Sunday, October 14, 2018

A Subtle Decadency

Let me go ahead and write that this post will be even more askew from my usual rants and trite observations. Nothing really surprising although my eventual point will probably be a little too abstract for most people.

Over a week ago, I had to make a Lowes run to once again pick up supplies for yard work. As per my usual habit, I stopped by the place quite early in the morning while on my way home from work. That way I didn't have to deal with both the large crowds that frequent the warehouse-style retail stores and and the locals who I simply do not like. Yes, that latter part is from my longstanding inability to fit in with the stifling atmosphere that engulfs anything to do with modern American suburbia. A physiological deficiency of mine that still drives my wife crazy.

As most already know, the vast majority of American retail stores of all types start laying out Halloween merchandise at the end of August. This is mainly so all manufacturers of Halloween stuff can make as much money as possible off the docile masses. I could mention the Pavlovian nature of bringing out all the cheap and crappy trinkets of the various holidays a little earlier each year, but what would be the point? American consumers are a nicely tamed and trained bunch who eagerly drool the second the proper stimulus appears. Whatever the case, as far as my 50-something mind is concerned, I problem with bringing out all the horror-related junk while everyone is walking around in sweaty t-shirts and shorts. I still associate Halloween with far chiller, autumn-like weather that required people wear long pants and light jackets. Not that my childhood memories matter since these days in the American South, hot and humid summer-like weather stays well into October.

Walking into Lowes that morning I thought I had seen all the possible excesses that could exist when it comes to what I will call meaningless holiday bling. The definition of that term being any item whose cost is inverse to the time it can be displayed. Because just a few steps inside the store was a sixteen-foot inflatable Grim Reaper. Strangely fascinated by this Halloween decoration, I had to know how much that thing cost. The price tag on that item was two-hundred bucks, technically not a huge amount when you consider the surrounding area was overwhelmingly comprised of upper middle class white folks who eat that kind of materialistic crap like Cheerios. Personally, I was hit with a feeling of disgust so strong I could almost taste bile in my mouth.

From my own point of view, I can see the use of new smart phones, new computers or kitchen appliances, and hundreds of other item that could easily be considered “trendy.” Newer items generally use less power and have increased functions that, for me, translates into a justifiable reason to blow away money. But that inflatable Grim Reaper violated some fundamental principle in me that superseded the idea that everyone has a basic right to do what they want with their money.

My nonconforming, anti-community attitude party comes from the fact that I was raised by my grandparents. They were people whose childhood spanned the worst of the Great Depression and the austerity demanded by the Second World War. It's also worth mentioning that for them being born in the American South during those years also meant a general level of poverty, that while was much worse for some, was still around third-world levels for everyone. So they would never for a second entertained the idea of purchasing something even remotely akin to that inflatable Grim Reaper. They were type of people who truly had a credit card for emergencies. Which I know from first hand experience because while a busted water heater was enough of an emergency to pull out the credit card, a broken television was most definitely something that could wait until after payday.

For those reasons I am what could be called strongly anti-bling. I abhor anything flashy or what I would consider blatantly wasteful, which the inflatable Grim Reaper fits perfectly in that category. I've got far better things to do with two-hundred dollars than blow it on a piece of seasonal holiday crap that probably won't last three years before it rips or the blower fails. Truth be told, one of the ongoing issues I have with my wife is her three separate boxes of decorations for the Christmas Tree. Each box contains a different style of decorations ranging from Disney stuff, my favorite, with the other two made up of Victorian era-style stuff and “Three Kings” items, which I frankly don't understand. Growing up, we had one box of standard Christmas decorations that lasted decades.

On a more subtle level, the inflatable Grim Reaper reeks of a societal decadency that bothers me more than it should. I live in an area that when a county referendum was approved calling for a penny increase in sales tax to fund road improvements, those that pushed for the measure literally received various forms of physical threats. Yeah, the county roads where I live are quite bad and while some did eventually get much needed maintenance, the funding came from the state government. Do I even need to mention the county tax referendum was massively defeated? Getting back to my main point, Lowes just didn't throw out boxes of the inflatable Grim Reaper to its stores nationwide for shits and giggles. Such corporations know what products sell and what the local customers ignore.

