Transcript: Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter on The Rebel Sell | Dec 04, 2004

A black slate appears with the caption “University of Toronto Book store.”

A picture of a book called “The Rebel Sell,” by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter appears on screen.

Andrew Potter stands behind a lectern, in front of an audience, with a large screen behind him that reads “What are you rebelling against? Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter. Wednesday, October 13th at 7:30 PM.”

Andrew is in his forties, clean-shaven and completely bald. He wears a dark gray suit, white shirt and a hound tooth black and gray tie.

He says SEPTEMBER,
2003 MARKED A TURNING POINT IN
THE DEVELOPMENT OF WESTERN
CIVILISATION.
IT WAS THE MONTH THAT AD BUSTERS
MAGAZINE STARTED ACCEPTING
ORDERS FOR THE BLACK SPOT
SNEAKER, IT'S OWN SIGNATURE
BRAND OF SUBVERSIVE RUNNING
SHOES.

Pictures showing different sides of the snicker appear.

Another picture of the snicker show different characteristics: organic hemp, worker-friendly union shop, vegetarian leather, etcetera.

Another picture shows
AFTER THAT DAY, NO RATIONAL
PERSON COULD POSSIBLY BELIEVE
THAT THERE'S ANY TENSION BETWEEN
MAINSTREAM AND ALTERNATIVE
CULTURE.
AFTER THAT DAY, IT BECAME
OBVIOUS TO EVERYONE THAT
CULTURAL REBELLION, OF THE TYPE
EPITOMISED BY AD BUSTERS
MAGAZINE IS NOT A THREAT TO THE
SYSTEM, IT IS THE SYSTEM.

A caption reads Andrew Potter. Co-author of The Rebel Sell. University of Toronto Bookstore Reading Series. Innis Town Hall. October 13, 2004.”

Andrew says FOUNDED IN
1989, AD BUSTERS IS THE FLAGSHIP
PUBLICATION OF THE CULTURE
JAMMING MOVEMENT.
IN THEIR VIEW, SOCIETY HAS
BECOME SO THOROUGHLY PERMEATED
WITH PROPAGANDA AND LIES,
LARGELY AS A CONSEQUENCE OF
ADVERTISING, THAT THE CULTURE AS
A WHOLE HAS BECOME AN ENORMOUS
SYSTEM OF IDEOLOGY, ALL DESIGNED
TO REPRODUCE FAITH IN THE
SYSTEM.
THE GOAL OF
THE CULTURE JAMMERS IS QUITE
LITERALLY, TO JAM THE CULTURE BY
SUBVERTING THE MESSAGES USED TO
REPRODUCE THIS FAITH, AND
BLOCKING THE CHANNELS THROUGH
WHICH IT IS PROPAGATED.
THIS, IN TURN, IS THOUGHT TO
HAVE RADICAL POLITICAL
CONSEQUENCES.
IN 1999, AD BUSTERS EDITOR KALLE
LASN ARGUED THAT CULTURE
JAMMING, “WILL BECOME TO OUR ERA
WHAT CIVIL RIGHTS WAS TO THE
'60s, WHAT FEMINISM WAS TO THE
'70s, WHAT ENVIRONMENTAL
ACTIVISM WAS TO THE '80s.
TEN YEARS LATER, HE'S USING THE
AD BUSTERS BRAND TO FLOG HIS OWN
LINE OF RUNNING SHOES.
IT'S WORTH MENTIONING THAT IN A
COPY CAT MOVE, MOTHER JONES
MAGAZINE IS NOW MARKETING, I
BELIEVE IT'S CALLED, THE NO
SWEAT SNEAKER, AND I BELIEVE IN
A DEFENSIVE MOVE, CONVERSE IS
NOW MARKETING THE DEFENSIVE
SNEAKER, WHICH HAS THE LYRICS OF
JOHN LENNON'S “IMAGINE,” PRINTED
ON IT.

A picture of an ad for high top sneakers appears.

A picture of white Chuck Taylors with a sketched image of John Lennon sitting on top of the Earth appears.

Andrew says SO YOU CAN SORT OF SEE WHERE
THIS IS GOING.
ANYWAY, WHAT HAPPENED?
DID AD BUSTERS SELL OUT?
OUR ANSWER IS ABSOLUTELY NOT.
AND I THINK IT'S EXTREMELY
IMPORTANT THAT WE ALL SEE AND
UNDERSTAND THIS.
AD BUSTERS DID NOT SELL OUT,
BECAUSE THERE'S NOTHING TO SELL
OUT IN THE FIRST PLACE.
THEY NEVER HAD A REVOLUTIONARY
DOCTRINE.
WHAT THEY HAD WAS A WARMED OVER
VERSION OF THE COUNTERCULTURAL
THINKING THAT HAS DOMINATED
LEFTIST POLITICS SINCE THE
1960s.
IN THIS TYPE OF COUNTERCULTURAL
POLITICS, FAR FROM BEING A
REVOLUTIONARY DOCTRINE, HAS BEEN
ONE OF THE PRIMARY FORCES
DRIVING CONSUMER CAPITALISM FOR
THE PAST 40 YEARS.
IN OTHER WORDS, WHAT WE SEE ON
DISPLAY IN AD BUSTERS MAGAZINE
IS, AND ALWAYS HAS BEEN, THE
TRUE SPIRIT OF CAPITALISM.
THE EPISODE WITH THE RUNNING
SHOES JUST SERVES TO PROVE THE
POINT.
KALLE LASN DESCRIBES THE SNEAKER
PROJECT AS, “A GROUND BREAKING
MARKETING SCHEME TO UN-COOL
THE EPISODE WITH THE RUNNING
SHOES JUST SERVES TO PROVE THE
POINT.
KALLE LASN DESCRIBES THE SNEAKER
PROJECT AS, “A GROUND BREAKING
MARKETING SCHEME TO UN-COOL
NIKE.”
HE SAID, “IF IT SUCCEEDS, IT
WILL SET A PRECEDENT THAT WILL
REVOLUTIONISE CAPITALISM.
BUT HOW EXACTLY IS THIS SUPPOSED
TO REVOLUTIONISE CAPITALISM?
REEBOK, ADIDAS, PUMA, VANS, AND
A HALF DOZEN OTHER COMPANIES,
THEY'VE BEEN TRYING TO UN-COOL
NIKE FOR DECADES.
THAT'S CALLED MARKETPLACE
COMPETITION.
IT'S CALLED IDENTIFYING A NICHE
AND EXPLOITING IT.
IN FACT, IT IS THE WHOLE POINT
OF CAPITALISM.

