André O. Jordan
Date: December 14, 2001
The impact of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 sent a jolt through the heart of capitalism. Which is, An economic system characterized by the free disposal of labor, private ownership and inheritance rights in property, and reliance on market processes to determine prices and allocate resources, says Dymski. Waste and over- consumption were once en vogue prior to September 11. However, in the aftermath of the attacks, McWorld experienced a retrenchment in spending, wasting and consuming. This contraction has inflicted asevere blow to the financial system, because as heinous as the terrorist attacks were, we now have a foundation of how not to rebuild McWorld. It is my belief that the cornerstone in rebuilding McWorld should be to de-emphasize the excessive waste and consumer driven philosophy that permeated the environment prior to these atrocities, while still preserving the goodness of McWorld.
McWorld is the amalgamation of American capitalism and consumerism behavior by foreign nations and individuals. Calhoun said, The nation became the domestic market; other nations became international competitors or clients. McWorld caters to consumers without regard to their religious beliefs, ethnicity, race or nationality. Its objective is to maximize profits and any other benefits derived are coincidental. As Calhoun notes, Capitalism directly undermined much of local community life, kinship and other social organization based on webs of direct; interpersonal relations(not making them disappear, but reducing their capacity to serve as basic building blocks of large-scale social organization).
It springs forth competition and creativity, as Smith says, In every profession, the exertion of the greater part of those who exercise it, is always in proportion to the necessity they are under of making that exertion... and, where competition is free, the rivalship of competitors, who are all endeavouring to justle one another out of employment, obliges every man to endeavour to execute his work with a certain degree of exactness... Rivalship and emulation render excellency, even in mean profes-sions, an object of ambition, and frequently occasion the very greatest exertions. Smiths insightfulness is a good one.
The jostle for position by multi-national corporations in a competitive environment generally leads to improve living standards for their employees and economy.
As median conditions improve within these nations, the individual services and attention that was once rendered to the consumers becomes obsolete. No longer are they receiving tailored made services, rather they are beseeched by informal modes of communication, imploring them to spend and consume more goods and services.
This transition from personalized marketing, to mass generic marketing molds these consumers into faceless consumers. In general, the way the commodity culture defends itself against these kinds of critiques is to label them elitist, and argue that the commercialization of culture is a positive thing, part of a democratization process that lets everybody in, says Berman. These are the type of consumers that McWorld is striving for. These consumers do not think for themselves; they are brainwashed into believing that the latest style is the best fashion. Their objective is to be the first in the crowd with the latest designer trends.
They are seduced by television commercials, infomercials, radio commercials, and print advertisements; which they will swear by when purchasing goods or services. They become beholden to these various forms of gimmicks that McWorld uses cleverly in order to stimulate their desire. All the while they are under the impression that these businesses have their vested interest, and unbeknownst to them these are just other tools that corporations use to maximize profits.
These consumers are regulated to a robotic state, whereby McWorld does not view them as individuals, rather as a herd. McWorlds view of these consumers leads them into believing that faceless consumers are gullible and need directions. Therefore, it is in the consumers best interest that McWorld directs them when it comes to acquiring goods and services. The faceless consumers does not make their own purchasing decision, rather they are enticed into making a decision that may not be in their best interest. Which, according to Gorz As Nader puts it, Fraud and deception have become common practice in one industry after another. When industrialists make things, they are never concerned with peoples well-being. As they are influenced many times over, they become conditioned into believing that they are acting rational. However, according to Boodin Recent theories of society may perhaps be characterized,
in contrast with abstract individualism on the one hand, and abstract universalism
on the other, as functional theories As against abstract universalism, they emphasize
that mind is essentially individual and deny the reality of a supra-individual
consciousness. In the words of Giddings: "The social mind is a concrete thing. It is more
than any individual mind and dominates every individual will. Yet it exists only in
individual minds, and we have no knowledge of any consciousness but that of
individuals. The social consciousness, then, is nothing more than the feeling or the
thought that appears at the same moment in all individuals, or that is propagated from
one to another through the assembly or the community In the same spirit we are told by
Ward: Society "should imagine itself an individual, with all the
interests of an individual; and becoming fully conscious of these interests, it should
pursue them with the same indomitable will with which the individual pursues his
interest. As, Spencer puts it: "By social laws are meant the principles of human action in
collectivity." Boodins grasp of the mental construct is well placed. Simply put, Boodin
is saying that rational behavior is an individual concept, which is materialized throughout
a community or group either simultaneously or propagated by an individual onto another.
