I was in a rut yesterday, so I watched Fight Club. I long ago lost track of how many times I've seen that film - what's amazing is that it continues to affect me, every time I see it, in largely the same way.

No, I don't want to blow up credit card buildings.

Every time I watch the film, I find myself having an internal debate of just where it is that Tyler's vision goes awry. I still don't have the answer; I know that I'm still too much of a consumerist, but I also know that walking around chanting "His name is Robert Paulson" is not exactly a productive or enlightened approach to life.

But one thing that always resonates is Tyler's first profundity - "The things you own, end up owning you."

Appropriate, then, that I stumbled on this diary at dKos today:
My "stuff" makes claims on me daily. And my stuff, and your stuff, is in danger of destroying the world as we know it.
She later quotes an article that I had not read, previously, but that also grooves nicely on this and other things I've been thinking on, recently:
In this article I wish to make a simple claim: 20th century advertising is the most powerful and sustained system of propaganda in human history and its cumulative cultural effects, unless quickly checked, will be responsible for destroying the world as we know it. As it achieves this it will be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of non-western peoples and will prevent the peoples of the world from achieving true happiness. Simply stated, our survival as a species is dependent upon minimizing the threat from advertising and the commercial culture that has spawned it.
Right. Or, in any case, not wrong - this is a part of right. I think the author of this piece, Sut Jhally, perhaps overstates the case for advertising and consumerism being hideous mutations of capitalism rather than intensely designed systems of control. That's what a quick read of the whole piece suggested, but I'll go back and read more thoroughly later.

But what this really all heads toward is the long-form essay I keep not writing, about contemporary consumer identity . Basically - today you can decide to be anything you want to be - a Lutheran kick-ball-playing Converse-wearing reader of McSweeney's - but none of it means anything. Actually, not, "not anything", but worse than that, these customized identities are actually malign, as they cut people off from identies that have histories attached to them. Religion. Community. Family. Not that those are all good in and of themselves - but they're what you are, and the struggle of life is a struggle for meaning within what you are. If you're constantly changing those terms, there can be no search that means anything; there can be no meaning. This is the anxiety of our age, I think.

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