Pictures show the process of designing and manufacturing sneakers.

A caption reads “www.adbusters.org.”

Andrew says LASN DEFENDS
THE SNEAKER PROJECT AGAINST
VARIOUS CRITICS, POINTING OUT
THAT HIS SHOES, UNLIKE THOSE OF
HIS RIVALS, WILL NOT BE
MANUFACTURED IN SWEAT SHOPS,
ALTHOUGH THEY WILL BE
MANUFACTURED IN A FACTORY IN
PORTUGAL, WHERE, AND THIS IS A
QUOTATION TAKEN STRAIGHT FROM
THE BLACK SPOT SNEAKER WEBSITE,
A FACTORY IN PORTUGAL WHERE,
“THE OWNERS HAVE A REPUTATION
FOR BEING EXCELLENT EMPLOYERS.
ALTHOUGH MANY
OF THE EMPLOYEES IN THE FACTORY
HAVE CARS, OTHERS ARE OFTEN SEEN
WALKING THROUGH VINEYARDS AND
OLIVE GROVES DURING THE COURSE
OF THE WORK DAY TO ENJOY THEIR
1 AND A HALF HOUR LUNCH BREAK, WAVING
TO BOSSES AND NEIGHBOURS AS THEY
PASS.
THIS IS NICE.
BUT IDEAS LIKE FAIR TRADE AND
ETHICAL MARKETING ARE HARDLY
REVOLUTIONARY IDEAS, AND THEY
CERTAINLY REPRESENT NO THREAT TO
THE CAPITALIST SYSTEM.
IF CONSUMERS ARE WILLING TO PAY
MORE FOR SHOES MADE BY HAPPY
WORKERS, OR, FOR EGGS LAID BY
HAPPY CHICKENS, THEN THERE IS
MONEY TO BE MADE BY BRINGING
THESE GOODS TO MARKET.
IT IS A BUSINESS MODEL THAT HAS
ALREADY BEEN A SUCCESSFULLY
EXPLOITED TO GREAT EFFECT BY THE
BODY SHOP AND STARBUCK'S AMONG
OTHER COMPANIES.
YOU KNOW, WE USE THIS LITTLE
EPISODE TO HELP US UNDERSTAND
WHAT WE CALL THE PARADOX OF
ANTI-CONSUMERISM.
BECAUSE THE TYPE OF ANTI-
CONSUMERISM THAT'S REPRESENTED
IN AD BUSTERS MAGAZINE, HAS
BECOME ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT
CULTURAL FORCES IN MILLENNIAL
NORTH AMERICAN LIFE, ACROSS EVER
CLASS AND SOCIAL DEMOGRAPHIC.
SURE, AS A SOCIETY, WE'RE
COLLECTIVELY SPENDING RECORD
AMOUNTS OF MONEY ON LUXURY
GOODS, VACATIONS, DESIGNER
CLOTHING, HOUSEHOLD COMFORTS,
BUT TAKE A LOOK AT THE
NONFICTION BEST SELLER LISTS.
FOR YEARS THEY HAVE BEEN
DOMINATED BY BOOKS THAT ARE
DEEPLY CRITICAL OF CONSUMERISM,
“NO LOGO,” “CULTURE JAM,”
“LUXURY FEVER,” “FAST FOOD
NATION.”
YOU CAN NOW BUY AD BUSTERS AT
YOUR LOCAL-- YOUR LOCAL MUSIC
STORE, CLOTHING STORE AND SO ON.
TWO OF THE MOST POPULAR AND
CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED FILMS IN
THE LAST DECADE, WERE “FIGHT
CLUB,” AND “AMERICAN BEAUTY,”
BOTH OF WHICH OFFERED ALMOST
IDENTICAL INDICTMENTS OF MODERN
CONSUMER SOCIETY.
SO WHAT CAN WE CONCLUDE FROM
THIS?
WELL ONE THING WE CONCLUDE IS
THAT THE MARKET DOES AN
EXTREMELY GOOD JOB AT RESPONDING
TO THE DEMAND OF ANTI-CONSUMERS
PRODUCTS.
THERE WAS
ACTUALLY AN ARTICLE ABOUT THIS
IN THE NEW YORK TIMES, A WHILE
AGO, CALLED THE ALIENATION
MARKET.
IT TALKED ABOUT, “THE
CORPORATION,” MICHAEL MOORE'S
MOVIES AND SO ON.
BUT AT THE
SAME TIME, HOW CAN WE ALL
DENOUNCE CONSUMERISM, AND STILL
FIND OURSELVES LIVING IN A
CONSUMER SOCIETY.
I THINK IF WE DID A QUICK STRAW
POLL IN THIS ROOM, AND I ASKED
EVERYONE WHO IS IN FAVOUR OF
CONSUMERISM TO PUT UP THEIR
HANDS, I'M NOT SURE THAT THERE
WOULD BE THAT MANY TAKERS.
BUT THIS IS THE PUZZLE, RIGHT?
I MEAN, EVERYBODY SEEMS TO BE
OPPOSED TO THE SHALLOW,
MATERIALISTIC NATURE OF
CONTEMPORARY CONSUMER CULTURE.
AND YET NOTHING EVER SEEMS TO
CHANGE.
BUT SOMEBODY IS DOING ALL THE
SHOPPING.
EVERYBODY IS A REBEL IN THEIR
OWN WAY, AND YET THE SYSTEM
CONTINUES ALONG ITS MERRY WAY
COMPLETELY UNPERTURBED.
IF ANYTHING, THE SYSTEM SEEMS TO
BE GETTING STRONGER, AND
CONSUMERISM SEEMS TO BE GETTING
WORSE.
SO I THINK WHAT WE NEED TO DO IS
STEP BACK A BIT, AND TRY TO
FIGURE OUT HOW WE'VE GOTTEN
OURSELVES INTO THIS SITUATION.
AND IN PARTICULAR, WE NEED TO
ASK OURSELVES, TWO QUESTIONS.