This all leads back to my hate of suburbia and the people who inhabit it. These are people who piously attend church and spout the approved orthodoxy but have no real idea of the teachings of Christ, at least the parts about social justice. To them, Christ is a Republican who loves capitalism and is highly suspicious of anyone outside their ethnic group. While there are exceptions, these suburbanites reside in narrow universe and react quite harshly to anything outside it that even threatens to disturb their blissful domain. That mindset makes it hard for any possible reforms that would correct injustices or prepare for the future. They have their stuff and to Hell with everyone else.

They more or less live at the top of the social ladder. Yes, I fully understand it's the billionaires and multi-millionaires who truly rule over the nation and world. But from my observations, to suburbanites the ultra rich are even more of an abstract concept than to the working poor who watch the reality television that show off their lavish antics. Working poor people placate their dead end existence by thinking their just one good idea away from having lunch with the Kardashians.

To the average suburbanite, the future is nothing but a continuation of their current lifestyle. They live in comfortable and spacious homes, have unbelievably huge televisions in their living rooms, and have enough “money” to buy inflatable Grim Reapers so they can essentially show off to the neighbors that they play the same bullshit game as everyone else.

The thing that I find darkly humorous in all this is that if some event or circumstance upsets the suburbanite apple cart and shits get really bad, I understand enough about human nature to know that the outwardly pleasant persona of these people display will evaporate in a second. If the Walmart or Kroger shelves go empty and the convenience stores run out of gas they will be eating each other by the end of the week. Then that would be a perfect time for someone set out their sixteen-foot inflatable Grim Reaper.


Harry Hamid said...

I am single with a decent job, and I can spend money stupidly. Often, I do. But I don't think I engage in conspicuous consumerism. I mean, I don't keep track of how much I spend on food and never look for sales, but I drive a Civic, for pete's sake.

I have also lived through a couple huge hurricanes and seen lines of people waiting outside of grocery stores without power, waiting for the doors to open so they can eat, so your point at the end is well taken.

Jeff said...

I was at Zephyr Point on Lake Tahoe a couple of weeks ago and I meant to take a photo of a house (lakefront, not down) that had the largest and most tack Halloween blowup crap in their front yard. You'd think that anyone who could afford to live on Lake Tahoe, one of the most beautiful places in the world wouldn't want to clutter their yard with cheap redneck junk. But I was wrong.

goatman said...

It's commercialism gone viral for the buck. (Or capitalism, I guess. It was bound to happen)
Did you stay dry during the big blow?

goatman said...

I did say something ? . . .

Ranch Chimp said...

This was a pretty good read, being for at least the reality, that many others may feel too. I like the Halloween to Christmas season, but I'm not much into decorations, I live in the city, apartment/ condo complex. One of my daughters has a home in a nice gated and guarded suburban area (considered nice, I think it lacks character myself), but yes, it is full of that cheap junk displays, really as far as from an art perspective to me, just SO tasteless and bland. The BEST decorations I ever see, whether it's Halloween, Christmas, or whenever, are alwayz hand made, where the individual puts their own creativity into it. I'm sure you have your reasons for living in suburbia ... frankly, I cant stand suburbia, I love the city and the country. No way in Hell would I even pay 1/8th ($25) for an inflatable item like that ... Hell, I was in a place called "Home Depot" a couple weeks back, and they even had a saturation of things like that. But everything in our country is about making a buck, I look at America as neoliberalism on steroids, I guess. Wish it was a tad warmer here in Dallas though, been raining for a damn week here, and about 40 degrees and windy as I write this. ... Laterz Bum

Pixel Peeper said...

Oh my - I've seen those giant things pop up around here. I've only seen white ghosts in peoples' front yards, from a distance, and thought they looked fun. But...well, not $200 worth of fun. Yikes! And the houses behind those ghost-decorated front yards looked like the owners did not have well-paying jobs, so my guess is that they used their handy dandy credit card to pay for the thing.

What bothers me the most is that probably some worker in China made 50 cents to make the damn thing.

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