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Posts tagged consumption

from "Church and State," by Mark Dolliver, Adweek, 6 October 2008 :: via Bob Carlton (Facebook friend extraordinaire!)

In a pre-Christmas poll last year of religious Christians with kids age 2 to 18, 78 percent said they’d bought DVDs of movies or TV shows for their teenagers, and 87 percent said they’d bought these for kids 13 and under. “However, one-quarter of those adults (26 percent) did not feel comfortable with the DVD products they bought.” Likewise for music CDs: “About six of 10 parents bought these discs for their kids, yet one out of every three of those parents (33 percent) had concerns about the content.” As for video games, 39 percent of the parents of pre-teens were concerned about the content of games they’d bought, as were 46 percent of parents of teens.

from "Portraits of Our Economic Meltdown #1 - KraftMaid," by David Michael Bruno, David Michael Bruno, 16 October 2008

KraftMaid makes cabinetry for various rooms of your house. I found an advertisement for their products in Southern Living magazine. The advertisement read, “Everyone has a personality. Shouldn’t your kitchen have one too?” You can see the TV commercial for this advertising campaign on their site.

Let’s shelve the moral question: Is it ever right to spend overindulgent amounts of money on a home kitchen? Instead let’s ask about the cost of any of the kitchens shown in the KraftMaid advertisements.

Of course, if we are honest, we should not only ask about the cost of the cabinetry, but also inquire into the cost of the whole package. The kitchens are “personalities” that reflect the personality (lifestyle) of the people featured in the ads. That hot woman in the skimpy dress eating that huge bowl of ice cream, well, obviously she has an expensive gym membership. And notice how she has enough fancy plates to serve everyone in her home owners association. The other couples are much the same. . . .

The cost of the kitchen cabinetry alone is beyond the financial means of most poor, middle class, and upper middle class Americans. But the cost of the lifestyle associated with the cost of the kitchen cabinetry - the whole cost of the “personality” - is beyond the financial means of pretty much all Americans, with the exception of a fraction of a percent of ultra wealthy individuals. And let me assure you, those ultra rich Americans who can afford these KraftMaid kitchens, trust me, they don’t read Southern Living.

This article by Andy Crouch originally appeared in Culture11, 5 October 2008.

The Blue Ridge Parkway winds along the ridges of the Appalachian Mountains, skirting Asheville and Roanoke above the hidden hollows and little towns. And on Thursday afternoon, thanks to Bayerische Motoren Werke, three friends and I were driving along the parkway, scattering wild turkeys left and right, carving turns and going flat out on the straightaways in a BMW 335Ci convertible. It seems that BMW periodically turns up at upscale resorts to let the (presumably free-spending) guests try the company’s cars for free, for no obligation beyond the painful duty of returning it at the end of the drive. We were attending a conference at a such a location, already stretching the limits of our decidedly middle-class budgets, at just the right time. After filling out a surprisingly informal questionnaire, the keys were ours and we were off.

As we gasped and laughed at the difference between our borrowed joyride and our real-life cars (as the owner of a base-model 2000 VW Passat, I have the most fly car of the bunch), we were well aware of several layers of irony. Down in the valley motorists were waiting in long lines for scarce gasoline at the stations that were open at all, due the supply crunch in the Southeast following Hurricane Ike. We, meanwhile, were burning gas like it was going out of style (which, come to think of it, it soon may). Then there was the improbable identity of the four merry riders: all of us activists in the growing environmental movement within evangelical Christianity, concerned not least with the reality of and remedies for human-induced climate change. That climate change is caused in part, of course, by the carbon dioxide that we were gleefully generating every time the Beemer let out a particularly gratifying growl. Let’s just say there was a hint of guilt in the pleasure.

from "Cultivating Where We're Planted," interview by Derek R. Keefe with Andy Crouch, Christianity Today, 8 September 2008

If cultivating and creating are so central to our biblical vocation, why have they been put aside?

The disenfranchisement of conservative Christians from cultural power at the dawn of the 20th century elicited strong reaction. Just two generations after evangelical Protestants had been intimately involved in building almost every major post-Civil War cultural institution, they either were kicked out or left voluntarily. People who wanted to hold on to theologically conservative beliefs thought you couldn’t do that and participate fully in mainstream culture. We’ve spent a century working our way back from the fallout of that.

