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Saturday, April 20, 2002

What if There Was a Mall and Nobody Came?

Is there life beyond consumerism?

It’s not that I don’t like “stuff.” I am writing this on my new Sony Vaio laptop. My apartment is cluttered with boy toys: a racing and a mountain bike, a heap of hiking, camping, and climbing gear, a shit load of books, and tons of CD’s. I’m not really anti “stuff” but I just don’t think a perpetual pursuit of “stuff” has ever made anyone happy or made them feel satisfied. Does Donald Trump look like a happy guy or a douche bag to you?

I can go weeks without ever buying anything besides food and booze, you know, the essentials. I like clothes. I like to look good but I find that I don’t have the energy to shop and would much rather spend my time doing other things. When I do break down and go to Nordstrom’s for clothing I spend about as much time inside as I can swim under water in one breath.

When I see dudes that dress extremely fashionably I secretly laugh at their willingness to waste countless hours shopping. Today’s fashion usually means stuff we will be laughing at tomorrow. I prefer clothes that wouldn’t have been noticeably out of place (nor hip either) for the past sixty years or so. Women and shopping is a whole other thing that I don’t understand at all. I’ll leave that for the women to sort out.

You would think that there must come a point for every person when he decides he has enough stuff. Perhaps many people never reach this point because financial restrictions prevent their acquiring all of the stuff they covet. I am talking about people with limitless resources. Surely people like rock stars, professional athletes, and movie stars must get sick of buying shit. They have enough money to buy everything and anything. Even a kid let loose in a candy store will get sick and throw up eventually.

I don’t have limitless resources but I decided a long time ago that I have plenty of stuff and buying more, simply for the sake of buying it, was a losing proposition. This isn’t to say that I don’t ever buy new stuff; I just look long and hard at anything before buying it. I ask myself several times if I really need it or can I live without it? Usually I decide on the latter and that ends it.

Unfortunately, most of the things in life that I most want cannot be purchased. It would be easier if learning to play the piano or being a better writer could be purchased with U.S. currency. These things certainly aren’t free, they just can’t be bought.

So I suppose we are all materialistic to one degree or another, somewhere between a shaolin monk and the rapper du jour (I was going to give the name of a specific rapper but realized that I don’t know one). From what little I have seen of the current rap, or hip hop culture, they represent the polar opposite of moderation: not just jewelry but pounds of gold hanging from their necks, not just a hot woman but scores of 'bitches(?)', a parking lot full of cars, not a house but a palace. Their message seems to be a simple one: if you are going to go overboard on capitalism then go really overboard. If you are going in for conspicuous consumption then you may as well go all the way.

Are there any rappers out there that preach minimalism? What a great message that would be to youth. They could show the rapper driving around in one of those little Primus electric cars taking his recyclable garbage to the recycling center with just one woman in the seat next to him and no gold. A rapper with good taste? Impossible? Stranger things have happened.

I certainly don't mean to single out rappers; I see no evidence of rich people showing anything resembling restraint or simply saying, "I have enough." I can already hear someone telling me, "You're just jealous because you ain't (sic) rich." I got news for you: I already make more than I can spend. This doesn't mean that I am rich or that I wouldn't want to have more money. Money can mean a sort of freedom. Not freedom from work. You have to work, that is as essential as eating and sleeping. To me it simply means freedom from compromise.

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