxious music exceptionally loud at all hours of the day. Holland people are introverts and we are the exceptional extroverts. But it seems we pay a hefty price for such overt extraversion, just look at our incarceration and suicide and mental illness rates per capita. I am not sure what happens behind closed doors in Holland.

    Can there be a balance between extroversion and introversion? Each year the NY Times publishes the locations of the happiest people in the world. Often they exist in areas of modest or poor economic growth but of high human connection. The South American village where people have little money (Donald Trump would label them losers) but sit outside all day and night sharing stories and laughter over food and drink — with their unexceptional neighbors.

  2. I don’t know Neil. I’m not at all sure greed & generosity have anything to do with introverts & extroverts. Introverts may very well put up with more inequality and abuse than extroverts… they may be easier to bully, but, I think there is more to our consumers dystopia than our tendency to be extroverts. Introverts & extroverts appear to kowtow alike when faced with the Donald Trumps of the world. Neither misses a beat to show deference in spite of the fact that they will jump to say rude things about him when he isn’t there to hear it. If it’s innate we are probably forever fucked… if it’s more cultural there is hope because culture can change, or, be replaced.

  3. Excellent post. I doubt very much that what we are seeing can be accounted for by some innate tendency (as tempting as it might be). America loves ‘evolutionary’ explanations because those in power can use it to justify the status quo, while those who aren’t can use it to explain their failed efforts.

    I spent a lot of time recently with some anthropological readings… what I was amazed at, over and over, was the varying ways of constructing social groups. Its hard not to have some hope when we see how strange consumer capitalism is from the point of view of cultures that have yet to be colonized by it. Of course it is natural to want stuff… food, water, shelter, occasional sex, freedom from pain, and so on. But this is on the low end of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs… consumer culture of course goes way beyond that – causing us to want things we do not need; showing them off demonstrates our culture’s ‘heroism.’

    • “American Life is in subtle ways so one sided. The real natural mans is just in open rebellion against the utterly inhuman form of life” …C.G. Jung said, maybe 80 years ago. I think it would amaze him at the inhumanity of our life today. The true sadness is that so many other countries follow our lead and indeed leave habituated lives on unconscious actions.

      Seeing over 500 McDonald’s thriving in Beijing reminds of the ol’ professor, Casey Stengal, when asked how the lowly 1962 NY Mets would get better. Stengal said,” We gonna spread our players over the rest of the league so everyone else is gonna get worse.”

      Here is my last of the day, another quote from Jung:

      “Society, by automatically stressing all the collective qualities in its individual representatives, puts a premium on mediocrity, and everything settles down to vegetate in an easy, irresponsible way. Individuality will inevitably be driven to the wall. This process begins in school, continues at the University, and rules all departments in which the state has a hand. In a small social body, the individuality of its members is better safeguarded; and the greater is their relative freedom and the possibility of conscious responsibility…. The man of today, who resembles more or less the collective ideal, has made his heart into a den of murderers … the greatest infamy on the part of his group will not disturb him, so long as the majority of his fellows steadfastly believe in the exalted morality of their social organization…..”

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