AllConsuming.org.uk https://www.allconsuming.org.uk An all-consuming site for an all-consuming book Fri, 25 Nov 2011 17:45:53 +0000 https://wordpress.org/?v=2.8 en hourly 1 Chickens coming home to roost https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/uncategorized/chickens-coming-home-to-roost/ https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/uncategorized/chickens-coming-home-to-roost/#comments Fri, 25 Nov 2011 17:45:53 +0000 editor https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/?p=457 burnI can’t help seeing though world through the prism of consumption. It’s the best lens I’ve found to understand society, its economy and culture. Today two articles jumped out from the paper and made me smile with a told you so grin.

The first was about the Philip Green Top Shop and BHS empire which is shutting 260 shops and has crashed to a loss of £102m. That’s not funny on one level of course; for the people who will lose their jobs.  But one of the biggest factors – the mild weather  – has meant no one is buying winter clothes. So climate change brought on by turbo-consumption, starts shutting the shops that helped create it. Perhaps more summer wear outfitters will open up. But the market is reaping what it sowed.

Look no further than electrical goods outlet Dixons.  They sunk deeper into the red in part because of the £4million bill for lost stock during the summer riots. As I helped write elsewhere – the anomy of the riots was complex but shopping played more than its part. Windows full of plasma TVs in communities where 50% of kids have no job and no chance of a job is tempting fate just a bit to much.

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Protect me from what I want https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/uncategorized/protect-me-from-what-i-want/ https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/uncategorized/protect-me-from-what-i-want/#comments Wed, 12 Oct 2011 10:36:49 +0000 editor https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/?p=452 UnknownI saw this for the first time at the V&A post modernism exhibition I mentioned in the blog below. I think its a brilliant statement projected in the most illuminating way. The image is the brainchild of Jenny Holzer who projected a range of such ‘truisims’ from the late 1970s.

The statement gets to the heart of life in a consumer society. We are seduced on an industrial scale into wanting thing we never knew existed until we saw the advert. We know we don’t need much of it.  But there are no alternatives. Alternatives are ruled out. We can’t stop this alone. We are exposed all day every day in a psychological onslaught. Someone needs to protect us.  But who and how?

Confession: I bought a print copy of the statement for £9.50 and now need to find the right frame. Can someone protect me from what I want?

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Steve Jobs RIP https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/uncategorized/steve-jobs-rip/ https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/uncategorized/steve-jobs-rip/#comments Sun, 09 Oct 2011 13:58:47 +0000 editor https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/?p=448 imagesOn Friday I’d had enough of the the over the top commentary on the sad death of Steve Jobs so I wrote this on the Guardian site. There are a string of critical and, unusually for me, supportive comments.  Sundays papers were still at it.

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Victorian Post-Modernism https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/uncategorized/victorian-post-modernism/ https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/uncategorized/victorian-post-modernism/#comments Sun, 09 Oct 2011 13:50:48 +0000 editor https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/?p=446 2010EM5177_jpg_lOn Friday night I went to the Post-Modernism exhibition at the V&A. Get along if you can. It made me think of a lot of things, like all good exhibitions do; how much aesthetically I’m a modernist and hate the look of much post modern-design; how much I want to see Bladerunner again; how much I like the work of Pater Saville and just how brilliant Scheiner’s consumer rest chair is. Most of all it made me think how every avant garde movement is turned into a way to make money.

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Give away unwanted clothes – and then buy more https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/uncategorized/give-away-unwanted-clothes-and-then-buy-more/ https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/uncategorized/give-away-unwanted-clothes-and-then-buy-more/#comments Wed, 07 Sep 2011 11:51:25 +0000 editor https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/?p=442 UnknownM&S are giving a big advertising push for tomorrow  (8th Sept) which they claim to be The One Day – Wardrobe Clear-out.  What you do is take in any unwanted/used clothes to a store and they give them to Oxfam. To show their thanks they will give you a £5 M&S voucher.  What’s not to like?