FIRST OF ALL, WHAT EXACTLY ARE
PEOPLE REBELLING AGAINST?
SECOND, HOW ARE THEY REBELLING
WHEN THEY CLAIM TO BE STRIKING A
BLOW AGAINST CONSUMERISM?
NOW THE ANSWER CAN BE STATED
QUITE SIMPLY, BUT WE'RE
ACADEMICS, SO WE WON'T.
SO WHAT WE'LL DO IS WE'LL UNPACK
THE STORY A BIT FOR YOU.
MOST OF THE REBELLION AGAINST
CONSUMER SOCIETY HAS TAKEN THE
FORM OF WHAT WE CALL
COUNTERCULTURAL REBELLION.
IT'S THE SORT OF REBELLION
THAT'S BASED UP0N AN IMPLICIT
THEORY OF SOCIETY WHICH WE REFER
TO, FOLLOWING THOMAS FRANK, WHO
WROTE, “THE CONQUEST OF COOL,”
AS THE COUNTERCULTURAL IDEA, AND
IT'S AN IDEA THAT EMERGED OUT OF
THE SO-CALLED, CRITIQUE OF MASS
SOCIETY, A SET OF IDEAS
DEVELOPED PRIMARILY IN THE
1950s, AND WHICH HAS GONE ON TO
DOMINATE THE RADICAL POLITICAL
IMAGINATION SINCE THE 1960s.
THE CENTRAL IDEA OF THE CRITIQUE
OF MASS SOCIETY, IS QUITE
SIMPLE.
IT'S THAT THE ENORMOUS WEALTH OF
OUR SOCIETY IS BASED UPON THE
TECHNOLOGY OF MASS PRODUCTION.
WE'VE GOT THE FACTORY AND THE
ASSEMBLY LINE, THE
HIERARCHICALLY ORGANISED
CORPORATION, AND THE IMPERSONAL
STATE BUREAUCRACY.
WE ACCEPT ALL THIS, BECAUSE WE
APPRECIATE THE WEALTH THE SYSTEM
PRODUCES, LARGELY IN THE FORM OF
CREATURE COMFORTS AND HOUSEHOLD
CONSUMER GOODS.
BUT IT'S A FAUSTIAN BARGAIN,
BECAUSE IN ACCEPTING THE
BENEFITS, OF THE MACHINE OF MASS
SOCIETY, WE MUST ALSO SUBMIT TO
ITS DISCIPLINE.
SO ACCORDING TO THE CRITIQUE OF
MASS SOCIETY, CAPITALISM
REQUIRES CONFORMITY IN ORDER TO
FUNCTION, NOT JUST AMONG
WORKERS, BUT ALSO AMONG
CONSUMERS.
THIS IS BECAUSE MASS PRODUCTION
GENERATES AN ENORMOUS OVERSUPPLY
OF HOMOGENOUS GOODS WHICH
THREATEN TO OUTSTRIP DEMAND.
THUS, “THE SYSTEM” MUST INSTIL
A SET OF MANUFACTURED DESIRES IN
THE POPULATION, TO CONSUME EVER
GREATER QUANTITIES OF THESE MASS
PRODUCED GOODS.
IN OTHER WORDS, THE SYSTEM
REQUIRES CONFORMITY.
CONFORMITY AMONG THE WORKERS WHO
RUN THE MACHINES, AND CONFORMITY
AMONG THE CONSUMERS WHO PURCHASE
THE PRODUCTS.
YET THERE CAN'T BE MASS
CONSUMPTION WITHOUT WIDESPREAD
AGREEMENT AS TO WHAT THE NEEDS
AND WANTS OF LIFE ARE.
THUS, THE SYSTEM REQUIRES
SUBSTANTIAL PSYCHOLOGICAL UNITY
AMONG THE MASSES, A SET OF
UNIFORM MANUFACTURED DESIRES.
AND THE ONLY WAY THIS CAN BE
ACHIEVED IS THROUGH EXTENSIVE
PSYCHOLOGICAL MANIPULATION OF
THE POPULATION.
IN A CONSUMER SOCIETY, THIS IS
THE FUNCTION OF ADVERTISING.
THUS, CONFORMITY OF LIFE AND
CONFORMITY OF THOUGHT ARE
INDISSOLUBLY LINKED, AS A
COMPLACENT AND PASSIVE
POPULATION SUBMITS ITSELF TO THE
DEMANDS OF MASS SOCIETY IN ORDER
TO ACHIEVE THE EVER ELUSIVE
REWARDS PROMISED THEM BY
ADVERTISING.
SO THIS IS THE STORY.
I'M NOT TELLING YOU THIS, THIS
IS THE STORY, THIS IS THE
CRITIQUE OF MASS SOCIETY THAT WE
THINK IS UNDERLYING A LOT OF THE
REBELLION.
NOW IT'S IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND
THAT THIS IS NOT JUST A THEORY
ABOUT CAPITALISM NARROWLY
CONSTRUED OR NARROWLY CONCEIVED.
IT'S A THEORY ABOUT OUR ENTIRE
CULTURE.
SO ACCORDING TO THIS THEORY, OUR
CULTURE IS A COMPLETELY
INTEGRATED SYSTEM IN WHICH EVERY
SECTOR INSTITUTION, INCLUDING
THE STATE, THE CHURCHES, THE
MEDICAL ESTABLISHMENT AND SO ON,
EACH OF THESE INSTITUTIONS
SUPPORTS THE OTHERS, IN
REINFORCING THIS DEMAND FOR
CONFORMITY.
THE EDUCATION SYSTEM IN
PARTICULAR PLAYS A VITAL ROLE,
BECAUSE IT'S THE SCHOOLS, IT'S
IN THE SCHOOLS WHERE CHILDREN
HAVE THEIR INDEPENDENCE AND
THEIR CREATIVITY LITERALLY
BEATEN OUT OF THEM.
WE CALL THIS -- JOE AND I CALL
THIS THE PINK FLOYD THEORY OF
EDUCATION.
AFTER THE SCENE IN THE MOVIE,
