Good Greed?
December 23, 2000 2:32 PM   Subscribe

Good Greed? If any of you hypocritical snobs think the Christmas season has been ruined by consumerism, University of Florida Prof James Twitchell is here to set you straight - A century ago, Twitchell says, people relied on family ties, professional status or religion to provide them with...a sense of meaning in life... expensive handbag can mean as much as a college degree or membership in a church...And that, Twitchell says, is a good thing.
posted by twitch (15 comments total)
That's hard to fathom. CLICK HERE for a freshing change of pace.
posted by jpl at 2:39 PM on December 23, 2000

*yawn* he can be sumed up here:

I have a hot girlfriend. I do things most people will never get to see or experience. Click on this obtuse/ecentric/crazy link. Thats it for tonight.

Now on to the topic at hand by twitch..

Favorite quote: "We're probably safer in a world in which I covet your Lexus than in a world in which I covet your soul."

posted by stbalbach at 3:54 PM on December 23, 2000

he also says it's more fair to have a consumer-based society, but I don't see why. a whole lot of money is still passed down through families. and those kids he says identifies themselves by the brand names they ask for -- they haven't done anything to be more or less deserving of the money their parents have. it's still a lucky sperm society, just a little more flexible and manifested in a different, more plastic-y way.
posted by rabi at 4:31 PM on December 23, 2000

I'm completely unconvinced by Twitchell's argument. It sounds like little more than one big rationalization. If he wants to populate his life with useless crap, fine. He'll need to go a bit further to convince me that a life of over-extended credit and autonomous consumerism is a good idea.
posted by frykitty at 5:02 PM on December 23, 2000

Twitchell's books are just as irritating, IMO.

When you examine that quote, it doesn't even make any sense: "We're probably safer in a world in which I covet your Lexus than in a world in which I covet your soul."

How? If you covet my soul, there's nothing you can do about it-- if you covet my Lexus, you can whap me upside the head and take it. Safer?
posted by wiremommy at 5:26 PM on December 23, 2000

There is a long bloody history of coveting souls. A few hundred million native american savages.. well check out the Old Testament to get started and work your way forward to present time. Take the crack-head mugger anyday, much safer.

At least in the USA, about %20 of millionaires are inherited the rest are self-made. Its a myth that most rich people are old money.. taxes and inheritence dillution take care of fortunes pretty quick.
posted by stbalbach at 7:04 PM on December 23, 2000

Guess what? Christmas has not been ruined because Christmas has always been about eating, drinking, and giving gifts. It's never been about the birth of Jesus. If one looks at the historical record Christmas was a time of year for the poor to demand and receive gifts of food and drink from the rich to make up for all of bad stuff that the rich did to them during the year. It was a time of social release. Look at the timing of the holiday. Christmas was placed on December 25th to win converts, and to steer people away from a Roman holiday (which was about eating, drinking, and giving gifts) that was celebrated around the same time. The birth of Jesus, according to the conditions of the weather (i.e. shepherds in the field with their flocks would warn weather) and placement of the stars in the Bible is most like around springtime, not the middle of the winter!
If fact, Christmas was outlawed in this country until around 1850 and has always been look down upon by pious groups, such as the Puritans (they too outlawed it), as the work of the Devil, and certainly not at all Holy.
As you can see the true meaning has everything do with greed and wanting material goods. Any other meaning that has been assigned to Christmas is from the Victorian era, from stories such as the A Christmas Carol, and from stores wanting to bolster sales. In fact, some of most dear Christmas traditions have come from greed. For example, the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was written in the 1930s to boost sales at Woolworth’s.
We should take Christmas for what it is, a time to gather with family, a time for some vacation, and if you want to assign it religious significance no one is stopping you. But, make no bones about it, the "traditions" that we celebrate at Christmas come from a sorted past.
Merry Christmas
posted by Bag Man at 7:10 PM on December 23, 2000

No doubt Christmas was always about stuff and about consumerism - wasn't Santa Claus (Saint Nicholas) dressed in blue before he started appearing in Coca Cola ads 100 years ago?
I just like how Twitchell is dragged out every once in a while as this academic apologist for consumerism - see, he's a College English Professor, but he has all theses Theories about why consumerism is good for you. A bunch of crap really - the funny thing is that he used to actually behave like a regular College English Prof and write Marxist-Freudian crit about 19th century novels (his publications are here - alphabetical list of UF Faculty, you'll have to scrool). So did he make the conscious choice to sell out, or did his brain go soft from too many years of tracking memes? (Does anybody else want to hurl when they see yet another book whose title goes '[Gerund] [Noun]: The ][Abstract Concept] [Preposition] [Noun] [Preposition] [Proper Noun] ? Maybe it's just me...)
posted by twitch at 8:04 PM on December 23, 2000

