The Anti-Alienator

There are a lot of things to buy right now. Things are ON SALE. You can buy more shit right now than you know what to do with. All those things? Those decorative things? Those plastic things? That thing that your friend has that really ties the room together, you can buy that fucker. For 30% off.

Look, I’m a Loehman’s girl, don’t get me wrong. I love a deal. And, this may shock you, I’m a materialist. I love things, I get attached to things, getting rid of things is terribly hard for me. Why do you think my posts are so long? My high school American and European history teacher was helping me edit my college admissions essay, and angrily told me I was “the most anal-retentive student” he’d ever worked with (thanks for getting me into Kenyon, Brad, love you!).

My point is, I see it. I get it. Things are great, they’re cool, it’s fun to get new ones. But cheap things suck. They break, unravel, fade and eventually make you feel cheap, broke and bad. So you buy more, and soon you’re swimming in pointless, redundant shit that has become one mass of crap that saps your will to live happily and you sate with one more goddamn cute thing. And in the end, you’re alone, surrounded by shit that you only bought to compense for the shit you already had, that you didn’t connect with in the first place.

The only answer is to only get shit that you really really really connect with. Then you’ll love your shit. The best way to do this is to buy very few things made by people who are connected to it. This is science.

Marx, my fav sociologist, has a theory of alienation (you may have heard of it in a cafe from a dude with earlobe spacers and a nasal voice). In the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 Marx writes about 4 different alienations (caused by capitalist structures):

  1. Alienation of the worker from the product of her labor;
  2. Alienation of the worker from the work (the act of production);
  3. Alienation of worker from herself (as a producer); and
  4. Alienation of the worker from other workers.

There isn’t a switch we can flip to up-end capitalist structures. We’re well saddled, and it’s a long slow slog. Basically, the climate is going to force the issue of change, and we have to keep working for equality EVERY DAY, but how the fuck do we get through the holiday season? How to we all take those small steps toward change that come to be a flood?

Here’s my solution. Buy from craftspeople. Don’t buy a lot. Just buy one thing, and buy it from someone who is upending capitalist structures by rejecting alienation. Realize that they’re also rejecting power (aka money) within the current neoliberal framework, and if you also want to reject the structural violence inherent in this system, you must support them.

So, I’m using my minor FB and twitter presence to promote those I know who are doing it for the love of the make. For the connection to the product, for the connection to the rest of the world, for the sense of accomplishment, pride and joy that comes from sharing something you’ve made with someone else. Share the love, give gifts that are made with care and love. Maybe it means it’s a small gift. But look, if you have people in your life who judge gifts based on size, amount, electrical wattage or anything other than showing you care, just don’t get them anything, they suck and they don’t appreciate you. For real.

Send me your suggestions for craftspeople, artists, social enterprises and the like, and I’ll include them in my posts!