Sunday, October 7, 2012

Buying Good(s)

Ideologically, I'm not exactly a big supporter of the "buy green", "buy handmade" or "buy local" thing. The way I see it, there are two words in there: and the one that's the same in both cases is "buy". I really don't think we can buy our way into anything good. I spent way too long in too many economics courses, and worked for too long as a banker and accountant to think that we can buy our way into peace, a better environment, love, or justice. However, you can buy happiness, and prosperity- but it's not the most efficient route to either one.
However, buying crap is the secret underbelly of a lot of what I do support, so I'm willing to overlook some truths in order to get to better ones. For example, I believe in supporting creators of culture- and the way we do that, in this time and place, is buying stuff.  We buy Mp3 downloads, CDs, T shirts, Bumper Stickers, Wall Art, Sculpture, Jewelry,  Books, eBooks, Movie Tickets, Concert Tickets, Restaurant Food, DVD's Licensed Streams, Blu Rays, and Hotel Rooms, and we're essentially "voting" which way culture goes. So, buying a lot of things goes part and parcel with adding my voice to those stating they want the world to be a different place. So, since I want the world to be greener, and since I like doing things myself, and since I like my friends, I do buy a lot more green options, a lot more handmade things, and I  do shop locally, as appropriate. However, I also think that I do more to create a greener world, and a more just world when I vote with a ballot, and when I work towards different laws, and when I don't buy, you know?
What all that means is that, ultimately, if you buy something, you should buy it because it is the best of whatever it is.  How did William Morris put it? If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful . So, I buy local craft beers when they are tastier, not when they are more ideologically sound. I buy  handcrafts when they are handsome, and well-made by people I know to be talented. I buy CDs when the band sounds good, and I like them and know them to be talented.. I patronise places that serve me well- in the quality of the goods, the aesthetics, and the relationship. I see bands and movies that I like, not that fit some self-created profile. I think we, as modern people, have a glut of stuff, and I think that glut does not serve us, but instead serves people we may not like. I see no need to add to that glut in service of some misguided notion that by doing so we are somehow making ourselves better- that smacks of a smug  self-satisfied rationalisation . I might rationalise, but I'm never smug, nor self-satisfied!
So, with that overly intricate preamble, I'm starting to assist in the promotion for the Crafty Bastards craft fair, in Washington DC.  Yes, I said "assist" in "promotion" for what is, essentially a marketplace. Furthermore, this year, it even carries an admission price., and will be held inside a literal market. If I said that none of that made me uncomfortable, I'd be a liar, and I truly believe that most people can tell when you're lying. So I think an explanation is in order, and part of that explanation was in my preamble. Some of the event organizers are my friends, and yes, I've bought stuff at previous Crafty Bastards. I don't want to sound like I'm being too precious with my "brand" here- but if I'm to stand for anything, more than socialism, more than aesthetics, more than I would stand for anything else, I stand for simple human relationships.  No, that's not the same as love- what I mean is that I am convinced that the "I-You" relationship is the building block of anything good in humanity. Now, of course, my friends are not the same as Crafty Bastards. It's still drenched in capitalism, and therefore still is in the "I-it" relationship, so, I'm not necessarily endorsing Crafty Bastards as a concept. But, the opportunity is there for me to experience the "I-You" relationship. Because that opportunity exists within that space, I can endorse Crafty Bastards in practice. Get it, or have I gone too high concept for you? 
What I'm saying is that buying at a craft fair is still buying things. That's a dead relationship. A simple transaction, dressed up in "Alternative" rhetoric, but ultimately just that- buying stuff, and the person at the till could just as well be an application. However, because of the scale of the venue, because it's possible to actually accept the humanity and the validity of that humanity at this venue, I can endorse that opportunity to shake off the transaction, and interact. Put this way- if I buy a T shirt at Amazon, that's all there is. I bought a T shirt from a collection of machines, literally. If I buy a T shirt from a friend, the T shirt and the transaction of buying that T shirt is secondary to the relationship with my friend. I can get behind any arena or venue that emphasizes the friendship more than the transaction. If we can spread that notion- that making and having friends is better than making and having things, that really is a way of doing good. 

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