“THE WALL,” RIGHT, WHERE A BUNCH
OF UNIFORM CLAD STUDENTS ARE
STANDING ON A CONVEYOR BELT
SINGING, “WE DON'T NEED NO
EDUCATION, WE DON'T NEED NO
THOUGHT CONTROL,” AS THEY'RE
SLOWLY BEING FED INTO A MEAT
GRINDER.
EVERYONE'S LIKE GRADE 6.
[Audience laughter]
IT FOLLOWS FROM THIS ANALYSIS OF
MASS SOCIETY AS A TOTALISING
SYSTEM OF ENFORCED CONFORMITY,
THAT IN ORDER TO EFFECT CHANGE,
IT'S NOT NECESSARY TO ENGAGE IN
TRADITIONAL POLITICAL ACTION, IN
THE MANNER OF, SAY, THE OLD
FASHIONED SOCIALISTS.
THERE'S NO NEED TO FORM
POLITICAL COALITIONS, NO NEED TO
LOBBY POLITICIANS, NO NEED TO
EVEN WORK WITHIN STANDARD PARTY
STRUCTURES.
IN FACT, THIS SORT OF ENGAGEMENT
IS LIKELY TO BE SEEN AS
COUNTERPRODUCTIVE, BECAUSE ALL
IT DOES IS VALIDATE AND
REINFORCE THE EXISTING ORDER.
ACCORDING TO THE COUNTERCULTURAL
IDEA, WHAT PEOPLE NEED TO BE
LIBERATED FROM, IS NOT A
SPECIFIC CLASS THAT OPPRESSES
THEM, OR FROM A SYSTEM OF
EXPLOITATION THAT IMPOSES
POVERTY ON THEM, IT'S BECAUSE
PEOPLE HAVE BECOME TRAPPED IN A
GILDED CAGE, AND THEY'VE BEEN
TAUGHT TO LOVE THEIR OWN
ENSLAVEMENT.
SOCIETY CONTROLS THEM BY
LIMITING THE IMAGINATION, AND
SUPPRESSING THEIR DEEPEST NEEDS.
SO WHAT THEY NEED TO ESCAPE FROM
IS CONFORMITY.
AND TO DO SO,
THEY MUST REJECT THE CULTURE IN
ITS ENTIRETY.
THEY MUST FORM A COUNTERCULTURE,
ONE BASED ON FREEDOM AND
INDIVIDUALITY.
THEODOR ROJAK,
WHOSE BOOK, WHOSE 1969 BOOK,
“THE MAKING OF A
COUNTERCULTURE,” INTRODUCED THE
TERM COUNTERCULTURE INTO GENERAL
USAGE.
HE REFERRED TO THE SYSTEM OF
MASS MANIPULATION AS A
TECHNOCRACY.
HE SAID BECAUSE THE DISCIPLINE
OF THE MACHINE AND THE FACTORY
FLOOR HAVE BEEN EXTENDED TO
ENCOMPASS EVERY DIMENSION OF
HUMAN LIFE, NOTHING SHORT OF A
TOTAL REJECTION OF THE ENTIRE
CULTURE AND SOCIETY WILL
SUFFICE.
IN ROJAK'S VIEW, TRADITIONAL
LEFTIST PARTIES, NOT TO MENTION
COMMUNISTS AND TRADE UNIONISTS,
HAVE BECOME THE STOOGES OF THE
TECHNOCRACY.
HE SAID, “THIS BRAND OF POLITICS
FINISHES WITH MERELY REDESIGNING
THE TURRETS AND TOWERS OF THE
TECHNOCRATIC CITADEL.
IT IS THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE
EDIFICE THAT MUST BE SOUGHT.”
AND ROJAK WASN'T THE ONLY ONE
WHO THOUGHT THIS WAY.
CHARLES REIK IN HIS BEST SELLING
BOOK, “THE GREENING OF AMERICA,”
WRITES, “THE REVOLUTION MUST BE
CULTURAL, FOR CULTURE CONTROLS
THE ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL
MACHINE, NOT VICE VERSA.
THE MACHINERY TURNS OUT WHAT IT
PLEASES AND FORCES PEOPLE TO
BUY, BUT IF THE CULTURE CHANGES,
THE MACHINE HAS NO CHOICE BUT TO
COMPLY.”
SO THE UPSHOT OF THIS CRITIQUE
OF MASS SOCIETY, IS THAT THE
BEST WAY TO REBEL AGAINST THE
SYSTEM IS TO BE A NONCONFORMIST.
THAT IS TO SAY, IF THE CULTURE
DEMANDS CONFORMITY, ONE CAN
RESIST THE SYSTEM BY ENGAGING IN
NONSTANDARD CULTURAL ACTIVITIES.
AND YOU CAN SEE THIS QUITE
CLEARLY IN THIS LITTLE HIPPIE
VERSION OF THE COUNTERCULTURE,
WHERE DOING GUERRILLA THEATRE,
PLAYING IN A BAND, MAKING AVANT
GUARD ART, TAKING DRUGS, HAVING
LOTS OF WILD SEX.
ALL OF THESE ARE SEEN AS WAYS OF
STICKING IT TO THE MAN.
MOST IMPORTANT, THEY WERE SEEN
AS HAVING HUGE POLITICAL
CONSEQUENCES.
SINCE THEN, THE LIST OF THINGS
THAT HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED
SUBVERSIVE, HAS GROWN QUITE
LONG.
THERE'S A VERY LONG LIST IN THE
BOOK, BUT I WON'T READ THEM ALL.
BUT AMONG THEM WE FIND FASHION
STATEMENTS RANGING FROM LONG
HAIR FOR MEN AND SHORT HAIR FOR
WOMEN, EVERY FORM OF POPULAR
MUSIC, INCLUDING JAZZ, ROCK,
PUNK AND RAP.
EXTREME SPORTS LIKE SURFING,
