The Indie gives Benjamin Barber a push & passes along his core message: things are fucked but when we say that we must be careful not to offend anybody, or actually catch their attention.
perhaps Ballard is investigating the same ground as Barber…except Ballard is intent on the specific human origins of these obsessions…rather than want something you don’t need he (his character) will eat the thing or smash into it or become it. Forget buying. Barber is trying to play with (organize) the illusion (maya) while Ballard is ingesting and regurgitating. Is that the difference between observation and art?
I prefer the messy, bloody, crystalized version, but that is just me.
“You will be hard pushed to find a British consumer who hasn’t, at least once, gone out street with the intention of finding something they want to buy, rather than buying something they need.” This is a nasty journalistic move: the chummy implication of the reader in “Let’s face it, we’ve all [...] at some time.” It pisses off some readers (as the chief sub at a notable popular science magazine once pointed out to me) because it makes them (us) respond, “Fuck off, that’s not me.” But I suspect more are just grateful for an indication of how they can safely fall into line. I suppose any sentient adult who hasn’t worked this stuff out for themselves is probably beyond help anyway.
I’ve not read Consumed. I skimmed it in a book shop and thought “yeah, yeah, yeah, tell me something I don’t know”. Still even after just skimming it I’m inclined to agree that it is easy to view Barber’s writing and approach to engaging with his topic as lily livered and just sort of feeble. Maybe he is coddling the reader. Certainly he is worthy of scorn if his intent is to coddle the reader in order to avoid offense and, thus, sell some books.
Then again, he isn’t writing this book for me as I don’t buy a lot of silly shit. Frankly, I don’t need Consumed.
There is an alternative interpretation though. The type of behavior that Consumed deals with is fully pathological and, therapeutically speaking, bluntly confronting a patient (in this case a reader) and clubbing him in the face with his pathology is only going to entrench him in his defenses. The problem behavior won’t change. Is it not possible that Barber’s style is like that of a therapist? It’s like a Colombo routine, feigning politeness and stupidity, shining a flashlight on the behaviors that the reader needs to see more clearly. If this is the case, then I tend to think that the book should be lauded and I hope that it finds the audience that needs it. More than that, I hope it works.
That said, therapeutic interventions take a long time and a lot of effort. Therapy by book is probably a bullshit concept too. If this is the best we can do, then, by the time all the pathological consumers wake up, the planet will already be a slag heap. So it’s all a bit pointless.
I don’t know about you, but the whole thing kind of makes me want to club some people with their pathology. Especially bald people who buy dandruff shampoo. Jerks.
I like the story–possibly apocryphal, & often repeated–about how Ballard, having sold Empire of the Sun to Hollywood, decided to celebrate by buying himself something extra at the supermarket. After trudging about for a while looking at what was on offer, he added an extra tin of sardines to his basket & made his way to the till.
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