Frederick Douglass in Your Kitchen

“Power concedes nothing.” So observed Frederick Douglass in an 1857 speech, 30 years before Lord Acton’s famous riff on the point.

The point applies at all levels of applied power, too.

Very probably, we presently live in the early stages of a world-historic ecological crisis requiring a collective acknowledgement that the teenage fantasy of endless wealth accumulation can’t work. I order to save civilization, we will have to make huge changes in our main institutional priorities. The way we design and make products will have to be very seriously altered.

Soon. Like yesterday.

Meanwhile, despite this, per Douglass, power concedes nothing:

Behold Lasso, the (supposedly) forthcoming kitchen appliance for sorting and packaging your recycling!

Here is how Engadget describes this dishwasher-sized machine’s ideal operation:

The still-in-development Lasso will have a vertical slot or tray for depositing items. A series of cameras and sensors will then analyse the packaging and decide if it’s recyclable. No good? Then the object will be returned to you, rather like a vending machine spitting out change. Otherwise, the material will be steam-cleaned to remove leftover food, grease, dirt and labels. Finally, it will be ground down and placed in a dedicated compartment at the bottom of the Lasso. When one or all of these boxes are full, you’ll use a smartphone app to organize a kerbside collection. A driver can then pick it up…

Yes, nothing could possibly break in that chain, could it?

Meanwhile, the entire scam here presumes continuing purchaser ignorance about the severe limitations of recycling.

As social order that permits its runaway elite to continue to pursue endless commercialism and commodification is not long for this planet. Yet, here we see it — redoubling, as always.

Power, remember, concedes nothing.

“Our Crisis of Consumerism”

The New York Times will sometimes let writers come pretty close to realism, but only to a certain depth. When it comes to talking about causes, the paper’s standards of coherence and apt evidence disappear. The job, after all, is to make nonsense out of what might otherwise make deep and dangerous sense.

To wit, consider the wildly irrational op-ed by Bianca Vivion Brooks on “the cycle of waste and consumerism” in today’s paper-of-record.

According to Ms. Brooks, the world is in deep trouble from booming material waste because of defects in “our collective desire for goods and services.” And these defects, Ms. Brooks asserts, arise from us ourselves:

[T]he accumulation of things is still at the essence of what it means to be American. Ownership of property and the gospel of prosperity are so deeply tied to our ideas of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” that few seem willing to renounce the materialism that lies at the core of our national identity.

That, of course, is at least highly debatable.

Brooks certainly provides no reference(s) to support the claim, nor does the NYT require such things, apparently.

Meanwhile, Brooks, who says she’s still in her twenties, seems unacqainted with any careful, classic criticisms of capitalism, so perhaps we can excuse her sloppy speculation. But, as her piece shows, this “consumer culture” stuff is damned toxic to realistic thought.

Brooks concludes that it is high time for us to “reassess our relationship to things.” The problem, of course, is our relationship to one another.

At this late date, in our corporate media ecology, it remains all but forbidden to describe these pertinent relationships.

Commodifier of the Year

Procter & Gamble, the world’s 53rd largest publicly-traded business corporation, has been named Advertising Age‘s Marketer of the Year for 2019.

According to Ad Age, P & G has re-dedicated itself to out-marketing its competitors. As a result of its search for “work that has more impact,” “P&G has,” Ad Age reports, “gained share in most businesses this year, posting 7 percent organic sales growth the past two quarters.” This “rarity for any big company” has pushed P & G’s “stock price up more than 30 percent this year and 65 percent from recent lows in May 2018.”

Okay, but what is the material basis for such stellar work on behalf of shareholders?

Things like this:

That is new Downy Unstopables, which is apparently perfume you add to your laundry.

The logic of such a breakthrough is reported, with TCT’s emphasis added, by Ad Age as follows:

Such ads, which aim to encourage consumers to use products more often and successfully, are part of an effort…to focus less on taking share from rivals and more on growing or creating categories. 

One example is Downy Unstopables scent beads, a business with more than $750 million in global sales that’s moving the brand from fabric softening to adding lasting fragrance to clothes.

No word, of course, on what happens to all those new plastic bottles.

The Scourge of Hyperhidrosis

carpe lotion ad image Sweaty hands: Where would anybody sane rank this on the list of humanity’s current problems? What does the fact that new, heavily promoted package goods to combat sweaty hands are now much more on the agenda than, say, serious ecological reforms imply about corporate capitalism and its highly engineered socio-cultural order?

The new product that prompts this question is Carpe Hand Anti-Perspirant, which, if one is gullible enough to believe the public story of the stuff’s inventors, was created because people urgently needed it:

For years, hyperhidrosis treatment required multiple visits to a doctor or dermatologist. Individuals often had little choice but to dedicate ample amounts of time and money to hyperhidrosis treatment at a medical facility.

Ever the heroes, our valiant entrepreneurs — TRIGGER WARNING: the story involves graphic tales of “a lot of people were wiping their palms on their clothes” — knew of this crisis and pursued a solution:

However, an increased focus in hyperhidrosis research and product development has produced methods to treat hyperhidrosis in the comfort of your own home.

The research that led to this wondrous breakthrough? Turns out, it is organized by an MBA, and takes surveys of its own conference attendees to document the disease to which it claims to be responding.

As Preacher Daniel told the folks in Matewan, draw your own conclusions.

Car in the Fridge, Fridge in the Car

Joe Strummer foresaw it. Automobiles are not just core vehicles of hyper-commodification/waste, but are themselves sites of selling and commercial indoctrination.

This is a photo of the arrival of the further commercialization and commodification of the experience of riding in cars, to wit, the arrival of Cargo-in-Uber:

food-in-uber

Now, if they can just figure out how to get robots to drive…