Friday, November 15, 2013

How Are We Rebels? Materialism, Occupy, & the New Coin
I read a lot about how this "generation" is rebelling against the baby boomer generation that ran rampant with materialism. Here is just one example in an article I read today.
The current generation of young people, the children and grandchildren of baby boomers, is not rebelling against anything. It is rebelling from neglect, a lack of attention and America's overdose on materialism. This generation doesn't reflect its parents' values because its parents were too busy chasing bigger homes and second cars to teach it any values, or its parents were simply absent for a multitude of reasons.
The article doesn't focus on this rebellion, per se, but just assumes that this generation is "rebelling from...America's overdose on materialism." I have both read and see American Psycho, which is a dark satire on 1980s materialism. I've seen assessments of the boomer generation and the key word that crops up over and over again is materialism. What does it mean, then, that this generation is rebelling against all of that? Typically, as far as I can tell, rebellion fundamentally means to be against something.

What kind of rebellion is it when there isn't much, if any, evidence of an anti-materialism cropping up by this generation at all, but in fact an insatiable hunger for even more? As I see it, we consume more now than ever before and want better stuff now faster than ever before. If that's true, what is our rebellion? I hear we are a cause-oriented generation, that our rebellion consists of wanting authentic, meaningful, real relationships and experiences. But is this really rebellion against materialism or a generation seeking these things with the foundation of materialism growing both deeper and wider as evidenced by how we are saving less and spending more?

I saw much of the Occupy Movement and laughed, to be honest. There was a neighborhood I walked through here in Seattle almost daily. I remember always passing by a house with a car parked outside that had the sticker "we are the 99%." In that neighborhood the houses go for around $300K and rent is no joke. The car was a fairly new Volvo or Subaru. Here in America, at least, we don't know what 99% gets us. Is there income inequality? Sure. Is the middle class being cut out? Perhaps. But before the Captialism experiment here in America there was no such thing as a middle class anywhere in the world. Now I'm not arguing for any one economic system. The point is that we are so numb to our own embedded materialistic ways that we decry those who have way more than us because we feel entitled not only to have our pretty decent store bought cake, but their gold-flaked cake made by a professional chef as well.

Photo by Coin
And still it continues. There is a new ad going around on Facebook for a sweet new product called Coin. It sets out to do what has been done in other areas of business - consolidate and simplify. What does it consolidate and simplify? Your cards? What cards? In the video introduction of this new product, the man begins by saying, "I'm here to tell you about Coin. It solves a problem, I think, most of us have. See my wallet is filled with cards: credit cards, debit cards, rewards cards, gift cards. Filled with them." That is a problem. What to do with all those gift cards we carry around and never use??? So what's the solution? Coin - a one-stop shop for all the cards you have in your wallet or purse. I do think it is a pretty cool product. Who doesn't want to consolidate the crap load of stuff they carry around? I've found that I can't use a wallet anymore and need a backpack for all my junk because I've never wanted to get rid of that AAA Card that expired 5 years ago. I'm glad Coin can even store that.

Does Coin solve a real problem? No. Nope. No. He - and we - aren't asking the obvious question: Why the heck is my wallet or purse filled with all these cards? Why do you need debit cards and credit cards and reward cards?  I'm sure if you run a business it's a bit more complicated, but it can't be that much. "You don't understand, Andrew. I have a credit card that gives me rewards for trips and I use that for fixed costs and then I want to be responsible with my money so I have cards for the stores I shop at the most to get discounts. And what's cool is I can use one rewards credit card to help pay off other rewards credit cards. It's awesome." Yup. This just proves the point. We are hyper-microconsumers, thinking we can game a system that just exposes our failures to keep up with it. Coin is what happens when you accumulate a bunch of stuff in an old house, move into a bigger house and feel like you have nothing at all. Do you see? The problem isn't that you don't have a big enough wallet or need to get all your cards on one card. The problem is you have too much to begin with. The card won't make you feel organized; it will make you feel naked, and before you know it you will have more cards and more debt than you know what to do with, but hey, since it's all on one card, it's not a big deal.

Perhaps our rebellion is multi-colored, spread out and not really able to be pinned down. Just like the acceptance of the notion that truth is relative, perhaps our rebellion is much the same way. Maybe it's like a bunch of cards in the wallet just waiting for that opportunist to seize the day and make it all come together in a digitized utopia of simplicity, ease, comfort, and bliss.

That person would make billions. And our overdose will continue...

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