Enough with the materialism orgy, already!

materialism-orgy

Maybe it’s envy. Maybe it’s just that I don’t have money to buy expensive gifts. Or maybe it’s that I wouldn’t buy these kinds of gifts even if I could. I’d give people something more practical. Or burn the money.

But it seems to me that each Christmas, the materialism orgy gets several degrees more offensive.

Get a load of the guy in the screengrab above. Excuse my imagery, but he looks for all the world like he’s about to have an orgasm from sticking his nose into a wineglass.

This is from a pop-up video act that forced itself upon me when I tried to read a story on the New York Times website. The video went on and on like this, in slow motion. With “Ode to Joy” as the background music, just in case the images didn’t lay it on thick enough. It all just seemed to embody perfectly everything that bugs me about the ads for jewelry and perfume and watches that cost more than my house (and what’s more pointlessly ostentatious than an expensive watch, in an age when we all carry phones that keep perfect time?) with which we are inundated this time of year.

Part of this is that I’m kind of jaded about foodie stuff. (And may that’s because I have such a limited diet, and tend to think good food is anything I can use for fuel that won’t kill me.) People make WAY too big a deal over how good a bite of food or a sip of a drink — or in this case, the smell of a drink — can be. Face it — if there’s a cake recipe that you think is better than sex, you’ve got a problem.

But there’s much, much more than that going on here. A lot of effort was put into making this guy look posh, upper-class, refined, better than you, and something to aspire to — if only you can afford and appreciate this product, you, too will be a superior being. It’s so extreme, it’s laughable. Like a Thurston Howell caricature of wealth and snobbery, only with better production values. The makers of the ad were going for the same effect I was going for in my own cheesy way with this selfie, except they weren’t kidding.

This is actually expected to appeal to… somebody. Donald Trump, maybe. He probably thinks it’s classy.

This holiday started with celebrating a poor child born in a stable. And now this.

Do y’all know what I’m saying here? If so, what’s the materialism-deifying ad you hate the most? Share, so we can heap scorn upon it.

39 thoughts on “Enough with the materialism orgy, already!

  1. Doug Ross

    Everything bought had to be sold. Many, many, many jobs depend on “rich” people spending their money on things you would never buy. The guy who works on repairing Maserattis is glad someone buys them. Just like the jeweler who sells Rolexes or the chef who cooks $300 meals. Money flows. and be glad it does.

    Me? I don’t own a car. Don’t have any jewelry except a wedding ring that cost 100 bucks. I buy a lot of my clothes off the 70% off rack at Kohls. But I do love to spend money on experiences like travel.

    Reply
    1. bud

      It’s a well established fact that the rich don’t spend and drive the economy the way people who have less money. Redistribution is not an ugly word, it’s just another word for pragmatism.

      Reply
      1. Doug Ross

        Bud – who do you think keeps restaurants, hotels, and the airline industry in business? It’s not Joe Sixpack.

        When you get your wish for eliminating the rich in this country, I hope you have jobs for all the people who work in service industries. Or apparently every restaurant will become a Subway and every hotel will become a Motel 6.

        Reply
    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      I’m with Doug on this. Travel is the only expensive thing that I think is worth it.

      And if I could afford it, I would probably go first-class, just because I find it impossible to sleep on the seats in coach. If I doze off, my head immediately falls forward and wakes me up. And when you’re flying someplace like Bangkok, that’s WAY too long to go without sleep.

      As it happens, I can’t afford it, so I just have to catch up on sleep when I get to where I’m going.

      If I COULD afford it, I’d be self-conscious about it, because that’s really one of the more obnoxious forms of conspicuous consumption. I’d find myself wishing first class was at the BACK of the plane, so the coach people wouldn’t have to walk through it and envy it.

      Maybe I’d put a sign around my neck saying, “I’m just here for the SLEEP!”

      Reply
  2. Harry Harris

    According to the writer of 1st Timothy in the NT, the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. What is materialism other than the love of money and the power to possess it bestows. Most of us have a strong-to-overwhelming dose of it whether we admit it to ourselves or not. I view the two greatest evils of our culture as being rampant materialism and hyper-sexuality. “In my day” (growing up) we were taught to “be” and “become” (be).If you become a person of good character and adequate skill, then you can accomplish much (do). If you accomplish much, you may, if you want to, have much. Our present culture pushes us and our offspring to have, get, own as a measure of who we are – it matters little how we get it. Accomplishments are to be admired, but mainly as a means of getting. “If you’re smart, why aren’t you rich?” is an underlying mantra. How poor we’ve become!
    It’s not just at Christmas, Brad.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen

      What was it? Was it GOOD expensive, like an iPhone or a dependable car that takes you from A to B, something you can DO something with, and that lasts? Or STUPID expensive, like a Rolex or a Maserati or overpriced wine?

