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December 16, 2002
Swaziland and Zena Mahlangu The

Swaziland and Zena Mahlangu

The kidnapped teenager, now referred to by the press as the king's 10th wife, was apparently pregnant and had an abortion a couple of months before she was snatched by the king's bodyguard. Apparently the non-virginity thing, with the, you know, almost-a-baby thing (which she reportedly did reveal to the aforesaid bodyguards), is causing quite the scandal in the royal house.

Also, she has a twin brother, according to one article, whose voice has been conspicuous by its absence during this fracas.

Apparently the prosecutor who tried to get her mother's lawsuit to trial has also had to face that his enemies have enacted black magic rituals in his office.

The king has also picked up another 18 year-old prospective bride since he snatched Zena.

That whole situation has added the macabre to the bizarre.

The New Politics of Consumption (by Juliet Schor)

I take issue with some of Schor's remarks, especially when she blames women for initiating a spiral of out-of-control consumerism in the USofA.

"...as married women entered the workforce in larger numbers-particularly in white collar jobs-they were exposed to a more economically diverse group of people, and became more likely to gaze upward [towards the lifestyles of higher-income families]."

Presumably, you see, women didn't know there were people in the world who had more money than their own families until they went out to work and met a few of them. I have this ghastly picture of a woman in 1962 going home and taking it out on her husband because they couldn’t afford a heated pool similar to the one the president of her company had, whereupon the poor man took a second job and worked himself into an early grave trying to catch up with the Smythe-Joneses.

That offends me on a number of levels on behalf of the women who were in the workforce because they wanted to be there, the women working to break the glass ceiling, not because they wanted a heated pool but because they felt they had both the right and the ability to lead, and the women who were in the workforce because their family needed more money every month in order to eat.

Ahem. Didn't mean to go off on a tangent before I'd even gotten started, sorry.

Schor also says, (in a passage following a discussion of the late 90's, which leads me to believe the study in question was conducted during that time although she doesn't say specifically), "In the meantime, upscale emulation had become well-established. Researchers Susan Fournier and Michael Guiry found that 35 percent of their sample aspired to reach the top 6 percent of the income distribution, and another 49 percent aspired to the next 12 percent.

I'm sorry, but without numbers from a similar survey taken in either the 50s or 60s, the time frames she cites as being before this consumerism overtook the country, this data is of little value.

For all we know, in 1950, that entire 84 percent of families "aspired to reach the top 6 percent of the income distribution," and we're all actually less obsessed with excessive wealth these days.

I mean, probably not, but I refuse to find these numbers alarming without something to compare them to and in any case I refuse to be alarmed by the news that people, in this country or any other, would like to better their standard of living and hopefully leave their children better off than they are, okay?

At a later point, she quotes economist David Gordon: The "vast majority of US households," he argues, "can barely make ends meet.... Meager livelihoods are a typical condition, an average circumstance."

Oddly enough, the next point Schor seems to be making is that the problem comes in when people spend what they make, leading them to want to make more so that they can spend more, which she considers a Bad Thing and considering that she just made the point that most people barely have enough money to live on, dissing them for spending what they earn seems pretty harsh.

Presumably in the halcyon 50s, people wanted to make money because goose down to stuff their mattresses was in short supply and not because they wanted to do anything evil like buy a new car or a new appliance or go on a family vacation.

Near the beginning of her article, Schor says, " Few economists now think about how we consume, and whether it reproduces class inequality, alienation, or power. "Stuff" is the part of the equation that the system is thought to have gotten nearly right."

A little later, she says, " Somebody needs to be for quality of life, not just quantity of stuff. And to do so requires an approach that does not trivialize consumption, but accords it the respect and centrality it deserves."

In the first, she seems to be decrying the centrality of consumerism, in the second she warns that consumerism has to be given "the respect and centrality it deserves."

Seriously, I do get that she's saying we're all consumers, it's part of our culture, so we need to take a look at what and how we consume and see if it's bringing us the benefits we think it is, but the kinds of apparent contradictions I've cited above are enough, most of the time, to cause me to bail out on an article in disgust.

Having gotten this out of my system, I think I'll go read the article seriously.

Posted by AnneZook at 03:18 PM