A bit of the philosophy behind Swap-O-Rama-Rama
It is each generations birthright to inherit the ideas of those who came before and leave behind the voice of their time. The inheritance is dual in nature. Gifted with thousands of years of innovation and an abundant planet received at a little cost we also find ourselves the captives of thought patterns that have outlived our time. Observation proves that ideas old and new are held in place by structures that order our world: governments, religious institutions and now more than ever corporations. Generation after generation people struggles with these systems as they try to express their uniqueness, adding a distinct fingerprint to an ever-evolving picture of what it is to be human.
Our inheritance is a complicated one. Today corporations hold in place a hearty structure that contorts the nature of reality into a peculiar form created by one motive, capital. The human experience is meticulously determined by geniuses of psychology and marketing. They work for geniuses of capital. Disguised as choices, we are being asked to do primarily one thing, consume. As inheritors of the mega-mall, the spirit of our generation looks for its voice through advertisements and isles of products.
Industry offers us innovations if you’re lucky enough to live in a wealthy country, and material goods can be found in a variety unmatched in history, and this would appear on first glance to be a great abundance. Yet world struggles, war and impending environmental disaster have made clear even to the most resistant that material abundance comes at a great cost. The days of naivete are over. The blandness that industry permeates requires a great deal more than our dollars. It asks that we give up our very humanness: knowledge, compassion, community, creativity and our innate connection to all that is natural and innate.
Commodification breeds ignorance. The wheels of the machine of capital, the never-ending production, buying and selling of goods require that people buy objects rather than make them. Simply put makers are not good consumers. The less we know, the more we buy. In our time creativity and independence are not profitable, ignorance is! And so we find ourselves a culture of helplessness unable to perform the simplest of tasks, hemming a skirt, or fixing a flat tire, growing food. The skill involved in the making of things, once viewed as a creative endeavor, passed down lovingly from generation to generation are now left to the machine which manufactures most of the goods we use today. The average person is ill-equipped to make or fix anything. So far removed we are from the skills required to care for ourselves, growing food, producing power, building a home, that if ever the structures we’ve become so dependent on should fail our very lives would be in jeopardy.
But Industry would have us believe that our role is creative. Consumers are asked to view shopping as a creative endeavor when in actuality only the designers and engineers of things play a creative role even if limited by the constraints of profit margins. The consumers’ creativity is simply selection. We interpret. We choose between things, between styles, between prepackaged lifestyles that we are each to find ourselves residing in chosen from a predetermined set designed by marketing, and this is the means to which weÕre asked to express our uniqueness.
After we play our part and buy our goods, we continue to do the work of industry as we transform our very selves into advertising billboards that tote logos and labels on all areas of the body and on goods used in all aspects of living. Branding does a whole lot more than assist in the selling of goods. And so consumers are separated into visible categories that reflect the size of their wallet rather than the expanse of their creativity.
Should we question our role in this process, we are reminded that the making of things prevents us from having leisure time. Why spend an hour hemming your pants when you can pawn it off on someone else and obtain more free time for yourself? What follows is the question, what does one do with all that leisure time? The answer of course is we shop. In exchange for our creativity, we engage in an entirely uncreative endeavor that offers packaged promises, false experiences and a multitude of ways to escape understanding ourselves through the buying of meaningless objects. These products have come to represent our fears and our unhappiness, each one a small and impotent band-aid applied to fast-spreading disease – consumerism.
Often the consumer digs for meaning by purchasing more and more hoping to fill an innate yearning. Yet the more we buy, the clearer it becomes that these objects can fill our homes but not our hearts. The industry does its best to turn the meaningfulness into myth. Trend molests whatever we make precious. Little plastic BuddhaÕs swim down factory conveyor belts along with music, culture and art which have been pumped through the commodification grinder.
As we learn about materials and their origins, inevitably we’re exposed to the many injustices inherent in our modern means of production. Child labor, harmful synthetic materials and gross wasting of resources are just a few glaring problems in what is today the standard means of production. As our ignorance shatters and our hearts open we become the inheritors of something of real value, responsibility. It logically follows that we must insist that these systems change. With the burden of knowledge comes the promise of meaning if we are willing to do the work. As we make (rather than buy) the objects that surround us the world we live in our lives transforms into lives steeped in meaning. In essence, we create the sacred from the ashes of the commodified.
The world we share is made by makers but these makers are creating under the umbrella of capital, and they are the few, not the many or the all. As such what is made is also contorted, controlled and dispensed by a small tier of people who hold in balance a system which creates economic categories of haves and have-nots. Should a maker come forth with a good idea, one that might benefit the whole of life on earth, the system encourages him/her to franchise, copyright and ultimately horde the idea. As such a once original thought, revelation or inspiration digresses quickly into redundancy. The maker becomes the caretaker of their good idea.
Oddly, should a good idea be released into the community to be shared (perhaps through the Creative Commons) the idea would then be free to transform the world? The maker is free to have their next good idea. You could say that capital asks us to assert Òthis is my last good ideaÓ by suggesting that ideas benefit from being concretized by these systems. In this way, the maker is the revolutionary of our time as the maker is in a position to say resist this process, to choose to share, and to say to themselves and the world community Òthere is abundanceÓ and give their good idea freely knowing that more is yet to come. Nothing masks abundance better than capital.