Thursday, May 10, 2007

Reason for Revolution #347

During a conversation yesterday morning with Rich Lang, the pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Ballard, the subject of passion arose. As Thomas Frank notes in What's Wrong With Kansas, right-wing evangelical Christians care enough about their issues to work on them 24/7 and maybe even take out a mortgage on their house if it would make the difference. They have a counter-cultural community that gives their lives meaning and focus.

Liberals, on the other hand, and affluent liberals in particular, don't have that. Our real religion, said Lang, is consumption. I thought of that tonight as I came across this photo essay by Brian Ulrich at the Mother Jones site, which was selected from his Copia project.
"In 2001, citizens were encouraged to take to the malls to boost the U.S. economy through shopping," he says, "thereby equating consumerism with patriotism. The Copia project, a direct response to that advice, is a long-term photographic examination of the peculiarities and complexities of the consumer-dominated culture in which we live."
What's striking to me in these photos is the blankness in people's faces, and the desolation of the landscapes. This, to me, is the perfect metaphor for consumer culture. It's the cure to the disease that never quite delivers, and always leaves you wanting more.

Each weekend, it's my job to do the Costco run. I go with the girls, and they sit next to each other in the dual seat in the enormous shopping cart. They always seem to have a nice enough time of it. I'm used to the place. Its enormity doesn't seem odd anymore. What does feel strange is the overwhelming ennui I always see in my fellow shoppers.

Life is suffering said the Buddha. That's not news. But must it also be boredom and dissatisfaction? I don't think so.

1 comment:

Dr. Wes Browning said...

Build a civil rights movement to extend the 1st Amendment to all shopping areas. Include it as part of a wider movement to end no-free-speech zones everywhere. Tell businesses the price of doing retail in America is doing it the American way, with freedom for all. The real conservatives would help you. Meanwhile, I'm sure there are all sorts of ways to subvert the malls' suppression of political speech that could be fun and entertaining for the patrons.