Where it's your soul or your sneakers that are coveted, the sad thing is there will always be someone that wants to kill you for it.
posted by tomorama at 9:49 PM on December 23, 2000

Or at least give you a great bargain deal on accessories for it!
posted by tomorama at 9:49 PM on December 23, 2000

Oh geez. What a transparent troll-plus-mouthpiece-for-advertisers-and-marketing-scum.

He has figured out an easy way to get himself publicity, it seems. And I'm sure he'll retire to a lucrative career giving talks to corporate flacks telling them how they're providing people with meaning in their lives through their branding.

Really. Watch. I'll bet that's what he does.
posted by beth at 6:56 AM on December 24, 2000

beth - so what?

Just because he wants advertising for himself, does that in some way discredit what he's saying?


Have you ever seen kids who NEED the new Nikes that just came out? Having those shoes, gives meaning to the kid. Is it any deeper than a belief in Jesus or whatever? Well, at the very least, he's actually getting something back for his money, as opposed to being told his whole life that he's going to rot in hell if he doesn't keep donating.

Have you seen women and their jewelry? Men and their trucks? Girls and their dolls? Boys and their soldiers? Yes, these are rather stereotypical, but they get the point across. Objects DO have meaning for people.

Objects DO have meaning for people.

Are these people somehow less human for wanting things? Should we abstain everything for the sake of.... of....... umm.............


If anything, by calling him transparent, you're just saying that he's being honest. I have no problem with this person if he's being totally honest. That's better than I can say for the average person. Twitchell is right - objects have meaning for people. It could be a new world to explore, with books or video games, it could be a status symbol, like a car or jewelry, it could be a tool like a hammer or a computer. What people do with their objects is their own business. I won't begin to judge people badly because they have desires. That's what makes us human - the ability to want, to shape, to change. However people go about doing that is really up to them. If that's what they want, let them. Fortunately we live in a free country. The USSR is a prime example of what happens when desire is squelched. I make no claims that the USA is perfect, but I like this a whole lot better than having a dictator of desires.
posted by ookamaka at 1:40 AM on December 25, 2000

JPL: We're on to you.
posted by Mo Nickels at 11:04 AM on December 25, 2000

Now I've seen everything.If a handbag is more important to you than a college education then you might consider examining your priorities.Personally, I think we should change the name of Xmas (I refuse to call it Christmas since it has nothing to do with religion, at least in the U.S.) to 'Consumer Spending Frenzy Season'.Friends are important. So is family. Education and religion have value.Consumer crap doesn't. If that makes me a snob than I'm proud to be one.
posted by Mr. skullhead at 12:35 PM on December 25, 2000

>If a handbag is more important to you than a college
>education then you might consider examining your priorities.

Perhaps, but I think that should be up to the individual. And seriously, why is a college education so important? What if you're already in the top 10% wealthiest people in the US? What do you think is more impressive? A new ruby necklace or a college education? It's pretty much a given that more people would be impressed by the necklace. Should they be? Perhaps, perhaps not, it depends on what you're trying to accomplish.

What if someone is smart enough to not even need a college education? What if they simply don't care? What if they had a handbag, and could sell it because they have nothing to eat? Situation is relevant. Let the individual decide their own priorities. Perhaps *you* should reevaluate why that college education is so important.

Do I think a college education is important? Sure, I'm going to school right now. But consumer "crap" doesn't have value? Bullshit. Is my laptop on which I'm writing this valueless? Are my clothes valueless? Is a stereo valueless? Is furniture valueless? Is a telephone valueless? No, of course not.

But you said that consumer "crap" doesn't have value. Is there a limit to the number of things which have value? Are certain things not crap? Where do we draw the line? Should we insitute a federal board which will determine it for us? Should we ask *you* what we should be allowed to buy?

Maybe we put too much value into "things", but I'd rather be proud of what I have, of what I do with what I have and what I am that be proud of being a snob.
posted by ookamaka at 8:47 PM on December 25, 2000

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