Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Politics of Gear

I do understand that everything we do, say or think carries consequence. Really, I do. I understand that it matters if I drive or take the bus, and I understand that it matters if I buy my coffee at Starbucks, or my local coffee shop, and if that coffee is fair trade. I understand that carelessly using words like "bum" or "crazy" or "gay" can give license to various forms of prejudice, even if I don't mean it that way.
I don't think its possible to be aware of absolutely every ramification, however, so I'll admit I wasn't quite aware of all the issues surrounding buying guitar gear. First, there's the whole usual "green" thing. I was aware of that- some of the woods used coming from tropical locations, and endangered species, and being shipped great distances, yes, that's an issue. On top of that, there's the question of trade practices- is my distortion pedal made by sweatshop labour? Did some 8 year in Pakistan install the fretwire on my Samick guitar? ( No, I don't have a Samick, just citing a 'hypothetical')
Then, there are the consumer issues on this end- if I buy a "boutique" version of a Tubescreamer, am I being ripped off? Hey- yes, there are some folks out there who are taking cheap mass marketed equipment, and repackaging it, to appear like they made something they didn't. Likewise, even if they did wire it up themselves, are they doing good business, or are they being sneaky- an example being that there's boutique boost pedal out there that is definitely over-priced because the people who make it have deliberately created artificial scarcity to jack the price up. I mean the fine folks at Cheaper Pedals definitely have a few points. ( And I plan on writing more on the subject at a later date)
But, it even goes deeper than that- I recently came into some Danelectro pedals, as I think I mentioned- and I was confronted with this: The CEO evidently doesn't like gay folks. Now, I don't think my 20 bucks paid to friend  for two used pedals does very much, but there is that question of 'flying the flag'-somebody sees some Danelectro stuff in my rig and they could think that, at the very least, I don't care about equality. It could get more elaborate- while I personally think the "fab" line of pedals are hideous because they're too bulbous, I do like the retro aesthetics that Danelectro trades in. So, I'll probably try to get these two rehoused, but if they were different models I might not really want to- and I can see how, given my tastes for a kind of late 50's early 60's retro vibe, people might think it reflects a longing for days before Civil Rights and Feminism- something I'm sure is true for some- I think some folks think of those times as "Happy Days" precisely because they have a problem with the complexities that equality brings. I'm rendered into the same predicament as Andrew Eldritch- he once famously stated that Nazis had better fashion sense. I understand what he means. I think that Leave it to Beaver is messed up, politically- but Ricky Ricardo on I Love Lucy looked pretty suave. I think there is some separation from aesthetics and ethics, but it pays to be aware that you might not be projecting exactly the image you intend.
So, no, I don't have the politics of gear exactly all worked out, but it is worth pondering.

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