September 15, 2011
Meditations on a Scandal
It has been a complicated, crazy week in the world of Anthro-blogging. When the story broke on Get Off My Internets, then trickled to other blogs and websites, eventually leading Roxy to issue a very useful list of best practices to avoid being scammed on Effortless Anthropologie, I (frankly) was busy with non-blog responsibilities. The very stuff that enables my consumption by providing me with stable employ was making it hard for me to keep up with this rapidly unfolding situation. What was probably for the best as a little distance was really helpful.
But I look forward to participating in Roxy's upcoming post about financial circumstances and consumerism/blogging. I believe this entire ordeal has the makings of a teachable moment: To make sure we don't get in over our heads. To try to avoid getting carried away or defining ourselves by material goods. To make sure we think through out consumerism. I think many of us are guilty of substituting shopping for therapy, or shopping for reward, or shopping for hobbies. Don't get me wrong. Fashion is a legitimate interest. Style is a worthwhile hobby. Those who say otherwise perpetuate misogynist ideas inadvertently when they accept without thought other "spectator" sports. But when interests in style and fashion couple with gratuitous consumerism and materialism, sacrificing time spent with loved ones, forging meaningful connections, spending and saving in a balanced way, etc... when it gets harder to find ways to bond digitally that are less about fawning compliments or closet curation and more about deep intellectual exchanges... THAT's when we reach dangerous territory.
This is not an accusation. I do not mean to sound like I am speaking about any individual who is involved in this scandal. On the contrary, I think many of us are left reflecting about meaning. What is the meaning of our things? Why do we gravitate toward those things? Where is the line drawn and when have we gone too far? If anything this moment can be one where we take more seriously and less for granted our desires to consume and the roots of our desires. The ideology of consumerism and the promise of the consumer fix are powerful drugs. I think anyone who blogs their shopping habits and enjoys living vicariously can empathize with the potential for getting carried away, for going overboard, for letting things own us rather than the other way around. Why not use these moments of reflection to step back from unthinking consumption and evaluation the mechanisms, culturally, socially, personally, financially, etc. that perpetuate a nagging drive for more.
When there are scandals and when someone is caught red handed many will respond with self-righteousness and indignance or worse (as Roxy has hinted) the unscathed will still seek vengeance like an angry mob. The concerns of those scammed are legitimate and they should be handled by professionals and authorities. For those of us who are mere spectators dealing with the aftershock, why not seize this moment for contemplation and self-critique? After all much like the ideology of consumerism, self righteousness can be a hell of a drug.
Thank you to the people who have emailed and direct messaged me offering their appreciation for the comment I made in response to Kim's apology on Effortless Anthropologie. I still believe in the transformative power of the truth and the potential for forgiveness. And I hope this situation doesn't jade us, but rather make us smarter, more cautious, and more learned.