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Consume Product

published: 2-5-2020

 

They go by many names. Normies, puppets, normalf&gs, zombies, NPCs. Bugmen. Those who accept popular culture at face value, the values passed down to them, the schooling that they received as children, without ever critically examining why they believe the things they believe- or if said things are even true to begin with.

While my family isn't completely bugmen, since they don't literally eat bugs and they still go out of the house to do sports and social activities with their friends (they live a more lively social life than myself, one might easily argue), there's still a strong "consume product" vibe that permeates every atom of the air I breathe in. The Dr. Who door that lies useless in the corner of the living room, the Star Wars merch lying scattered all around the house, the tons and tons of legos on the "Lego table" (really two workhorse benches and a wide square of wood) that rarely get played with anymore. Collecting more toys for the sake of collection, every brother's room a sea of toys on the floor, only purpose nowadays to be relegated to dust-collecting clutter and an everpresent excuse for a parent to yell at them to finally clean their room.

Sitting on one of the decorative bookshelves in the living room is an unopened Dr. Who Playmobil figure, encased in its plastic-and-cardboard coffin forever. Heaven forbid someone open it and play with it, you know, as toys are meant to be used.

Brothers lie in bed all day, burying their faces in YouTube. Days are made or broken on whether or not I let them borrow one of my video games, like an addict begging for their next hit. And nearly every night, a new church service at the Altar of Television, all but me staring listlessly at a glowing screen as the dreams of multi-billion-dollar corporations beam straight into their empty heads.

And Saint Sakura stares at them as they surround the family altar, wondering when the rampant consumerism started- or if maybe it was there all along, and only just relatively recently has the curtain been pulled back. And then she turns back and returns downstairs, beats back the encroaching tendrils of consumerism creeping like overgrown vines into her last place of refuge: her room.

And Saint Sakura has been fighting for what seems like forever. In elementary school, the constant passing fads, duck-tape flowers and stationery emblazoned with one's favorite cartoon characters. Kept sheltered from the brunt of it by caring parents, always out of the loop in a sea of peers. In middle school, waiting to get back to actual instruction when High School Musical fans derailed the class, bugmen then turning around to proclaim that anyone who didn't consume that particular movie series "didn't have a childhood" or that it had "sucked". And from then on and bleeding into high school, trap music blaring in the halls, biting my lip until it bled, trading the involuntary pain of a migraine from the bass shaking in my bones for the distraction of the taste of blood in my mouth.

"You sound very resentful of their sense of happiness and purpose, Vane," I hear a strawman say. "Their sense of community around the things they like. Why don't you improve yourself instead of complaining? Flourishing is the best revenge, after all."

And I'd agree with you on that second part, flimsy strawman, but what kind of happiness is tying so much of one's identity to the products of a corporation? What kind of false consciousness, false sense of life?

And by whose standards would I be flourishing?

The same people at /r/ConsumeProduct, who've kicked me off my throne of resigned apathy enough to write this post? (Although, to be honest, I can't remember if the post that inspired this one was on there or /r/CleanLivingKings, and in any case, it seems to have been deleted. Essentially the same ethos, anyway.) They're just strangers on the internet. They'll probably (hopefully, rather, for my sake) never know who I am. And besides, the kind of self-improvement they peddle would never leave me happy, orthodox NPCs in their own right: Eat only these approved foods. Partake in only these approved activities. Find only this type of person attractive. Worship only this one god in this one particular fashion.

Become a lumberjack to your own vast wilderness, razing the forest down to build a cathedral in its place that cuts into your ribs like a corset laced too tight.

To chain myself to a man, to bring children into this world, bourne from the void to know undue suffering... I would never be able to handle the constant responsibility with no break, no clear end in sight, the loveless sacrifice of it all. I would never be able to forgive myself for throwing away my dreams to continue the senseless story of the human race. There are almost eight billion people in this world; one less reproducing changes nothing.

My parents would ask that hell from me as well, although, to their credit, they have slowly grown more used to the reality of me being a lesbian, not likely to ever bring them any grandchildren ever. Not that home is any more welcoming than it ever was, as now one of my brothers has given himself the license to openly talk about how disgusting and unnatural he finds homosexuality at every given opportunity, unless he can "consoom" it in the form of preapproved fictional characters.

The horrifying reality of the situation is: there is no escape from the Cathedral of Consuming, for self-improvement in itself can be a product, a golden calf, another altar in the Cathedral to sacrifice oneself on. Hell, there's a whole industry centered around selling self-improvement as just another product you can buy off the shelf. You can purchase thousands of dollars' worth of gym equipment (or a gym membership to use once and promptly forget about) and self-help books and organic food... and yet, somehow, you're not magically any closer to an ubermensch than you were, just closer to broke and now with more things taking up space in your house.

Not to say that working to be a better version of yourself is bad. For example, cutting out soda from one's diet is universally good, as is not spending all of one's day sitting on their ass. But it has to be a better version of yourself, not someone else, regardless if you think that that persona of someone else would be better or healthier or happier than your own. It has to be in line with your own values and desires, not those of someone else, or else you'll live a shadow of a life, always grasping across the void at a forever-unattainable ghost of your ideal on the other side, unnecessarily suffering all the while.

In any of these ways, you allow someone else to determine what you should think and be. You deny your own self when you suppress desires that aren't considered "legitimate"... or when you settle for a certain life because you've been told that's all you should expect in the world.
- Harry Browne, How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World

I suspect the idolization of "self-improvement" is part of why cryptofascism has come out from the shadows so much in recent years, as it's one of the few ideologies that tackles the soullessness of bugman-style consumerism head-on and posits itself as the keeper of the antidote. (This isn't to excuse its collectivism or violence; just an observation.) So one, the bitter taste of being assaulted with demands to consume the popular media and opinions of the day still fresh on their tongue, wanders into places like /r/ConsumeProduct thinking they've found comrades to complain with and cope alongside. And sewn here and there, sometimes blatantly, sometimes implied, are blanket accusations of the groups they feel are at fault: homosexuals, Jewish people, women... anyone who does not fit neatly into their Cathedral.

And, if you repeat a lie long enough...