I’ve dropped the youngest off at school, and have popped into the closest supermarket for some milk and apples. I’ve picked up a couple of rolls of wrapping paper for gifts, and am in the queue to pay. Behind me, a guy empties his basket onto the conveyor belt: three bottles of expensive looking Prosecco and a copy of the Daily Mail. I look at him and almost instantly he replies: ‘I know what this looks like, but there’s a good reason for both.’
It’s 8.50am, and already the day is interesting.
He goes on to explain he only buys the paper for the crossword, that his kids abuse him but it’s a habit. Someone then told him the night before at a Christmas event just how good the wine was and that it always sold out and so he’d come to get a bottle for Christmas Day, one for a gift and one ‘to try’ to check the person who told him wasn’t lying. I then realise, as the guy shows me his Guardian app on the latest Android phone as some kind of justification for his own embarrassment that I’ve encountered a beautiful metaphor for affluent modern life.
I know many people who insist they still buy reprehensible right wing scumbag newspapers from force of habit. They’ve gotten used to this being their daily purchase, for whatever reason: maybe their parents bought it, or they are addicted to a part of the paper that is nothing to do with news output. The fact remains, these habits keep papers like the Sun and the Mail in business. If people stopped assuaging their need to feel safe in familiarity, a lot of these ‘institutions’ could vanish overnight. Except that’s too hard.
Then there’s the wine recommendation, another way to soften the blow of bad news and coping with life. The fact he took this on spec and bought three bottles before breakfast says a lot of the persuasive selling abilities of the woman the night before. One assumes if he hates it they’ll gift two bottles instead of one, but this kind of impulse consumerism is what got the oceans in the fucking state they are now. The fact remains, social networks like this (and I’ll include Twitter and Facebook in the condemnation) are the means by which too many people define their lives, based on what other people say and think and not on their own choice.
Yesterday I encountered this attitude in spades, and the even more galling belief by many that you shouldn’t complain when companies make money off their own success, regardless of whether it hurts anyone in the process. I’m not going on about the Patreon bombsite any more: it is apparent from the publicly available news regarding their efforts to raise venture capital that nobody cares about little people any more. All that matters is those users prepared to make money that in turn makes the company look successful. With no consultation over change and Patrons being told they need to push people to pay them more money to cover the charges… I get it.
What this means for me is that it is time to give people alternate means by which they can fund me. It is the opportunity I required to ensure stuff doesn’t become habit, and that I am thinking independently, based on what matters most to me. I know I shouldn’t start my day making snap judgements of random strangers, but when that stranger feels the need to apologise to someone that they don’t know over the suspect nature of their life choices? Who’s the one with the issue here, exactly.
Changing long term destructive habits is not hard. Have the balls to start today.