Saturday, October 2, 2010

not what but why

Ruminating on a recent discussion over at Morris Berman's blog, I have been thinking a lot about the things people consume.  Not that this is a new topic for me, I am endlessly interested in political economy - or, what people buy, eat, use up, and throw out. The problem is that for a while I had a thesis that there are certain things that are more right to consume. more healthy. good for the soul.

But I have come to re-think this truth. One rule that certainly does still stand is that the less we consume the better off we are.  Less food, less things, less trash, less health problems, etc. I have harped on this enough here. I think you get the point. Consume less = health more.

What's changed for me is in the realm of those things we do choose to let into our realm of influence. I thought before that there was a sort of universal list of things that were better or worse. For example, I thought that it is universally better to read something like Noam Chomsky than, I don't know, comic books. Or listen to Wilco instead of Britney Spears. There Will Be Blood over Step It Up 2. Now, even typing it out here makes it clear that this is an impossibly snobby thing to think.

The real truth, I think, is that it is not what people consume but why. It is infinitely more important that the person is sincere about their consumption, looking to grow and that it is not another form of mindless entertainment, part of the numbing calmness each of us has chosen to partake in to calm the nerves and loosen the tension in our necks. The problem here is that this is a very amorphous thing, very hard to gauge. It is much easier for us all to say Oh you are just so stupid, reading those superhero stories than it is to say why do you like those stories? what do you learn from them? what do they mean to you?

What gets me most about this conundrum is that, to me, it seems infinitely better to ask someone the latter question at, say, a party, than to make the former comment. I would much rather get right into the sincere truth of the matter, but somehow I have found this kind of talk has made its way out of party conversation in favor of judgments and superficiality.

I am now, as of this post, going to attempt to throw off this smothering blanket of thoughtlessness and instead be sincere, care, and ask the question why before I ever judge the what.