Ok lets have a think. As M&S say ‘a surprising 92% of us have clothes we don’t wear’. I actually don’t think it’s a surprise. The point of M&S and all the other clothing retailers is to get us to buy stuff not wear it. If we wore everything we had then we would stop buying so much. We don’t wear it all either because you get fatter and cant like me or because   fashion has moved on.  Which it always does.  In clearing them out all we are doing is making more space for more new things. Especially when we have a £5 voucher to kick us off. But do you know what? 92% of us wont wear them either. As I recount in the book, hard core shoppers like my sister already have a one in one out policy when it comes to the wardrobe.

The third world don’t need hand me downs but a world in which the West stops consuming at such a mad rate. To be fair M&S Plan A is better than many corporate facelifts and their job is to make their shareholders as much money as possible. But I’m less convinced that Oxfam should be part of the never ending consumer race that drives inequality and climate change – let alone giving a brand halo to M&S by endorsing their marketing campaign. After all, it’s a lot more than our clothes we need to clear out.

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The Leader of the Pack https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/uncategorized/the-leader-of-the-pack/ https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/uncategorized/the-leader-of-the-pack/#comments Mon, 05 Sep 2011 13:54:33 +0000 editor https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/?p=437 imagesYou just have to read the Sunday Times Style magazine if you want to understand the world. Or rather you just have to flick through the pictures.  This week there are six pages on ‘standing out from the crowd with the right accessories’.  The models on each page pose as animals – sheep, monkeys, lions (you know what animals are don’t you) etc but – wait for it – they stand out because of their accessories – bags, belts, bracelets, boots and shoes (sorry, you know what accessories are).  A silver cuff for £220 or a bag for £710. Take your pick.

So what do we learn?  We are just animals – correct.  But we can stand out from other animals through what we buy. Correct again but only in a narrow material sense. Why don’t we stand out by what we do, say or write? But to be a herd you need a brand. Whether its from a red hot iron or a pair of  Jimmy Choos it doesn’t matter. At least the real herds just live and graze until they die. We spend our life on the treadmill of earning to be able to brand and rebrand ourselves.

Thanks you as ever for point this out Style magazine.

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Dying to shop https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/uncategorized/dying-to-shop/ https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/uncategorized/dying-to-shop/#comments Sun, 22 May 2011 20:16:14 +0000 editor https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/?p=434 UnknownTwo things separate us from other animals – having thumbs and knowing that we are going to die.  Thumbs mean we can make lots of things other animals can’t.  Knowing we are going to die means we buy lots of things that we can make because we have thumbs.

The dying bit is the interesting thing.  Because we know we are mortal we try and fill our life with things to make us think dying doesn’t matter.  Have you heard of something called religion?  Largely it means not worrying about now because there will be a then.  A next life.  But people stopped believing in religion – we got all secular. It means a Next life. So we did two shopping things.  We bought as much as possible to fill the void and to make life feel meaningful and we bought to feel young – like we would never die. We bought young cloths and plastic faces because we can’t stand the fate of death without the comfort blanket of religion.

But now there is no place left to hide as we can buy a longevity test so we know how long we have to shop – sorry I mean live. Life insurance is about to get very expensive or very cheap depending on your results. (The story is in the Sunday Times called Death calculators fix our date with the grim reaper but I cant make the link because you have to pay).

Also in the Sunday Times is the news that the growth of fast fashion  means women are buying half their body weight in clothes each year.  And there is the news that Bonpoint the luxury French fashion labels has a range of kids clothing using dead animal fur. We know we are going to die for us. The animals don’t know they are going to die at all and certainly not so little Chardonnay or Bruce can wear fur.  So its thumbs up for Bonpoint and death to the rabbits.

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Tesco Land https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/uncategorized/tesco-land/ https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/uncategorized/tesco-land/#comments Tue, 03 May 2011 16:37:28 +0000 editor https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/?p=429 UnknownSometimes it feels like a lonely job taking on the might of consumer capitalism.  But then Ed Miliband the Labour leader comes along and expresses his disquiet at the ‘Tesco-isation’ of the land. Speaking to the BBC this weekend he said “I think local people should have more of a say over what happens to their high streets”. He went on “I think it is a problem that people think the character of their high street is being changed and they have no power against big corporations in this country”.

Ed’s welcome comments follow on from the kerfuffle in Bristol over the opening of the store in Stokes Croft that many local resident don’t want. More trouble broke out there at the weekend. This is terrible PR for Tesco – the perception that they are forcing themselves on local communities. Terrible because in may respects they are.

