Exorcising a question: conspicuous consumption

I drive to work in an office park and park in a shared garage. Work being a daily activity for many people, patterns and trends emerge. Parking is loosely assigned (each building has designated regions of the garage), so I arrive about the same time and park in about the same place, amongst generally the same cars every day.

Today, as I swung my sharp 90 to line up to back into a space, I noticed my soon-to-be neighbor car and thought, with no little surprise, ‘Oh! I like that Aston Martin.’

I am not specifically a car enthusiast, but I will ogle a sleek chassis. I am a James Bond fan. And I totally second guessed myself, so I confirmed the logo when I got out of my car.

I also didn’t get out of my car until I put my phone and my iPod in my purse and put my purse in my work bag with my computer, making sure all these valuables were secure and concealed (NB: My work bag is not computer shaped).

As I did all this tucking and hiding of maybe $1100 worth of goods, which we all basically take for granted, while sitting next to a purposefully obvious $400,000 (base model) item, I began to wonder about conspicuous consumption in our modern era. Why do people bother?

For donkey’s years evidence of class was upward mobility. You were supposed to judge a book by its hand-massaged, imported leather, custom embossed, and gilt cover. The smart people clocked the rich people, aped them, were accepted, promoted and succeeded. Good strategy.

During violent, displacing governmental changes; genocides; and every apocalyptic movie ever, the smart people hide all their wealth and pretend to have nothing. That way the usurping military regime, racist authoritarian crackpot, or other assholes who just think their life is worth more than anyone else’s, will think they have nothing, and when the smart people finally escape they can pay for help. Good strategy.

I suppose which ‘good strategy’ you employ has a lot to do with whether or not you think our current circumstances are more apocalyptic or status quo. And perhaps whether or not you believe people still look upon signs of ostensible ‘high class’ as uniformly positive.

So, do you conspicuously consume? How? Why? Is it important you?

No answers from me either way, but I do encourage you think about what you like to see in the world, how you might have us all live, and lead by example.





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