Thursday, December 09, 2004

Cookie Cutters, Anyone?

So started my car and drove. I often hate these trips and I dread them, yet i agrue with the saying, "sometimes you just have to give in." Cheap prices, always low and everything at your fingertips. Maybe part of my frustration with this mega shopping center (coughwalmart) on this particular day, was the fact that i forgot my list and had to go back to my car, them possibly the fact that after entering again i had to turn around (after halfway in the store) and go get a cart, then maybe the truth that i couldn't FIND anything within the store, hence my final frustration after tired feet and heavy hands (from basket i got) i forgot my wallet (another trip to the car). Now i can blame my experience an all of this and yet there is something about this place that wards me away time and time again.

I can easily say the mega structure has depleted all the mom and pop stores. I can complain about the massive parking lot and the huge plastic structure and hurl (to put it lightly). Yet i believe there is much more to it than this. Let me talk atmosphere. Walking through it seemed stale, massive advertisement ploys, and people in blue with "May I help you" jackets. Upon asking numerous employees about where i can find cookie cutters--i got tossed left and right and believe i managed a good five miles today. Lastly i got told by a lady in the craft department that they were three rows down on the left and (almost rudely) "they are for all season, that's all we got." For which she returned to talking to her co-workers. Frustrated at this point I grabed some stupid train and stars (so long for christmas cheer). Upon leaving the store, my point was proven distinctly. When i left i gave my best effort to smile and make eye contact to the lady who greets upon entering and leaving. She steadly remained "busy"...when i reached a point of passing beyond that zone of contact she was able to push out a simple "have a goodnight." Not only was it impersonal, but i would rather have nothing at all i believe.

After this disturbing stop, i went into downtown Beaver Falls to pick up some De'Angile's donuts for a friend of mine. Not only upon entering did i get a hello from the small shop but i was able to hold a steady conversation and laugh a little with the employees. What makes these two store's demeanors so different?

So, where do we buy groceries, where do we buy those simple necessities? When i was in Europe it was easy to walk down the street and go to the open air markets, at a fairly reasonable price. They had small grocery stores, yet nothing so elaborate and plastic looking. Walking through Italy the store were as small as a simple bathroom. They were not over stuffed with merchandise. I saw one store where probably only three people could fit inside, guess that doesn't leave room for unavoidable eye contact! The structure was beautiful, simple and yet so genuine. There is something to size, something to window shopping, and something to interaction.

and i still need cookie cutters...

Does Consumption Equal Freedom

Sitting in my usual backrow seat in Brad Frey's class yesterday, we were discussing the book Freaks, Geeks, and the Cool Kids (such a good title) by Murray Milner, Jr., for our Deviant Behavior class. The book is basically summing up everyone's typical highschool experience. Milner reflects status powers, and cliques through the Indian Caste system:

"In traditional India, members of one caste did not usually marry or eat with members of another caste. The higher status castes tended to minimize their contact with lower castes and expected to be treated with deference by those from lower castes. These patterns are common for teenages...Instead of sharing simply a common economic or political location, members of a status group share a common lifestyle, that is, common patterns of consumption and use of common symbols and rituals..."

How, almost, exact is this system to the "normative" highschool lifestyle? There are some objections from those who went to small schools, or, like my friend, who was the most popular in her school to the nerdiest in her school (she was homeschooled). Anyways, there is a bit of reality in this caste system everywhere either in small or large outlandish batches.

In class, however, we picked at this consumer idea. Milner pointed out that, "Some postmondern theorist see advertising not as manipulation or even as a necessary nuisance, but as a central and legitimate part of contemporary popular culture." Bascially these theorist are saying that advertisment is what the world is, this is who we are, stop complaining and accept it (our schemes and ploys will never change--it's a way of life)! (as Brad Frey tried to point out and analogy he said-- it's like the American view of abstinence, saying that it is of the past and things have changed so just accept it).

Milner goes on about this idea of consumerism through a postmodernist view.

They say, "Consumption is not seen as frivolous activity but something with 'emancipatory potential.' It is a key aspect of personal and social identity is a means of shaping how they define themselves and what constitues an appropriate lifestyle for that self--because choosing and creating one's own lifestyle is seen as the crucial form of 'emancipation.'"

So sum this up, postmodernist believe that consumerism is freedom (at this point my ears sort of purked up in class). Freedom to be who you want to be with what you buy. Now stop for a second here. I can see their point (a small dim light of it). Yet who, at one time or another in their life (and still so), bought something that adapts to one's character--or what one's desires their character to be? And how many times do we not buy something because it may harm or hinder that desired identitiy? My point being that buying things does form an identity--who has compartmentalized someone by their music or the clothes they wear (it's a natural human characteristic--sinful or's still there).

Freedom. Talking to Brad about this after class, i told him, "I can see this idea of identity and can somewhat agree with the postmodern view BUT i believe the more we consume the more we are bounded by them. To have everything we want and more slowly takes over who we trully are and tied down we become." I wish people in the class had more to say about this subject, but the conversation in class ended with me not fully thinking and raising my hand, to say "i find it a bondage" at this point Brad was still looking at me waiting for more. But i said, "yeah...umm that's all--i just think it is a bondage...." There goes some brains for you. Hence my conversation after the class, because the topic seemed left in the air and i was unsure of his view.

Now i am just appaled at the idea that theorist could contrive such a view. Yet more so, I realize how this thought could (and has) slowly creep into our society and honestly taken hold. Buy more because you will be fits you...or as my mother has said numerous times, "allyson, these look just like you!"

So what is freedom (that is for a whole other day, i guess)...

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Time is Short

As of right now I am sipping some Italian early grey tea and trying to get caught up on many things in my life at this moment. I will soon be posting some true thoughts on my Italy trip and in once sense or another, the ways this one week trip has spurred some interesting sociological thoughts as well as experiential thoughts... (hopefully i will not fail in my trying to transfer the epiphanies in my head to the page). The lack of post may be a habit I have formed until i have time...