Monday, November 13, 2006

Tied Up In Knots

This rant has been a while in coming, so if it bursts out of your screen and crawls down your throat screetching, please try to be understanding. Fend it off with a mug of cocoa and a warm cinnamon roll. Thanks.

I practice yoga. Well, I practice practicing yoga, I'm not a deadly serious practitioner of the eightfold path. I do some hatha, but I don't take classes wiht the Big Names of Yoga, nor do I make pilgramages to India to study at backwater shalas because anything else is "inauthentic."

And because I can learn from the written word, and know enough to keep my ego off the mat, I subscribe to a couple of magazines. Or rather, used to subscribe, because frankly, I'm never going to be limber enough to be happy with people who can talk out of both sides of their mouth at once.

You see, there's a tremendous emphasis in the text of the articles (and the essays, and the related conversations) about our duty as the Enlightened to walk softly on the face of the earth--don't eat meat, for in order to produce one pound of steak it takes ten pounds of grain, which could feed ten people for ten days, instead of one fat hog (that's you, o USDA taxpayer, do you feel GUILTY YET??) for one meal. Don't wear leather, that's cruel. Don't wear "unnatural" textiles, for they are poisonous and wasteful. And so on, so on, so forth. 1

And that's fine, as far as it goes. I can turn that off and get the good out of the pieces that I come here for. I am one of the Untouchables--I eat meat, I wear leather, and no, I don't feel bad about my choices. I own them, and I own whatever results comes from those choices. I own the possibility that I may choose (or be required to choose) differently in the future.

But what gets my goat (and I thought I'd finally rid myself of the Noxious Flock) is the sheer number of advertisements for stuff. Actually, for STUFF. (Where's the HTML code to make that burst out of the screen, laughing maniacally, spouting fireworks like a Catherine Wheel?)

STUFF like $50 tank tops. STUFF like $180 yoga pants. STUFF like mats, mat bags, and music, all endorsed by the Big Names of Yoga. Will buying this CD make achieving full Padma Shirhasana 3 easier? By golly, looking at this ad it will--but only if I also purchase the tank top, pants, and mat.

And here's the part that finally made my carefully suspended disbelief fall right out of Mool Bandha and into my lap. The Winter issue took up the flag for an anti-mindless consumption holiday season. (Editorial: Deep cleansing releasing breath; we KNOW you're going to celebrate Christmas/Hannukkah, regardless of what we say, so you might as well keep in mind that this is a season of giving, not of receiving, AND CERTAINLY NOT OF BUYING STUFF STUFF AND MORE STUFF for the sake of giving and receiving. Namaste, you unenlightened slugs.) And whaddaya know, instead of the ad on every third page, it was a half ad every OTHER PAGE, with a big section on how this one company was giving away ten percent of its profits on every sale to this one charity!! Woo-hoo!!! You can buy all your goodies through them and know that you are doing good in this world, doncha feel all warm and fuzzy NOW! Look, look!!! One of the REALLY BIG NAMES is a spokesmodel for this company!! Why, just reading this ad should kick your kharma up a notch or two!

And, okay, they had one thing that struck my fancy. A niceish necklace, wrapped around and around the spokesmodel's wrist, just as I enjoy doing with antique paste necklaces. No prices listed in the ad, so I went to the website.

Holy craparoonie. $350 for wood, turquoise, and coral?? For WOOD, with ACCENTS of turquoise and coral????

I do a lot of DIY, and I'm a careful shopper. I am the first to admit I know what materials cost, but not what THINGS cost. If I can get it secondhand (like classic jewelry--diamonds have no provenance) (or silk shirts--once to the drycleaner, and they're just as clean as they'll ever be again) then I do it. I'm not consuming any new resources by doing so--these have already been made. If it's leather or fur in good condition (you'd be amazed at what a pawn shop can have) then I'm not killing another being just to wear it on my back three-five times a year. I know all the secondhand places that specialize in designer jeans, and as long as somewhat worn is chic, I'm good. (When they HAVE to be hard new blue, well, I guess I'll just be out of touch for a while.)

But Spike, the company donates ten percent of their profits to charity? Why would you deprive the charity of their cut? How can you be so unfeeling?

Well, let's do a little math. The jeweler donates ten percent of their profits. Since their asking price includes their profits, the raw materials, the labor, the shipping (of material to the factory, of the finished items to the warehouse), storage space, advertising costs--spokemodel time (you don't think that the Big Name donated her time to go pose for the ads, do you?), photographer's time,printing and binding and mailing cataloges, and probably designers' fees and coffee, you know that the final donation will be substantially less than ten percent of their asking price. But let's go with that for argument's sake. $35 to charity.

The fact that I can make the same sort of lariat in pearls with accents of coral and turquoise plus give $35 to charity for less than a third of what they're asking for really honks me off. How stupid do they presume their customer to be??

If you want the article, buy the article. If you want to donate to charity, donate. But don't let yourself get fooled into thinking that ten percent of profits to whatever charitable organization represents serious goodwill on the part of the manufacturer. Suppliers will offer ten percent off their ASKING PRICE just to entice you to purchase.

Needless to say, I'm practicing letting go this season. One of the things to go will be my subscription to yoga magazines. If I feel the need to find new poses/receipies/information--I'll go to the used bookstore where I can pick them up for a buck apiece, already printed, already used once and being tossed aside.

Walking a little lighter now. Om shanti, ya'll.

1. I'm not going to get into the fuel it takes for the machinery to grow the grain, or the fuel and other chemicals needed for the fertilizer, or for the amazing costs of watering a cotton field or any of that. Someone else may take up the agricultural screed and relate the doleful facts of just how much it costs to farm in a green and sustainabler way--and how much MORE the consumer has to put out to acquire. That's not the point of this particular rant; that's why all my facts are not in order, cross-indexed and footnoted.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Somehow, yours is not the first rant I've seen recently on the increasing commercialism of walking lightly and becoming more spiritual. I'm not sure what the answer is, but that isn't it. I think I'll go spin for a while and ponder the matter.