However, given Boodins theory on The Social Mind, faceless consumers actions are far from sound, because they are merely interpreting what they were led to believed was logical, since they do not think for themselves when purchasing goods and services, they are merely relics carrying out a task.
McWorld controls all these relics, since it strives to manipulate consumers behavior through the utilization of focus groups and the aforementioned media techniques, which are all conduits of it. The purpose of these mediums is to broadcast the zombie message to all those who will listen to it and assist McWorld in maximizing its profits.
The zombie message says, Follow what everyone else is doing and do not attempt to be different. For differentiation causes confusion and as consumers it is not warranted for you to become confused. Therefore, McWorld has made it simpler for you to obtain your goods and services without any thinking on your part, which would enable you to maintain the status quo. This is what I call the faceless consumer, because McWorld seeks to convey a herd mentality across its platform; which Finnegan said, Assimilation is inevitable; the question was which of the many layers of America each of these kids would assimilate to. The possibilities had to be both confusing and terrifying. Furthermore, it dehumanizes you as an individual and brings you into the fold of the collectives or masses. It relies on the majority to exhort pressure on you if you are not submissive to its ideology.
These consumers are molded into believing that more is better, and less is bad. Thus, McWorld encourages waste. The over-consumption by faceless consumers is directly responsible for the waste, which is produced by the multi-national corporations. Since these conglomerates have successfully manipulated the faceless consumers behavior patterns when it comes to consuming goods and services, they feel compel into continue spending. This over consumption eventually leads them to discard some of their goods and services because it had no material benefit to them.
Unfortunately, waste is a by-product of capitalism because the premise of capitalism is to spur competition for consumer dollars. The opening of such competitive measures is the root cause of duplicity within businesses. Since, these conglomerates become replicas of each other producing identical goods and services for the same set of consumers. These redundancies cause companies to fiercely defend their territory from their competitors, so that they do not loose their market share to their competitors. In this ensuing battle over-production becomes the norm, and businesses are left with excess capacity and limited alternatives for its disposal.
Waste is not easily disposed of because there are many varieties of it. The over-production of a product is just one such example, however waste occurs when an individual or company attempts to differentiate itself from its peers. This differentiation process could lead a company into obtaining an ostentatious sign to display its goods and services. In the case of an individual, he or she would go out to purchase the latest fashion in an attempt to be unique. In both cases, they are attempting to avoid their image from becoming a commodity. However, by embarking on being unique, they are leading the way for others to imitate them, which eventually makes their image what they did not want it to become, a commodity.
The precept of being a commodity forces you to become creative, whereby you are no longer grouped into the same category as others. However, the resources that are required to bring about this distinction create waste, which makes it bad.
In McWorld, these wasted resources are manifested in the power that is required to light up the neon signs, the super-sized lettering on companies name along with the splashing of various colors, and a touch of digital imagery under their names.
These vast symbols of McWorld undermine their neighbors, because they will cause a strain on the limited pool of resources currently available. The main resource that would be affected is electricity. This would require the power company to produce at or near its capacity, which in turn could lead to a breakdown in its power system.
The breakdown of the power supply will subsequently have a material ripple effect on the
surrounding businesses and community. Whereby, if the energy company seeks
government assistance in order to repair their pipelines, Korten says Market theory also
specifies that for a market to allocate efficiently, the full costs of each product
must be born by the producer and be included in the selling price. Economists
call it cost internalization. Externalizing some part of a product's cost to others
not a party to the transaction is a form of subsidy that encourages excessive
production and use of the product at the expense of others. When, for example, a
forest products corporation is allowed to clear-cut government lands at giveaway
prices, it lowers the cost of timber products, thus encouraging their wasteful use
and discouraging their recycling. While profitable for the company and a bargain
for consumers, the public is forced, without its consent, to bear a host of costs
relating to water shed destruction, loss of natural habitat and recreational areas,
global warming, and diminished future timber production. Kortens observation is a good one.
Therefore, in passing over the cost associated with repairing the over-taxed system to all its clients, it would spawn the folding of businesses and loss of jobs. These losses would curtail waste momentarily, however as more and more mega- corporations are developed, the conservation of waste once again starts to spiral out of control. This domino effect of waste leads to an increase in cost, since these new entities would require more power and greater space for their operations. In the words of Peacock, The waste of plenty is the resource of scarcity.
