Consumer v. citizen

After writing my little screed on consumer psychology and the electronics market, the topic came up in a conversation with the woman with whom I work out. “Isn’t it sad,” she said, “that we think of ourselves as consumers, and not citizens?”

Well, yeah.

Honestly, I’m hard-pressed to think of a personal identity less appealing than “consumer.” I mean, I guess it’s better than thinking of one’s self as a glutton or a felon or a pederast, although if I were any of those things I would use different terms (ie, gourmand, Jean Valjean, or – there’s a NAMBLA joke in there somewhere, but I can’t bring myself to find it).

I was going to write about how I think that despite the fact that we (in this country) tend not to self-identify as “consumers,” we most definitely are…but then the most recent University of Phoenix campaign came to mind. It’s somewhat related, promise. This is the series of billboards and radio and TV spots in which different students (or actors portraying students) proudly proclaim their identity: “I am a Phoenix.” AKA “I rose out of the cold, dead ashes of my own life.”

Well done, you Phoenix you. At least there’s a happy ending there, though it makes me think that the early classes are all attended by these broken-down people, all flailing around in the muck as they struggle to transform.

A hint to people looking to transform: the public university system, however under siege, can be less expensive than for-profit entities like University of Phoenix! And! Then you can self-identify as, say, a wild cat, or a sun devil (whatever that might be).


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