SKATEBOARDING AND SNOWBOARDING.
AND SOCIAL INNOVATIONS LIKE
BIRTH CONTROL, DIVORCE,
INTERRACIAL SEX, GAY MARRIAGE,
AND POSTMODERNISM.
AND IT'S IMPORTANT TO SEE WHAT A
PROFOUND REORIENTATION OF
RADICAL POLITICS THIS
REPRESENTS.
TRADITIONAL LEFTIST CONCERNS,
SUCH AS POVERTY, LIVING
STANDARDS OR ACCESS TO MEDICAL
CARE, COME TO BE SEEN AS
SUPERFICIAL, IN THE SENSE THAT
THEY ONLY AIM AT INSTITUTIONAL
REFORM.
THE COUNTERCULTURE, BY CONTRAST,
IS INTERESTED IN WHAT ROJAK
CALLS THE PSYCHIC LIBERATION OF
THE OPPRESSED, THUS THE HIPSTER
COOLING HIS HEELS IN A JAZZ
CLUB, COMES TO BE SEEN AS A MORE
PROFOUND CRITIC OF MODERN
SOCIETY THAN THE CIVIL RIGHTS
ACTIVIST WORKING TO ENLIST
VOTERS, OR THE FEMINIST
POLITICIAN CAMPAIGNING FOR A
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.
EVEN MORE PROBLEMATIC IS THAT WE
BEGIN TO SEE THAT WITH THE
CRITIQUE OF MASS SOCIETY, WE SEE
THE EMERGENCE OF, WHAT THOMAS
FRANK, AGAIN, CALLS THE REBEL
CONSUMER.
IF THE SYSTEM REQUIRES THE SAME
LEVEL OF CONFORMITY AMONG
CONSUMERS THAT IT DOES AMONG
WORKERS, THEN IT STANDS TO
REASON THAT YOU CAN FIGHT BACK
AGAINST THE SYSTEM SIMPLY BY
REFUSING TO CONSUME THE MASS
PRODUCED GOODS THAT THE SYSTEM
FOISTS UPON YOU.
YOU BAKE YOUR OWN BREAD, YOU
DESIGN YOUR OWN HOME, YOU BUY
HAND MADE POTTERY AND SO ON.
AND I THINK THIS IS WHERE WE
NEED TO STOP AND RETHINK THINGS.
BECAUSE THE IDEA THAT SHOPPING
CAN BE POLITICALLY RADICAL, AS
LONG AS YOU DO IT RIGHT, SOUNDS
A BIT TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE.
THE IDEOLOGY OF THE REBEL
CONSUMER IS BASED UPON THE IDEA
THAT CONSUMERISM IS DRIVEN BY A
DESIRE TO CONFORM, YET FEW
PEOPLE BELIEVE THIS IS TRUE OF
THEMSELVES, RIGHT?
IT'S ALWAYS THE PEOPLE DOWN THE
ROAD WHO ARE THE COMPULSIVE
CONFORMISTS.
AND IT'S TRUE, SOMETIMES KIDS
DEMAND A PARTICULAR STYLE OF
GENES OR A PARTICULAR BRAND OF
SNEAKERS IN ORDER TO FIT IN, AND
THEY SAY, “OH, ALL THE OTHER
KIDS HAVE THEM.”
BUT HOW MANY ADULTS ACTUALLY ACT
THIS WAY?
MOST ADULTS SPEND THEIR MONEY,
NOT ON THINGS THAT HELP THEM FIT
IN, BUT ON THINGS THAT ALLOW
THEM TO STAND OUT IN THE CROWD.
THEY SPEND THEIR MONEY ON GOODS
THAT CONFER DISTINCTION, PEOPLE
BUY WHAT MAKES THEM FEEL
SUPERIOR.
WHETHER BY SHOWING THAT THEY ARE
COOLER, BETTER CONNECTED, BETTER
INFORMED, MORE DISCERNING,
MORALLY SUPERIOR, OR JUST PLAIN
RICHER THAN EVERYBODY ELSE.
CONSUMERISM, IN OTHER WORDS,
WOULD APPEAR TO BE A PRODUCT OF
CONSUMERS TRYING TO OUTDO ONE
ANOTHER, WHICH MEANS THAT IT'S
COMPETITIVE CONSUMERISM THAT
CAUSES THE PROBLEM, NOT
CONFORMITY.
IF CONSUMERS WERE CONFORMISTS,
THEN WE WOULD JUST ALL GO OUT
AND BUY EXACTLY THE SAME STUFF,
AND BE HAPPY.
AND FURTHERMORE, THERE WOULD BE
NO REASON TO GO OUT AND BUY
ANYTHING NEW.
SO THE DESIRE TO CONFORM, THIS
IDEA THAT WE'RE ALL TRYING TO
CONFORM, IT FAILS TO EXPLAIN THE
COMPULSIVE NATURE OF CONSUMER
BEHAVIOUR.
WHY WE KEEP SPENDING MORE AND
MORE, EVEN THOUGH WE'RE ALL
OVEREXTENDED.
AND EVEN THOUGH IT DOESN'T BRING
ANYBODY ANY HAPPINESS IN THE
LONG RUN.
SO THE QUESTION IS, WHY DO WE
LAY THE BLAME FOR CONSUMERISM ON
THOSE WHO ARE STRUGGLING TO KEEP
UP WITH THE JONES', BECAUSE THE
FAULT WOULD ACTUALLY APPEAR TO
LIE WITH THE JONES'.
THEY'RE THE ONES WHO STARTED IT
ALL, BY TRYING TO ONE-UP THEIR
NEIGHBOURS.
IT'S THEIR
DESIRE TO STAND OUT FROM THE
CROWD, TO BE BETTER THAN
EVERYONE ELSE, THAT IS
RESPONSIBLE FOR RATCHETING UP
CONSUMER STANDARDS IN THEIR
COMMUNITY.
IN OTHER WORDS, IT'S THE
NONCONFORMISTS, NOT THE
CONFORMISTS WHO ARE DRIVING
CONSUMER SPENDING.