The pollution produced by waste has a negative impact on the environment and other adverse social externalities such as sickness. Therefore, it is not a question of whether waste is good or bad, rather it becomes a question of how to minimize it while still maintaining the benefits of McWorld.
Squandering of an opportunity or resources without analyzing the consequences
thoroughly is another form of waste. It is the dilution of ones resources
in an unproductive manner. According to Edwards, Waste can mean to spend
excessively and usually foolishly or to squander. This form of waste generally
breeds financial ruin to the perpetrator. As Webster puts it, Waste is
to consume, spend, or employ
uselessly or without adequate return; use to no avail or profit; squander: to waste
money; to waste words. To fail or neglect to use: to waste an opportunity. To
destroy or consume gradually; wear away. To wear down or reduce in bodily
substance, health, or strength; emaciate; enfeeble. To destroy, devastate, or ruin.
To become gradually consumed, used up, or worn away. To diminish gradually;
dwindle, as wealth, power, etc. [2145-2146]. However, according to Klein, Waste is the inability of acquiring something due to the your financial position. If you can afford to purchase multiple pairs of an item it is not considered waste.
What Klein appears to be saying is that waste is relative to ones current financial position. Therefore, if Bloomberg feels that he should build six houses and would only spend time in three of those houses, Kline would not consider this wasteful. However, the labor and materials used to produce those additional three homes, which are not being used, is being wasted. Since, others could have purchased the remaining homes for their own enjoyment, they were shut out of the market for the time being in owning a home.
Because there are multiple ways in defining ones position, waste will be used in the context of where an organization or individual produces more than is required for their subsistence or what the market demands. Any excess without a clear benefit will be considered waste. Obviously, I disagree with Kleins interpretation of waste, and therefore it shall be omitted in future discussions in this paper.
Even as this paper is being written in the Fall 2001 near Ground Zero, McWorld is influencing me. For instance, Macys is currently advertising through all of McWorlds outlets about its One day savings, with up to 70% off items in its stores. These enticing advertisements makes me want to throw out logic and be one of the first faceless consumers to start scavenging for more things to buy. However, knowing that spending more will not necessary benefit me, but only benefit McWorld and cast me in the realm of followers, I
am caught in a predicament as Cooley said, A just view of the matter should embrace the
whole of it at once, and see conformity and non-conformity as normal and
complementary phases of human activity. In their quieter moods men have a pleasure in
social agreement and the easy flow of sympathy, which makes non-conformity
uncomfortable In social intercourse this active spirit finds its expression largely in
resisting the will of others; and the spirit of opposition and self-differentiation
thus arising is the principal direct stimulus to nonconformity. This spirit, however,
has no power of absolute creation, and is forced to seek for suggestions and
materials in the minds of others; so that the independence is only relative to the
more immediate and obvious environment, and never constitutes a real revolt
from the social order. Cooleys maxim is well taken.
In abiding with the social order, whereby you are conforming to McWorlds ideology, eventually your resources will be exhausted leaving you to obtain goods and services on credit. This shift in payment from cash to credit is where the sand castle of wealth comes into play.
Like the sand castle, which is built on a fragile foundation, so too is the sand castle of wealth. For, the sand castle has no support structure and could topple over at any given time. It is therefore unwise to have faith that it will not keel over. As you reconstruct how this castle was built, you quickly realize that its composition is sand, water and labor. As Floyd said, I use to watch my daughters as they built their little sand
castles, working so hard and fervently, knowing all the while that it was only a matter of
time before their hearts were going to be breaking. Sure enough, within a couple of hours
the tide would start coming in. At first it would just lap the outside of their castle, just
barely touching it. Within minutes though, the water would start hitting the side of their
Almost immediately the walls would start collapsing and their cries followed immediately. I would run to them with a pail and try with everything in me to help safe their castle. The harder we worked at scooping the water out, the faster it seemed to fill. It wouldnt be long before we would have to stand back and watched as their little construction was washed away back into the sea. Floyds inspection is well noted.
What should also be noticeable, is that there are no cornerstones associated with the sand castle. The absence of the cornerstones makes it a disaster waiting to occur. Without the cornerstones, which serve as the support for the foundation, it will only be a matter of time before it all comes crumbling down.
As it starts to disintegrate one is left trying to recover it, but to no avail. The sand castle reverts to its original form amongst the rest of the sand, while one is desperately, pleading for it to remain intact. One become despondent at the sight of his castle being washed away and well aware that there is nothing he could do about it no matter of hard he tries.