      There’s a difference. Y’all are free to shower me with expensive gifts, and I’ll tell you which ones are good. This will be educational for you all. :)

      Just don’t expect me to react with something approaching religious ecstasy….

      Reply
    2. Brad Warthen

      The thing that shields me from being corrupted by these fripperies is that my tastes are TOO expensive. I’m unimpressed by an expensive car (which gets you where you’re going no better than a cheap one) or wine that’s gone in moments.

      To get to the level of senseless spending that would please ME would require wealth at least that of the British royal family (and if they want to throw in some lands and titles, that’s OK, too).

      Here’s the useless thing I’d like to have — a working replica of HMS Surprise, with 200 prime hands to work and fight her (not a landsman among them), and some good seamanlike officers of the quality of Pullings and Mowett. The key roles on the ship — Killick and Bonden, for instance — would be played by good British actors who have been trained up to know their jobs inside and out. Of course the actors and sailors would be filling their roles 24 hours a day for the entire commission.

      That’s expensive enough, but I’d want her outfitted for a year’s voyage — provisions from rum down to ship’s biscuit, and enough private powder so that we could beat to quarters and practice firing the great guns every evening. I’d want the latest technology available in 1812 — the best chronometers available, at least three of them, so we know where we are.

      I would not take any squeakers aboard, unless they’re sons of captains I’m depending on to take my grandson onto their quarterdecks when he comes of age.

      Mind you, this isn’t just pointless spending. Our Navy is undershipped and undermanned, and we’d be happy to help, as long as the government is willing to give us letters of marque against enemy powers. Once the men are trained up to Aubrey standards, we could probably clap a stopper over the antics of the Somali pirates, for instance.

      One thing, though — would I be Aubrey, or Maturin? It’s my ship, so I’d want to be Jack. But the actors would probably tell me Stephen is more my type. That means I’d have to learn to whip off a man’s leg as easy as kiss-my-hand, and that would take practice…

      Reply
            1. Bryan Caskey

              Oh, and speaking of Jaws, just last night, I got through the scene where Mr. Hairabedian goes swimming and gets attacked/eaten by a shark.

              What really struck me was that the way O’Brian writes that passage is almost exactly how Spielberg does the shark attack in the opening sequence of the movie. I’ve never read the book, but I’d be interested in seeing how Peter Benchley writes and describes that attack.

              While I was reading it, I was sitting there thinking, I wonder if O’Brian “borrowed” this bit from Jaws.

              The other thing that I thought about while reading that passage was “never get out of the boat“.

              Reply
      1. Claus

        “which gets you where you’re going no better than a cheap one”

        Choose your car for a 4000 mile cross country road trip… A) Toyota Yaris or B) Lexus LS470?

        Choose one… mind you they’ll both get you where you want to go.

        Reply
        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Actually, I rented a Yaris once — not for 4,000 miles, but for about 600.

          I thought it was awesome. I think I got more than 40 miles a gallon, and I got a great kick out of that. I remember thinking that if I ever buy a new car again, I might get one of those….

          Reply
          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Several years back, I started renting cars when I needed to go somewhere well out of state — such as Memphis, or New York, or Pennsylvania — rather than putting all that wear and tear on my own. (And unless I’m going overseas, I prefer to avoid the hassle of air travel.)

            I usually go with something small for the gas mileage, but sometimes rent something larger.

            I think my favorite was when I drove a Mazda 6 from Mechanicsburg, PA, back to Columbia. Very sporty, in its own modest way. I liked the way it handled….

            Reply
      1. Mark Stewart

        Coal is dead. Needs change, jobs change. Trump isn’t bringing it back, either.

        If they didn’t vote for Clinton hoping to relive the past they are bound to be sadly mistaken. And most likely, in far worse economic position then they are now.

        Reply
        1. Claus

          Didn’t Obama promise “change”?