The caption changes to “Joseph Heath. Co-author of The Rebel Sell. University of Toronto Bookstore Reading Series. Innis Town Hall. October 13, 2004.”

Joseph takes the stand. He is in his forties, clean-shaven and with short spiky black hair. He wears a black suit, white shirt and a moss green V-neck sweater.

Joseph says ONE WAY TO GET
A HANDLE ON THE PROBLEM OF
CONSUMERISM IN OUR SOCIETY IS TO
LOOK AT THE RESULTS COMING OUT
OF RECENT HAPPINESS RESEARCH,
WHICH IS STARTING TO HAVE A LOT
OF IMPACT ON THE ECONOMICS
PROFESSION.
SOME OF THESE
RESEARCH RESULTS ARE SORT OF
UNSURPRISING, FOR EXAMPLE,
THEY'VE DISCOVERED THAT PEOPLE
IN WEALTHY INDUSTRIALISED
SOCIETIES ARE, ON AVERAGE,
HAPPIER THAN PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN
POOR ONES.
AND IT'S NOT
HARD TO IMAGINE WHY.
WITH GREATER WEALTH COMES
GREATER ABILITY TO SATISFY OUR
NEEDS AND DESIRES, TO ALLEVIATE
SUFFERING AND ILLNESS, AND TO
CARRY OUT OUR LIFE PROJECTS.
FROM THIS, WE MIGHT REASONABLY
CONCLUDE THAT ECONOMIC GROWTH IS
A GOOD THING.
UNFORTUNATELY, THERE'S AN
UNEXPECTED TWIST IN THE STORY.
WHILE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT HAS
BEEN SHOWN TO GENERATE A STEADY
INCREASE IN GENERAL HAPPINESS
LEVELS, AFTER A CERTAIN LEVEL OF
DEVELOPMENT HAS BEEN REACHED,
THE EFFECT DISAPPEARS
COMPLETELY.
THE RULE OF THUMB DEVELOPING
AMONG ECONOMISTS WHO STUDY THE
SUBJECT, IS THAT ONCE GDP
REACHES ABOUT U.S. 10,000 PER
CAPITA, FURTHER ECONOMIC GROWTH
GENERATES NO GAINS IN AVERAGE
HAPPINESS.
IN NORTH AMERICA, WE HIT THAT
LEVEL LONG AGO, SO DESPITE
SPECTACULAR ECONOMIC GROWTH
SINCE THE SECOND WORLD WAR,
THERE'S BEEN NO OVERALL INCREASE
IN HAPPINESS, SOME STUDIES EVEN
SHOW A DECREASE IN THE UNITED
STATES IN PARTICULAR.
SO THERE'S SOMETHING VERY
PUZZLING IN ALL OF THIS.
IT WOULD NOT BE SURPRISING TO
FIND THAT, AS A COUNTRY BECOMES
RICHER AND RICHER, ADDITIONAL
ECONOMIC GROWTH GENERATES
INCREASINGLY SMALLER
IMPROVEMENTS IN AVERAGE
HAPPINESS LEVELS.
THAT WOULD JUST BE DIMINISHING
MARGIN OF RETURNS.
WHAT IS SHOCKING IS THE
DISCOVERY THAT GROWTH CEASES TO
PRODUCE ANY IMPROVEMENTS AT ALL.
EACH YEAR, OUR ECONOMY PUMPS OUT
MORE CARS, MORE HOUSES, MORE
CONSUMER ELECTRONICS, MORE
LABOUR SAVING APPLIANCES, MORE
RESTAURANT MEALS, MORE OF
EVERYTHING.
FURTHERMORE, THE QUALITY OF
THESE GOODS INCREASES
DRAMATICALLY, YEAR AFTER YEAR.
LOOKING AROUND A TYPICAL
SUBURBAN HOME, THE MOST STRIKING
FEATURE, IS THE SHEER ABUNDANCE
OF MATERIAL GOODS.
BUT HOW COULD ALL OF THIS STUFF,
YOU KNOW, WHY ARE PEOPLE BUYING
IT IF IT FAILS TO PLEASE THEM?
OF COURSE IN THE MIDDLE OF ALL
THIS WEALTH, THE MIDDLE CLASS
CONTINUES TO COMPLAIN ABOUT
FEELING SQUEEZED ECONOMICALLY.
PEOPLE ARE WORKING HARDER, UNDER
MORE STRESS, AND ARE FINDING
THEMSELVES WITH LESS FREE TIME.
IT'S NO WONDER THAT THEY'RE NOT
ESPECIALLY HAPPY.
BUT HOW COULD WEALTH BRING ABOUT
SUCH CONSEQUENCES?
NOW THAT WE'RE RICHER, SHOULDN'T
WE ALL BE WORKING LESS?
SO THIS IS WHAT WE IDENTIFY AS
THE PROBLEM OF CONSUMERISM, AND
WE TRY TO DEVELOP A RELATIVELY
NEUTRAL DEFINITION OF THE
PROBLEM.
USUALLY WHEN PEOPLE DEFINE
CONSUMERISM, THEIR DEFINITION
SORT OF PRESUPPOSES THEIR PET
CRITIQUE OF IT.
WHEREAS WHAT WE TRIED TO DO IS
COME UP WITH THIS IDEA THAT,
LOOK, THE BASIC PROBLEM OF A
CONSUMER SOCIETY IS THAT WE'RE
BUSY, BUSY, BUSY PRODUCING, AND
YET IT'S GENERATING NO
SATISFACTION.
SO THE QUESTION IS, WHY THIS
COMPULSIVE CHARACTER OF OUR
CONSUMPTION?
ONE CLUE THAT MAY HELP US TO
RESOLVE THE MYSTERY IS THE FACT
THAT THERE IS STILL A POSITIVE
CORRELATION BETWEEN THE RELATIVE
WEALTH AND HAPPINESS.
SO IN OUR SOCIETY, ABSOLUTE
WEALTH ABOVE A CERTAIN POINT IS
ESSENTIALLY IRRELEVANT TO
HAPPINESS.
THERE'S NO CORRELATION, BUT
RELATIVE WEALTH IS STILL
CORRELATED WITH HAPPINESS.
SO IN OTHER WORDS, WHILE MERELY
HAVING MONEY CAN'T MAKE YOU
HAPPY, HAVING MORE MONEY THAN
OTHER PEOPLE PROVIDES A PRETTY
GOOD START.
NOW ONE HYPOTHESIS, THE
HYPOTHESIS THAT WE FIND MOST
PERSUASIVE TO EXPLAIN THIS, IS
THE ONE THAT WAS PROPOSED WITH
THE GREATEST CLARITY IN THE '70s
BY FRED HIRSCH IN HIS BOOK
CALLED, “THE SOCIAL LIMITS TO
GROWTH.”
HIRSCH OBSERVED THAT IN A VERY
POOR COUNTRY, THE BASIC PROBLEM
IS THAT PEOPLE LACK MATERIAL
GOODS.
ECONOMIC GROWTH IS ABLE TO
EXPAND THE SUPPLY THESE GOODS.
IT ALLOWS US MANUFACTURE MORE
FOOD, MORE HOUSING MORE CLOTHING
AND SO FORTH, AND THUS GROWTH