Like many others, he did not invest his time wisely in the beginning by constructing a blueprint for his objective. Secondly, his method was flawed. For these reasons, The sand castle of wealth is nothing more than a mirage, according to Ford. At first glance, it is appealing and sexy, since one is able to purchase goods and services up-front without having to disburse cash immediately. However, this is only a deception, because in the ensuing months one is strapped with massive debt, which he is no longer able payoff. According to Sandronsky, Indebted Americans arent faceless. The $7 trillion in consumer debt is held by the self-employed, college students, and retirees. Employed single-parents are especially at-risk during a recession Consumers are also in harms way as the economy slows down because recessions make it harder for them to repay their loans. Thats living on the edge. Sandonsky's observation is well pointed.
As ones debt begins to burden him down, his minimum payments becomes cumbersome under the predatory interest rates of lender. The more one attempts to keep up with his payments, the more he falls into debt, which leads to his outstanding obligations being compounded with late fees and over limit-fees, in addition to the obscene interest rate that he is being charged. This further weakens ones financial position, which by now is close to making him a fixture within the ruins of the relics.
This is the financial demise of the sand castle of wealth, which the creditors do not implore you to understand. For in the short run, it benefits the individual and the creditor. However, in the long run, both are at risk. If one has to declare bankruptcy, the creditor will not recuperate its losses. In addition, ones once stellar credit history will be tarnished for seven years. These pitfalls are not recognized in the beginning they generally reveal themselves at the last moment when there is no feasible recourse but to seek protection from ones creditors.
Like any system, McWorld has its ills, but it attempts to combine the best of our intentions while limiting the bad inputs. It harnesses our talents and allows us to prosper, generally through merit. This system is constantly evolving as Barber said, McWorld
is merely the natural culmination of a modernization process-some would call it Westernization-that has gone on since the Renaissance birth of modern science and its accompanying paradigm of knowledge construed as power. On inspection, there is little in McWorld that was not philosophically adumbrated by, if not the Renaissance, the Enlightenment: its trust in reason, its passion for liberty, and (not unrelated to that passion) its fascination with control, its image of the human mind as a tabula rasa to be written on and thus encoded by governing technical and educational elites, its confidence in the market, its skepticism about faith and habit, and its cosmopolitan disdain for parochial culture.
Therefore, the rebuilding of McWorld should commence with the re-education of the faceless consumers. This process would restore their individuality, which was taken from them by McWorld, and empower them to make their own decisions. As the Buffalo Communications said, The importance of good customer service cannot be stressed enough
Always keep in direct touch with both your customers and those in direct contact with
them Face-to-face need not be taken literally. It means treating the customer as an
individual; dealing with him on a personal basis. It is this personal touch that counts All
correspondence gives customers an impression of the company, and in the longer term
this impression becomes a service legend. A service legend is the reputation of a
company. The Buffalo Communications observation is insightful.
As consumers are re-educated they will not be as gullible to patronize such establishments as the one written by Muhlke that openly said, Give me diners! Rather, they will focus on the economic merit of their purchase. The economic merit refers to whether or not their margin utility is increasing or decreasing.
The marginal utility measures the amount of satisfaction one receives after consuming one more of an additional good or service. If this utility is diminishing they have over-consumed that good, and conversely, if this utility continues to provide more satisfaction over the prior consumption change, then they have not consumed enough and will continue to consume until it starts to diminish.
The transformation from faceless consumer is the result of indoctrination. They are more mindful of the impact of economics on their lives. Unlike, pre-September 11, they will not just assume debt frivolously. Rather, they will budget and prudently take on any additional obligations in order to maintain their standard of living, without the sand castle of wealth. This education process has already started to take root as noted by Coleman For the first half of this year, debit cards accounted for 26% of in-store transactions, compared with 21% for credit cards, according to a recent consumer survey conducted by the American Bankers Association and research firm Dove consulting. That marks the first time credit-card use has fallen behind debit cards, which look like a regular Visa or MasterCard but deduct payments directly from a persons checking account.
