A nectarine is not a nectarine. They now affix a sticker on the delicate skin of ripe nectarines that says “nectarine”. If you peel the sticker off you take with it a part of the skin and the fruit begins to spoil. Up there for thinking. A nectarine is a commodity.
The sticker on a nectarine tells us not only that it's a nectarine but also where it came from. But that doesn't help one iota because it's in code. Consumerism consumes meanings while leaving us wondering what idiot would put a sticker on a piece of fruit telling us it's fruit.
An apple is not an apple but an indoor billboard, branded with the name of its producer. The notion of “appleness” (think crisp, sweet crunchy or cider, sex and temptation) is over wrought by the fact that it's a commodity. It's a highly polished brand sitting on crepe paper under green lights. As if the neon was signifying a return to Eden. Fat chance.
Universities no longer have students. They’re clients or customers buying information at $15,000 per annum. Why not float universities on the share market and that way the private sector, in our over mortgaged suburban McHouses, can get a dividend? “Hey darling, we got a dividend from McFiddle University. Shall we buy some books?” “Nah, I gotta fill up the 4WD.”
I have nothing against branding when one can differentiate between the brands. For example, what’s the difference between taking out a first home loan with the ANZ and the NAB? If you take four hours out of your life, sit with a calculator, you’ll find that there’s nothing. That’s right. Nothing. You will pay exactly the same interest over a 30 year loan (contingent on market fluctuations) with either bank.
The reason is that major banks use the same formulas. It’s not so much a deregulated banking environment with a whole array of different products but rather a kaliedescope of brands all trying differentiate themselves when, in fact, they’re selling the same thing.
Patients are customers of hospitals. If you're pregnant, you've got three days to pump that baby out, get stitched up (if necessary) and get out. The balloons and flowers haven't deflated or wilted in three days. Thanks for the crisp sheets and lemon cordial.
Three years ago a friend of mine had a mental breakdown. As he didn’t have private health insurance he could only stay in the hospital one week. That’s not even time for the Xanex and SSRI’s to kick in. He actually became more anxious about the fact that if he needed to stay longer, he’d have to take out a personal loan.
“What do you need the loan for?”
“Well, I’ve gone a bit bonkers and I need a hospital bed for a few more days."
Consumerism consumes more than we bargain for. There's the pernicious practice of ripping off fantastic music from our common cultural heritage. I used to possess, in my head, the delightfully simple tune of the Beach Boys "Wouldn't it be Nice?" Now it has been replaced by the TV ad with Cadbury chocolate cartoon figures hell bent on cannibalism.
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Malcolm King works in generational workforce change. He was an associate director at DEEWR Labour Market Strategy in Canberra and the senior communications strategist at Carnegie Mellon University. He also runs a professional writing business called Republic.