GENERATES LASTING IMPROVEMENTS
IN PEOPLE'S WELFARE.
IN OUR SOCIETY BY CONTRAST,
MATERIAL SCARCITY HAS BEEN
ALMOST COMPLETELY ELIMINATED.
AND SO THE TYPICAL CONSUMER'S
INCOME IS SPENT MOSTLY ON WHAT
HIRSCH CALLS POSITIONAL GOODS,
OR GOODS FOR WHICH ACCESS IS
DETERMINED NOT BY ABSOLUTE, BUT
BY RELATIVE ABILITY TO PAY.
SOME EXAMPLES OF POSITIONAL
GOODS INCLUDES A PENTHOUSE
APARTMENT, A CONGESTION-FREE WHY
OR A PhD.
THESE ARE ALL GOODS THAT ARE
SUBJECT TO SOCIAL, NOT MATERIAL
SCARCITY, SO WE CAN'T MAKE MORE
OF THEM.
NOT EVERYBODY CAN LIVE IN A
PENTHOUSE, RIGHT, BECAUSE
SOMEBODY HAS TO LIVE IN THE
APARTMENTS BENEATH IT, AND SO
THERE'S SOCIAL SCARCITY IN TERMS
OF APARTMENTS.
NOT EVERYBODY CAN DRIVE ON AN
OPEN ROAD, AND OF COURSE WE
CAN'T GIVE EVERYBODY PhD, IF WE
DID, WE'D HAVE TO INVENT SOME
OTHER HIGHER ACCREDITATION IN
ORDER TO FIGURE OUT WHO GETS TO
TEACH AT UNIVERSITIES.
BUT THE BEST ILLUSTRATION OF A
POSITIONAL GOOD PHENOMENON IS
ACTUALLY REAL ESTATE, AND IT'S
ALSO THE MOST ECONOMICALLY
SIGNIFICANT, BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT
PEOPLE SPEND THEIR BIG MONEY ON.
IT'S A COMMONPLACE OBSERVATION
THAT REAL ESTATE PRICES ARE
DETERMINED BY LOCATION,
LOCATION, LOCATION.
WE SOMETIMES FORGET THE EXTENT
TO WHICH THIS IS TRUE.
MY HOUSE IN DOWNTOWN TORONTO,
JUST DOWN THE STREET, IS OVER
100 YEARS OLD, SLIGHTLY OVER 15
FEET WIDE AND HAS ABOUT 1,200
FEET OF INTERIOR SPACE.
IT'S A GENERIC THREE STOREY ROW
HOUSE, VIRTUALLY IDENTICAL TO
THE OTHER 22 HOUSES ON MY SIDE
OF THE BLOCK.
THE REAL ESTATE MARKET HAS BEEN
QUITE ROBUST LATELY, AS YOU ALL
KNOW, SO HOUSES IN MY ROW HAVE
BEEN SELLING FOR OVER 400,000 DOLLARS.
NEEDLESS TO SAY, THE SAME HOUSE
IN ANOTHER LOCATION WOULD NOT BE
WORTH QUITE AS MUCH.
IN FACT, JUST DOWN THE ROAD IN
HAMILTON, YOU CAN BUY AN
IDENTICAL HOUSE ON A LOT OF THE
SAME SIZE, FOR AROUND 60,000 DOLLARS.
WHENEVER I TELL PEOPLE IN
TORONTO THIS, NO ONE BELIEVES
ME, BUT I ACTUALLY WENT ON THE
MLS WEBSITE, AND FOUND A HOUSE
EXACTLY LIKE MINE, IT'S A
GENERIC HOUSE -- FOUND A HOUSE
EXACTLY THE SAME SIZE AS MINE
THAT WAS SELLING FOR ABOUT
57,000 DOLLARS.
ALL RIGHT, SO OBVIOUSLY THE
PRICE OF DOWNTOWN REAL ESTATE
HAS VERY LITTLE TO DO WITH THE
MATERIALS THAT GO INTO THE
CONSTRUCTION OF A DWELLING.
IT HAS TO DO WITH HOW MANY OTHER
PEOPLE WANT TO LIVE THERE.
HIS IS EASY TO
NOTICE WHEN YOU BUY A HOUSE IN
THE CITY, BECAUSE THERE ARE
OFTEN MULTIPLE BIDS ON HOUSES IN
ATTRACTIVE LOCATIONS.
THUS THE EVENTUAL SALE PRICE OF
THE HOUSE WILL BE DETERMINED
ENTIRELY BY HOW MUCH IT TAKES TO
OUTBID OTHER POTENTIAL BUYERS.
YET WHILE IT IS POSSIBLE FOR
DEVELOPERS TO RESPOND TO RISING
HOUSE PRICES BY BUILDING MORE
HOUSES, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR
THEM TO LOCATE MORE GOOD
LOCATIONS.
DOWNTOWN REAL
ESTATE IS INTRINSICALLY SCARCE
SIMPLY BECAUSE DOWNTOWN IS WHERE
MOST PEOPLE WANT TO LIVE.
IF THEY DIDN'T, IT WOULDN'T BE
DOWNTOWN, IT WOULD BE SOMEWHERE
ELSE.
THUS THE QUEST FOR LOCATION,
LIKE THE QUEST FOR STATUS, FOR
EXAMPLE, IS VERY CLOSE TO BEING
A ZERO SUM GAME.
AND OF COURSE IT'S EVEN WORSE IN
THE UNITED STATES, WHERE THE
QUALITY OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS VARIES
DRAMATICALLY FROM NEIGHBOURHOOD
TO NEIGHBOURHOOD, AND SO
CONSUMERS ARE COMPETING WITH
ONE ANOTHER TO GET INTO GOOD
SCHOOL DISTRICTS AS WELL.
IN THE END, THOSE WHO BUY INTO
GOOD DISTRICTS, INEXORABLY
SQUEEZE OUT THOSE WHO ARE UNABLE
OR UNWILLING TO PAY.
THUS ACCESS TO DESIRABLE REAL
ESTATE IS DETERMINED BY ONE'S
RELATIVE ABILITY TO PAY.
IT'S LIKE BEING A MEMBER OF AN
EXCLUSIVE CLUB.
FOR EVERY WINNER, THERE MUST BE
A LOSER, AND WHAT IS THAT IF NOT
COMPETITIVE CONSUMPTION?
SO THE CRUCIAL POINT IS THAT
YOU'RE NOT NECESSARILY ENGAGING
IN COMPETITIVE CONSUMPTION
BECAUSE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'RE
ENGAGING IN CONSUMPTION, OR
BECAUSE YOU ENVY THE JONES' OR
WHAT HAVE YOU, RIGHT?
IN OTHER WORDS, YOU DON'T HAVE
TO BE MOTIVATED BY ANY OF THESE
SORTS OF BASE CONCERNS ABOUT
RELATIVE POSITION.
THE FACT IS, THERE ARE LOTS OF
TYPES OF GOODS THAT ARE
INTRINSICALLY COMPETITIVE
BECAUSE OF THEIR POSITIONAL
NATURE.
SO BUYING REAL ESTATE, OR
RENTING FOR THAT MATTER, IS
NECESSARILY COMPETITIVE BECAUSE
OF THE STRUCTURE OF THAT MARKET.
IT DOESN'T MATTER HOW YOU FEEL
ABOUT THE OTHER PEOPLE IN THE
MARKET, YOU'RE STILL COMPETING
WITH THEM, AND IT HAS A ZERO SUM