As McWorld continues to be rebuilt, perhaps it needs an incentive not to attach deep seed values to frivolous things. The frivolousness attached to marketing products usually entails some form of sexual connotation. This explicit form of exploitation renders sex as a commodity, rather than something that is noble, just and good. Sex could be used as a tool or weapon depending on what desired outcome you are seeking. Most commonly, it is used for procreation and to consummate a relationship, however when introduced into McWorld it loses its meaning and is reinterpreted as a means of pushing goods and services. According to Leland, If New York is going to rebuild again and rebuild as New York it is going to have to put frivolity on the agenda, without apologies. While the nation finds strength in the flag, New York is going to have to raise again the local colors: vanity, libido, ambition, attitude.
In attempting to diffuse post September 11 McWorld, we should not revert to such salacious advertisements and free access to capital needs to be curtailed. According to Jordan, He would give debt relief to those who are making an effort to pay back their creditors, every seven years, he would write off 7,000 in debt per individual or family. This action would make McWorld more accountable in how it lures consumers into debt. However, according to Salmon, McWorld will survive because it is a cosmopolitan embodiment unlike other nations that have monolithic cultures.
Another aspect of rebuilding McWorld is centered on the precept that elite members of society should be well compensated. The fallacy with this notion is that it is not based on merit, rather on status. And, since McWorld is centered on merit-base, these assumed elite members should prove themselves and not ride the coat-tails of the rank and file workers. Instead of compensating the upper echelon of the economic chain disproportionately versus the front line workers, these elite members should be held accountable whenever they do not produce. As Tainter said, Compensation of elites does not always match their contribution to society, and throughout their history, elites have probably been overcompensated relative to performance more often than the reverse. 
Ultimately, McWorld will continue to prosper while weeding out the cancerous components of itself such as pollution, which according to Murphy Will be levied with a carbon tax, as the name implies, taxes fuels on the basis of their carbon content. Such a tax would reduce waste and over-production, because it would make it more expensive to produce carbon based fuels, which causes pollution.
Perhaps, most striking of all the events since September 11, is McWorlds rediscovery of compassion. According to Hamel, Americas relief efforts after both world wars reflected the same national qualities that led one British paper to comment, as the U.S. retaliation in Afghanistan got underway, Certainly there can never have been [a war] in which an attacker delivers to enemy territory not only cruise missiles but emergency food rations, virtually simultaneously.
The devastation of September 11 has left many skeptical as to how this magnificent city would recover after suffering the brunt of the attacks. Passaro said, The attack may hasten the end of moneyed Manhattans glittering excesses. While Weisberg said, The connection between catastrophe and progress is essential to the citys history. Many of New Yorks great achievements were responses to disaster. And Ferguson said, The only surprising thing was that New York was spared for so long. If economics could be globalized, why not political violence? However, perhaps the greatest recovery McWorld could hope for now according to Dominus Is the Mending of a Psyche.
While the impact of the terrorist acts on September 11 has jolted McWorld and sent it into a temporary tailspin, McWorld is now starting to show sings of stabilizing three months later. This stabilization is more physical than mental presently. Corporations are not announcing massive layoffs as they once did almost immediately after the attacks of September 11.
The greatest challenge for McWorld remains the psyche of its consumers. The terrorist attacks have detached them from their security blanket and have practically forced them into a state of hibernation. Until consumers regain their confidence they will not spend as highlighted in the November retail sales number, which fell 3.8% according to Miles. Consumers will only
resume their spending patterns once they feel secure once again. Until then
their will continue to be a precipitous drop in their spending. This fall-off
in spending will result in businesses reporting flat to no earnings quarter
over quarter, and year over year.
Until the consumers psyche is cemented once again, they will not respond to any plea to return to their former spending levels. As Boodin said, The social consciousness, then, is nothing more than the feeling or the thought that appears at the same moment in all individuals, or that is propagated from one to another through the assembly or the community. The social mind is the phenomenon of many individuals in interaction, so playing upon one another that they simultaneously feel the same sensation or emotion, arrive at one judgment and perhaps act in concert. Boodins perspective is clearly articulated. Unless this occurs, the post September 11, McWorld could cause catastrophic financial ruin to an already fragile economy.
It is conceivable that McWorld will have to yield to a new set of paradigms in order to survive. Corporations may have to relinquish their mantra of laissez-faire and allow greater oversight in certain areas, which poses a greater threat to the social system. Governments can no longer standby idly as multi-national firms produce an inexplicable amount of waste without repercussions.
McWorld has a lot to offer that is good, however its handicap lies within a consumer-driven construct. Therefore, consumers need to be released from their emotional paralysis, which is imbued by McWorld. Once the faceless consumer is able to achieve this, McWorld will be regulated as a mere market participant and not as a social dictum.
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