Last century we also saw the rise of mass consumption as a way of life in America. When you look at newspapers from 100 years ago the principal word used to refer to Americans in general was citizen. Now the word USA Today uses most often to refer to all of us is consumers. And if we want to talk about people in their civic role we don’t usually call them citizens but voters. Think about how different those words are, how much thinner a word voter is than citizen. It’s not just Christians but Americans in general who have adopted a posture of waiting passively for cultural offerings. We think it’s our job simply to figure out what we like and buy it.

Finally, being an effective cultivator and creator requires certain disciplines—cultivating a certain awareness and willingness to work at things in the world. Consumer culture has made it easy to get along in many spheres without learning basic skills, whether it’s how to keep the garden growing or how to cook. Although technology gives us an amazing sense of power and infinite capacity, it does so by taking over all these things that our parents and grandparents knew how to do. But there is a backlash. People are starting to realize that we’ve lost some capacities that we don’t want to lose.

Your book returns us to a much older story—the biblical story—and shows where humans stand in that greater, ancient narrative.

One of the things that has hindered evangelical cultural creativity has been a nostalgia for the nineteenth century when we were dominant culturally in a way that we will probably never be again. Ancient Israel is a much better place to start because it was so small, always beleaguered, always overwhelmed by empires around them, and yet they sustained this incredible, world-changing culture. That’s a much more instructive picture than hoping that we can reclaim the kind of cultural control that evangelicals briefly had at one point in American history.

image Easy
from :: via Collide Magazine

What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.

—Andy Warhol

excerpt Murketing
from 'Buying In,' by Rob Walker - Review, by Farhad Manjoo,, 27 July 2008

Pabst’s campaign was designed to push beer without appearing to push it. To the extent that it conveyed any branding message at all, it was, Hey, we don’t care if you drink the stuff. To people sick of beer companies that did look as if they cared — don’t Super Bowl ads smack of desperation? — Pabst’s attitude seemed refreshing and inspired deep passion in its fans. Many customers did more than just buy the beer. Walker speaks to one who tattooed a foot-square Pabst logo on his back. Pabst’s low-fi marketing is “not insulting you,” the fellow tells Walker.
. . . . . .

Walker doesn’t always pin down how much these marketing efforts contribute to the coffers of the companies that employ them. What he makes clear, however, is how thoroughly such campaigns invade the culture, especially youth culture. Members of a hyper-aware generation often hailed for their imperviousness to marketing are actually turning to brands to define themselves. Want to protest a “corporate” beer? Well, get a Pabst tattoo!

In reality, Pabst Blue Ribbon’s anticapitalist ethos is, as Walker puts it, “a sham.” The company long ago closed its Milwaukee brewery and now outsources its operations to Miller. Its entire corporate staff is devoted to marketing and sales, not brewing. “You really couldn’t do much worse in picking a symbol of resistance to phony branding,” Walker writes. But P.B.R.’s fans don’t care. In the new era of murketing, image is everything.

from The Culture of Debt, by David Brooks,, 22 July 2008

Individuals don’t build their lives from scratch. They absorb the patterns and norms of the world around them.

Decision-making — whether it’s taking out a loan or deciding whom to marry — isn’t a coldly rational, self-conscious act. Instead, decision-making is a long chain of processes, most of which happen beneath the level of awareness. We absorb a way of perceiving the world from parents and neighbors. We mimic the behavior around us. Only at the end of the process is there self-conscious oversight.

According to this view, what happened to McLeod, and the nation’s financial system, is part of a larger social story. America once had a culture of thrift. But over the past decades, that unspoken code has been silently eroded.


from ”Australia vies with Pacific, U.S. to be fattest”, by Rob Taylor, Reuters, 19 June 2008

While the report said Australia had overtaken the United States as the fattest nation on the planet, recent U.S. studies show around 34 percent of Americans are overweight or obese.

And small Pacific nations top World Health Organization lists, with 94.5 percent of people in tiny Nauru classed as overweight, leading to chronic diabetes problems on the island.

The Federated States of Micronesia (91.1 percent), the Cook Islands (90.9 percent), Tonga (90.8 percent) and Niue (81.7 percent) rounded out the WHO top five, while the United States came in at number nine, with 74.1 percent overweight or obese.