Brendan O’Neill at the Australian has written a column that perfectly illustrates why I have to force myself to read the Australian every day, and why I usually feel sick and regret the decision straight afterward. I don’t entirely take issue with his point, but I very much take issue with the idea that our ideological enemies must be berated and demeaned instead of simply defeated with facts.
To Brendan O’Neill, the left wing of the political spectrum is dominated by the “latte-sipping set” or “cultural elite”. The “leftists” do not speak out against consumerism with good intentions, but rather because they “hate nothing more than the sight of working-class mums in ill-fitting leggings buying gadgets for their kids”. But that is not all. These paragons of all that is bad and unholy are also motived by “old-style snobbery”, and look down upon the masses, which they consider to be “soulless and mechanical” because they fail to appreciate the “true poetic value of life”. However there are yet more reasons why the left wing look down upon the little people, as they apparently also perceive the masses to be “weirdos” and “..spiritless, easily brainwashed, fat, feckless, dumb and bad at parenting”. O’Neill finishes his diatribe by claiming that the acquisition of “stuff” is the great barometer of progress, and questions how the left can criticise the world as having “too much” when billions of people still do without.
Needless to say after reading O’Neill’s perception of the political left, one wonders how he can stand living surrounded by such monsters. But I must also question how one side of the political spectrum can seemingly be so dominated by out of touch machiavellians and still have political clout? By my estimation, these “cultural elite” must number in the millions in Australia alone (No wonder the price of latte’s has skyrocketed in the last few years). But of course these cartoonish stereotypes are ridiculous. At least a handful of these horrible people must also be working class and enjoy the outstanding moral compass that only comes with being a Christian. A handful more must also have lost their latte and opera ticket savings in the GFC, and the corresponding snobbish and snooty-ness that went with it. Furthermore, I vaguely remember one time seeing a lady purchase her child a gameboy and then drive off in her VW microbus. The fact is that in Australia social standing, wealth or occupation rarely affect someone’s political ideology. The political left have as much support from the “everyday people” as the political right does. Lastly, O’Neill provides absolutely no proof that these views are held widely by those on the left wing, or that the experts in the area who hold those positions are exclusively “leftists”.
O’Neill’s diatribe, barring the last paragraph, does very little to prove his point. He seems to have set out on a quest to vent against his ideological opponents, and has thrown the title and last sentence in, in order to make it seem somewhat legitimate. O’Neill offers absolutely no commentary on whether he believes consumerism is a problem or whether there are any real solutions to it apart from what the “evil” left have to offer. Furthermore his point that it is ridiculous to question whether we have too much “stuff” when so many do without is preposterous. Anti consumerists do not include under developed countries in their critique of consumerism, they are critiquing the rest of us.
For your entertainment and seeing as how News Ltd. are so adept at removing posts they are embarrassed of, I have posted the complete article from The Australian as well as the link.
Ignore the lefty lemon-suckers: buy, buy, buy
- Brendan O’Neill
- From:The Australian
- September 17, 2011 12:00AM
IT’S hard to imagine it now, when leftists spit out words such as “shopping” and “stuff” as if they were expletives, but there was a time when progressives considered it their job to help make people richer.
They didn’t moan about workingmen’s materialist desires. Instead they argued that everyone, not just those born with a silver spoon in their gobs, should have access to life’s good things.
“We do not call for penurious thrift and self-denial,” said the very left-wing British suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst in 1923. “We call for a great production that will supply all.”
Consumption wasn’t a dirty word for Pankhurst, as it is for today’s latte-sipping set, who hate nothing more than the sight of working-class mums in ill-fitting leggings buying gadgets for their kids. In fact, Pankhurst complained that “consumption is cruelly limited by lack of means to purchase” and dreamed of a time when “consumption will be much higher than at present”.
Likewise, in his famous “Light on the Hill” speech in June 1949, Labor prime minister Ben Chifley said the labour movement was not simply about “putting an extra sixpence into somebody’s pocket”, like some kind of charity. Rather it was about making individuals “more comfortable” and therefore “bringing happiness to the mass of the people”.
How times have changed. Now, those who describe themselves as left-wing come out in a rash if you mention consumption. Far from delivering “happiness to the mass of the people”, they think having too much stuff is more likely to make us mentally ill, inducing a disease they call “affluenza”.
Where once leftists called for increased consumption, now they want it reined in, restricted. They see it as the worst c-word of all. The cultural elite’s disdain for the masses is best encapsulated in their disgust for mass consumption. In their anti-shopping fury we can glimpse their conviction that everyday people, that blob of weirdos “out there”, are spiritless, easily brainwashed, fat, feckless, dumb and bad at parenting.
So this week UNICEF caused great elation among leftish commentators by releasing a report that claimed British parents have become slaves to “compulsive consumption”.
Apparently, ordinary mums and dads, being a bit thick, have become “trapped in a cycle of consumption”, where they “shower their children with gifts” in lieu of actually spending time with them. These parents are victims of “brand bullying”. Their fragile minds have been so hectored by adverts that they believe it is more important to give little Johnny a Nintendo DS than a nice hug.
The notion that the consumer society has turned people into stuff-desiring automatons, emptying them of soul and filling them with insatiable materialistic wants, is widespread.
Academics claim the “cult of consumerism” has nurtured an amoral society in which super-individuated creatures – that’s us – will do anything to get their paws on the latest thing.
Even the riots in England were simplistically described by observers as “consumerism coming home to roost”; where, in the words of one hack, young people infused with “naked greed and consumerism” went on a “smash-and-grab mission”.
That’s a recurring idea in trendy critiques of consumerism: that our stuff-obsessed society is unleashing people’s inner animal, turning us violently gluttonous. Books with titles such as Mean Markets and Lizard Brains propagate the idea that uber-consumerism has weakened our ability to use our analytical pre-frontal cortex and instead made us reliant on our “lower brain”.
According to John Naish, author of Enough, the reason “we go into shops and buy lots of pointless stuff we don’t need” is because we’re using the “wrong parts of the human brain, the primitive areas”. This threatens to send us “knuckle-dragging into ecological disaster”.
The radicals of the US-based Buy Nothing movement frequently storm shops in sheep costumes to symbolise what they call “blind consumer sheep”.
In 2002, in the run-up to Christmas, anti-shopping campaigners in London made themselves vomit in shops. “Puking might not be pleasant,” they said, “but neither is our consumer society.” They were only expressing, in a more physical fashion, the disgust felt by all of today’s stuff-bashers for ordinary folk.
The anti-consumer lobby desperately tries to dress up its moral disdain for shoppers as a science. So British psychologist Oliver James has smashed together the words “affluence” and “influenza” to make “affluenza” – a disease that is apparently rampant in Western society. He says we’re addicted to material goods and it’s making us unhappy and even mentally ill.
Whether they’re posing as political radicals or serious scientists, the truth is these consumption critics are motivated by old-style snobbery. They look upon the masses as soulless and mechanical, surrounding themselves with “pointless stuff” only because they fail to appreciate the true poetic value of life.
They hate only the “wrong kind” of consumption, that which is indulged by the apparently tasteless, tacky hordes.
Where once leftists were concerned with creating a world of plenty, now they simply hector the little people for their bad taste and immoral desires.
And yet the “stuff” they’re so snotty about has massively improved people’s lives. From washing machines to fridges, vacuum cleaners to TVs, “stuff” has helped to liberate men and women from physical drudgery and given them more time to reflect, relax and live. The spread of stuff is the great barometer of progress. And how perverse it is that at a time when billions of people still don’t have this stuff, the Left claims we live in a world of “too much”.