Thursday, November 4, 2010

Crazy Ideas for Crazy Consumers

I am in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. They have not only trash and recycling pickup here, but also compost. I also saw a Canadian TV commercial discouraging purchasing of food products with wasteful amounts of packaging. I have neither seen nor heard of either of these 2 things in the US. Its time to learn from the Canadians. We need everyone composting to dramatically reduce land filling, and we need to reduce are dependence on disposable plastic, and we should invest money in educating people as to the true costs of the products they buy. And, just like the surgeon generals warning on cigarettes, i think that ultimately the corporations that produce products should have to label those costs on the product themselves. In addition to nutrition info, there should be an environmental impact per-unit-product label. If I buy a carton of milk i should know the carbon footprint of the factory that made it, the amount of feces and methane produced by the cows, and how many thousands of years the container will take to decompose (should i fail to recycle it). This would require a policy change, which I think would be beneficial. It would mean that companies would be more responsible in their manufacturing practices because the public would actually know what they are buying into. Maybe some customers would still choose the cheapest product no matter the other factors, but at least they would now know that the cost of an out of season Chilean grape bought in California is not simply 1.99 per pound, put it is 1.99 per pound plus X million tons of container boat exhaust spewed to bring it northward.

But until such a labeling law a arrives we should not be afraid to publicly decry waste and environmental hazards no matter how common place and no matter what percent of consumers are participatory. The more educated the public the more the public can make informed decisions. I think most people will chose to save the earth, (and thus themselves), when presented with a choice. But pure TV driven commercial consumerism does not provide a choice, it just creates an empty feeling in side of you that you try and fill with the neat gadgets and colorfully labeled processed foods that commercials present. We need to balance out product commercials with educational commercials. Or require that product commercials present a more whole perspective of their product. Does any company ever do product satisfaction surveys and then include undistorted results on commercials for that product. ‘Did this product make you happy?’ should be the first survey question, because most every TV commercial is implicitly saying, ‘If you use this product you will be happy’, which is a lie. We should not assume anyone will see around this lie, especially in this the age of identity by consumption.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Sacred Garden

I went walking today. Down the street, along the freeway and past golf course. Took a right at the gas station and took a pedestrian tunnel under the freeway. Over the train-tracks and past the man curled up on the ground by his bike. I kept walking past the spanish villas, and well kept houses with beautiful flowers to the ocean. I gazed on as the waves waved back. Then I turned right and walked up the hill along the bike path by the cliffs. There are pretty flowers along the cliff; red,  orange, purple. I kept going past an ipod-jogger and followed the curve of the path to the right, along the road; down then left. And that's when I entered the sacred garden. The land of lost love and stone memory. I had to enter. 

The gates where flung wide, great cast-iron gates, but hardly a soul was in site. A few gardeners in the distance. I walked in. Grass was everywhere, and well kept trees. A vast area. I walked up the hill in front of me staying on the road, I walked past the women in her fifties who was down on her knees sobbing, while a young man stood nearby silently, ready with a bouquet of flowers. I kept walking, past the men shoveling soft brown earth, on to the upper plateau of this sacred garden. I occasionally stopped to read a name hear or there. Some short, some long. "Carrie" or "John Doe, beloved husband and father" chiseled in stone. And usually, but not always the dates, which revealed the age. I walked on. I was drawn to several mausoleums or monuments, or castles of remembrance. Call them what you will. They stood out on the green grass. Stone sentinels. One with parthenon inspired pillars, another shaped like a pyramid. I looked in on the stacked sarcophagi, some with whole families who had lived as long ago as 1810. I walked on. 

Bright yellow flowers grew all about while in front of many stones empty flower receptacles were evident. Birds called and the sun was shining. But it was a little muggy, partly overcast, so I keep moving.

I approached one mausoleum and find its entrance blocked by a sturdy angel of weathered green iron. I ask "What news do you have for me angel?" I receive no reply. I peer through, under the angel and get barely a glimpse inside. Whoever name is inscribed inside remains unknown to me. 

I walked on, as a nearby gardener drove past graves and removed still fresh flowers left by the living. Then I saw a women sitting outside of the perimeter fence near the edge of the cliff, what was she doing leaning outward in a squatting position with her black hair pulled back. I approached her, then realized I had been looking at a stump with ivy grown up over it. 

I walked on. As I passed two tall trees I was suddenly greeted by a chorus of birds, who knows how many, thirty, forty, sixty, all singing to each other up in those trees. Small birds, with little hearts beating four hundred times a minute. A community of little bird-hearts beating and little bird-beaks chirping and munching on little worms, in those trees, over the tombstones, on the cliffs above the ocean. 

I walked on, and down the hill and left the sacred garden. 

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Satan's Serpent of Sarcasm

I hate Sarcasm more and more. I would rather be punched in the face then be treated to the radiation poisoning of a sarcastic insult.

Sarcasm has been used to insult me many times; usually to try and make me feel like an idiot. My enemy could instead choose to yell "Your an idiot!!" in my face. But that would expose the verbal assailant's feelings, which would in turn open the assailant up to public scrutiny. This is not what the assailant wants. It is quite possible that the sarcastic person is not aware of their anger with me and thus may not be at a point of bursting out in anger. Rather the sarcastic one is often a frothing mixture of various suppressed human emotions, including those of resentment for the potential victim.

So whether aware or not of their hatred for their victim, whether holding back tears of rage, or bumbling along unaware yet tensely ready to pounce, sarcasm is used to insult; and it is a back-handed cowardly weapon of the emotionally fragile. A choice made by wimps who can't meet their enemy in battle, and thus prefer to slip something in their drink. (By 'battle' here I mean anything from mortal combat to heated discussion).

But what do I mean with all these metaphors? I am saying that insulting sarcasm carries out its purpose in what I think is the most mean-spirited and pain inducing way: indirectly. By being indirect the assailant delivers an insult which unloads over time as a virus in the mind of the insultee. Sarcasm is hard to defend against initially because it is often not at all certain whether the insulter is being sarcastic or not. The comment "Ben, your a great singer!!" seems innocent enough. This ambiguity usually is enough to prevent the insulter from being identified by observers as belligerent or it at least gives observers an excuse to not intervene on the insultee's behalf. This excuse is the plausible deniability needed to allow a 3rd party observer to sit idly by during verbal abuse and still appear respectable among peers.

Thus the moment passes, no one has defended the insultee because of ambiguity, and the insulter has not been identified as a mean spirited for the same reason. Also the one being insulted may not even yet be aware of the insult. But assuming he/she has heard it, assuming the acid of hate has entered the intended mind, the real cataclysm is yet coming. Upon realization, the thoughts of the insultee go like this: "I was just insulted, everyone else thinks its OK, and the vile perpetrator is now grinning ear to ear because he will pay no price (because of a lack of conscience, or a simple non-awareness of his own actions) and it is now socially unacceptable for me to retaliate, because I was not directly attacked." This is when Satan laughs a great belly laugh, this is when a fairy somewhere dies, this is when the mental anguish begins. It is a uphill battle from here to address the insulted person; to address the problem with frank discussion. As is the case for myself, I fear, that the vast majority of the time the insult is pressed down into the insulted individuals froth of personal emotions, adding to future confusion, anger, and in all likelihood, retaliative sarcasm. The world sometimes seems very dark.

Here are a few definitions of sarcasm: : A cutting, often ironic remark intended to wound.
Wikipedia: Sarcasm is the rhetorical device of using a characterization of something or someone in order to express contempt.