          I know several people who’s health insurance premiums changed, but that’s about it.

          Reply
  3. Claus

    I will agree with you on that, I read a couple large gun forums and I’m convinced that 90% of the subscribers are alcoholics. They get on topics of whiskey, scotch, bourbon, etc… and I swear the majority get the same reaction they would in a porn site discussion. To me half of the above taste like gasoline, the other half kerosene. And then there are cigar discussions…

    Reply
  4. JesseS

    There is a certain irony in an actor being known for playing the erudite snob. Starting at the bottom, he had to be broke at some point, so it must feel more than a little ridiculous.

    Prior to Tarantino giving Waltz parts, he was a goofy (and I do mean goofy) unknown television actor in Europe who did soap opera level work.

    Reply
  5. Kathryn Fenner

    That ad isn’t materialistic in the sense of excessive consumption that plagues our society, especially at Christmas. He’s savoring a sensory experience, and not a terribly expensive one at that. A glass of good Champers can be had at the Hampton Street Vineyard for a few Starbucks Grandes. This isn’t showy diamond jewelry artificially priced by a cartel, a brand new gas guzzler with a three foot bow, a TV the size of your living room wall….
    Sure, it’s not non-materialistic in some ascetic sense–it is celebrating a material thing, and not World Peace or Love, but if we privileged Americans all spent more time sniffing the Champers (or whatever floats your boat)–slowing down and truly enjoying things, the world would be a much better place.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I don’t care if it’s five bucks a bottle. I’m just offended by the way it’s portrayed as a religious experience. I realize earlier I said it appeared to be a sexual experience. Same deal. I have too much respect for both religion and sex to see them cheapened this way.

      In fact, if I weren’t a Catholic, I’d probably be happy in a fertility cult. Actually, you might say Catholicism sort of IS a fertility cult in some ways, and I won’t necessarily argue with you — much.

      I think I’ve made that point before. No matter. It’s a good point, I think…

      Reply
      1. Kathryn Fenner

        But for some people, it is. God is in the details. I’m not a Champagne snob, although I do appreciate a nice yeasty real French Champagne–I also like Prosecco, Sekt, and Cava, so….
        I don’t see the religion and sex thing–you imposed that. That said, what’s so offensive about using your God-given, in your beliefs, senses to appreciate aesthetic qualities? If it were someone with nice headphones on listening to the excellent recording of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas with Violin Accompaniment Phillip Bush made with Aaron Berofsky?
        https://smile.amazon.com/Beethoven-Complete-Sonatas-Violin-Piano/dp/B005346JBM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1481840138&sr=8-1&keywords=phillip+bush

        Frankly, a nice recording of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony beats any church service (even the transcendent Compline at Trinity Cathedral), in my view, and some Haagen Dazs beats a lot of the sex I’ve had….

        Reply
        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I’m all for properly appreciating lovely Ludwig von, but I think our little droogie Alex took the sensuality of the experience a bit far:

          “Oh it was gorgeousness and gorgeosity made flesh. The trombones crunched redgold under my bed, and behind my gulliver the trumpets three-wise silverflamed, and there by the door the timps rolling through my guts and out again crunched like candy thunder. Oh, it was wonder of wonders. And then, a bird of like rarest spun heavenmetal, or like silvery wine flowing in a spaceship, gravity all nonsense now, came the violin solo above all the other strings, and those strings were like a cage of silk round my bed. Then flute and oboe bored, like worms of like platinum, into the thick thick toffee gold and silver. I was in such bliss, my brothers.”

          Actually, that wasn’t technically Beethoven. But if anything, he reacted more so to Beethoven…

          Reply
          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            I just find hedonism offensive. It’s the Grand Inquisitor in me, I suppose…

            Oh, I think it was fine for Franklin to say that beer was “a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.”

            But he wasn’t getting all excited about it. It’s when one kicks into ecstatic mode that I think one has lost one’s perspective…

            Reply
  6. Harry Harris

    I remember telling my friends once I would go to a Ben and Jerry’s booth since I hadn’t tried any. When I came back without any I told them it was ridiculously priced. One said Try it you may find you really lie it. I told him I might like cocaine too, but I wasn’t about to develop a yen for something I couldn’t afford.
    By the way, I hope you didn’t pay Haagen Dazs prices for the sex.

    Reply

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