Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A return of sorts

Only in a society in which 'freedom of choice' is reduced to 'what should I buy today to affirm my individuality?' could a corporation like Amazon thrive. Its phenomenal growth and ubiquity in the marketplace cannot be blamed solely on its cut-throat policies. Nor on investors willing to forgo immediate gratification in the hope of a huge payday sometime in the future. Amazon exists because we want it. It is here to serve us. Bezos is your butler.

The Amazon problem is not a simple one; it is emblematic of a bigger problem -- the problem of scale, and of negotiating competing claims to arrive at any kind of sustainable compromise.

On the one hand, easy access, efficiency, innovation, a true paradigm shift: i.e., the world's goods coming to the consumer who possesses sufficient cash. On the other hand, a boring monoculture, untrammeled growth, community destruction, and the few getting rich while the many stay poor. Which do you prefer, knowing that you can't have one without the other? It depends on whether or not you're one of the wealthy ones. Or live in the expectation that you too will someday graduate to their ranks.

You win the lottery. You croak. Game's up.

I sit here trying to answer life's big questions: What should I buy today? And how much should I pay for it? Freedom of choice incarnate. Leading to uniform individuality, an oxymoronic culture, a sea of cars going nowhere. My fingers skip across the keyboard. My credit's good. I want to eat more shite than I can digest. I'm logged onto Amazon, the company that exists to serve me and my acquisitive desires. I'm hell-bent on finding just the right product. Who cares what it is? If I can't satisfy myself in the first few seconds online, I start to yawn. Browsing is so boring. If I flip through enough screens, everything starts to look like toilet paper.

But if there's one thing I need a lot of, it's toilet paper. When 'freedom of choice' is reduced to 'what should I buy today to affirm my individuality?' the result is crushing boredom and a chafed anus.

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