The answer for Ed lies in planning law. But the law is just one aspect of an economic shift that needs to be made.  Tesco is powerful because it has the money to hire the best lobbyists and lawyers. They have the most money to pay for sites when councils are feeling the squeeze, which means they tend to get what they want. In a world where money counts they pull out all the stops. When they get a site their enormous buying power then means other local shops are soon squeezed out.  Nothing grows in their shadow.

Joanna Blythman in the Guardian today shows how Tesco really operates as it withdraws a money back scheme because shoppers were getting too much money back.  they pretned to be the consumers friend – but only when it suits them.

New Labour lived by the rule that ‘economic efficiency and social just go hand in hand’. What was good good for the market was deemed to be good for society. Since the crash that over simplification of the world no longer carries any weight.  In the process of adopting a market first strategy Labour switched from being a party based on producers to one based on consumers. There is no going back to how things were in the 1950s, there is no blue Labour to be dug up. But Labour can become the party of the citizen, not the producer or the consumer. The party of people with powerful individual and collective voices that can say no to the march of the market. Ed now needs to ensure that this isn’t just a line in a pre-election speech but becomes a theme and then a meaningful policy.  Its not just in terms of their income that middle are being squeezed but in their sense of identity and power to control at least some of their world.

PS article of the week goes to Lucy Siegle writing in the Observer about the abuse of workers making our must have gadgets.  It’s a great piece.  Have a read but not on an iPad.

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RIP Poly Styrene https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/uncategorized/rip-poly-styrene/ https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/uncategorized/rip-poly-styrene/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2011 10:51:59 +0000 editor https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/?p=424 UnknownI was never a big X Ray Specs fan but I owned a copy of Germ Free Adolescence (on 12”vinyl) and was sad to read of lead singer Poly Sytrenes death at 53.  Poly had her eye keenly on the excesses of consumer capitalism and wrote some great anti-shopping song.    She is up there with the Clash and their Lost in a Supermarket.

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It’s in the bag! https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/uncategorized/its-in-the-bag-2/ https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/uncategorized/its-in-the-bag-2/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2011 10:16:35 +0000 editor https://www.allconsuming.org.uk/?p=417 UnknownSORRY ANOTHER POST ABOUT HANDBAGS.

The Sunday Times Style magazine (natch) this week there was an article on girls buying the ‘right’ handbags. The sub head read “If you want to belong in the playground, you got to have the right arm candy”.

Children as young as eight want to the right bag and each tribe has their own make. They copy their celebrity heroes of course. 14 year old Eliza Clarke says “It’s funny. I stand much more proudly; I feel older”. Longchamp reflects her ‘personality’ and makes here feel ‘confident’.

So what’s this got to do with progressive politics?

Well consider another bag that is up for sale or rather auction. Mrs. Thatcher’s black Asprey is going under the hammer and is expected to fetch up to £100,000. Her bags were a symbol of her power and she is said to have carried round a copy of Hayek’s seminal Road to Serfdom in them.

So the market fundamentalism she espoused is played out over 20 years later with girls as young as eight being caught up in the grinding machine of turbo-consumption. They are no longer girls, there is no youth just the opportunity to sell whatever they can to whoever they can.

Labour and too much of the left have little if anything to say about such issues.

One narrow definition of freedom, the freedom to shop till you drop, allied to a view of aspiration that is almost entirely material are now so singularly ingrained in the psyche of so many after New Labour’s rule that it would be deemed madness to question why girls of eight behave in such a way and therefore the free market nostrums of Mrs T.

As ever she deserves the last word. She said three things that continue to inspire me. The first is the claim that the ‘economy is the means, the goal is to change the soul’. Funnily enough it was from a Sunday Times magazine interview way back when.

She wanted to use free markets to make people in her image – individual and possessive. The girls in the playground bear witness to her success. But she also said ‘socialism never dies’. She knew that just as we could be possessive and individualistic, we could be compassionate, caring and cooperative.

The battle would rage on at least until her third crucial saying could come into play – that her goal was not just to transform the Conservatives but to transform Labour away from socialism. Then her triumph would be complete. Is it in the bag?

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