STRUCTURE.
THIS HAPPENS OF COURSE, NOT JUST
DOWNTOWN.
PEOPLE WHO BUY IN THE SUBURBS
ARE GENERALLY LOOKING FOR EASY
ACCESS TO THE CITY, COMBINED BY
OPEN SPACE AND QUALITY OF LIFE
ASSOCIATED WITH THE COUNTRY.
YET BECAUSE THIS CAN ONLY BE
ACHIEVED AT THE OUTER PERIMETER
OF THE CITY, EACH NEW SUBURBAN
DEVELOPMENT LEAP FROGS EXISTING
SUBURBS, CREATING THE FAMILIAR
EXPANDING DOUGHNUT PATTERN OF
URBAN GROWTH.
URBAN SPRAWL IN OTHER WORDS, IS
A RACE TO THE BOTTOM, DRIVEN BY
A QUEST FOR GOOD LOCATION.
NOW YOU CAN'T FIX THE PROBLEM BY
TRYING TO GET AWAY FROM IT ALL,
EITHER, BECAUSE WHEN YOU DO
THAT, YOU'RE ALSO EMBROILED IN
COMPETITION.
EACH PERSON WHO STAKES OUT A
PIECE OF UNSPOILED WILDERNESS,
OR AN ISOLATED TRACT OF LAND,
MAKES IT THAT MUCH HARDER FOR BY
ELSE TO GET AWAY FROM IT ALL,
BECAUSE YOU'RE THERE, RIGHT?
SO IT'S LIKE WANTING TO DRIVE ON
AN OPEN ROAD.
YOUR PRESENCE DENIES THAT GOOD
TO OTHER PEOPLE.
SO BECAUSE POSITIONAL GOODS ARE
INTRINSICALLY SCARCE, ECONOMIC
GROWTH DOES NOTHING TO INCREASE
THEIR SUPPLY.
AN INCREASE IN MY SALARY INSOFAR
AS IT'S JUST BASED ON GENERAL
GROWTH IN THE ECONOMY, DOES NOT
ALLOW ME TO BUY A NICER HOUSE,
OR A MORE LUXURIOUS CAR, WHEN
ALL OF MY NEIGHBOURS RECEIVE
EXACTLY THE SAME INCREMENTS IN
THEIR SALARY.
IT SIMPLY INCREASES THE PRICE OF
THESE GOODS.
FURTHERMORE, WE MAY ALL CONSUME
MORE AND MORE, IN A QUEST TO
ACHIEVE THESE POSITIONAL GOODS.
WE COMMUTE FURTHER AND FURTHER,
WE ENROL OUR CHILDREN IN 100
DIFFERENT EXTRACURRICULAR
ACTIVITIES, PRIVATE SCHOOLS, WE
REDECORATE THE HOUSE MORE AND
MORE OFTEN.
ECONOMIC GROWTH BEGINS TO
RESEMBLE A GIANT ARMS RACE,
RATHER THAN A SYSTEM OF
PRODUCTION AIMED AT SATISFYING
HUMAN NEED.
THIS IS WHY, ACCORDING TO
HIRSCH, ECONOMIC GROWTH IN OUR
SOCIETY, RATHER THAN REDUCING
THE FRUSTRATION OF THE MIDDLE
CLASSES, HAS TENDED RATHER TO
EXACERBATE IT.
EARLY INDUSTRIALISATION IN
HIRSCH'S VIEW CREATED
UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS BECAUSE
IT PERMITTED THE POPULATION AT
LARGE TO ENJOY MANY OF THE
PRIVILEGES THAT HAD ONCE BEEN
RESERVED FOR THE WEALTHY ALONE,
LIKE INDOOR PLUMBING, CENTRAL
HEATING, AND THINGS LIKE THAT.
SO PEOPLE GOT THIS IDEA THAT,
OH, AS WE GET RICHER, I'M
SOMEDAY GOING TO BE ABLE TO HAVE
ALL THE THINGS THAT WEALTHY
PEOPLE HAVE TODAY.
BUT THOSE DAYS ARE LONG GONE,
HIRSCH ARGUES.
WHAT THE WEALTHY HAVE TODAY CAN
NO LONGER BE DELIVERED TO THE
REST OF US TOMORROW, YET AS WE
INDIVIDUALLY GROW RICHER, THIS
IS WHAT WE EXPECT.
WHY, BECAUSE ALMOST ALL
DISPOSABLE INCOME IS BEING
DEDICATED TO THE PURSUIT OF
POSITIONAL GOODS.
PLUS THE PROBLEM OF THE CONSUMER
SOCIETY IS THAT AS WE BECOME
WEALTHIER, MOST OF OUR
CONSUMPTION BECOMES DEDICATED TO
THE ATTAINMENT OF POSITIONAL
GOODS, WHICH IN TURN, LOCKS US
INTO ZERO SUM COMPETITIVE
CONSUMPTION.
THUS ECONOMIC GROWTH BECOMES NO
LONGER THE PANACEA THAT IT ONCE
WAS.
IT PRODUCES NO INCREASE IN
OVERALL SATISFACTION.
YET WE REMAIN LOCKED INTO THE
HIGH GROWTH PATTERN WITH ALL THE
COMPROMISES IT ENTAILS, SIMPLY
BECAUSE THE COMPETITIVE
STRUCTURE OF OUR CONSUMPTION
MAKES IT PROHIBITIVELY DIFFICULT
FOR INDIVIDUALS TO DROP OUT OF
THE RACE.
AND SO THERE'S OUR DIAGNOSIS OF
WHAT THE PROBLEM OF CONSUMERISM
IS, RIGHT?
IN OUR DIAGNOSIS, THE PROBLEM IS
NOT CONFORMITY, THE PROBLEM,
FUNDAMENTALLY, IS COMPETITIVE
CONSUMPTION.
SO LET ME NOW BRING THESE
ELEMENTS TOGETHER AND TRY TO
EXPLAIN THE CLAIM THEN, MADE AT
THE BEGINNING OF THE PAPER, THAT
THE TYPE OF COUNTERCULTURAL
POLITICS EXEMPLIFIED BY AD
BUSTERS MAGAZINE, FAR FROM BEING
A REVOLUTIONARY DOCUMENT THAT
THREATENS TO UNDERMINE
CAPITALISM, IS ACTUALLY ONE OF
THE MAJOR FORCES DRIVING
CONSUMERISM.
TO BEGIN WITH, IT'S IMPORTANT TO
NOTICE THAT COUNTERCULTURAL
REBELLION SERVES AS A VERY
IMPORTANT SOURCE OF DISTINCTION.
THE CRITIQUE OF MASS SOCIETY
DEPICTS THE TYPICAL CONSUMER AS
A CONFORMIST, A MINDLESS VICTIM
OF ADVERTISING AND CORPORATE
MANIPULATION.
GIVEN THIS
CHARACTERISATION, MOST PEOPLE
WOULD WANT TO SHOW THAT THEY ARE
NOT ONE OF THESE MINDLESS
CONFORMISTS, NOT ONE OF THE
SHEEP OR THE LEMMINGS GOING OVER
THE HILL OR HOWEVER YOU WANT TO
REPRESENT IT.
SO HOW DO YOU SHOW THAT YOU'RE
NOT A VICTIM OF BRAINWASHING OF
ADVERTISING?
BY BECOMING A REBEL CONSUMER.
BY REFUSING TO
LIVE IN THE SUBURBS, REFUSING TO
DRIVE A MINIVAN, REFUSING TO
WEAR A SUIT AND TIE, OR
OTHERWISE CONSUME MAINSTREAM
PRODUCTS AND SERVICES.
THE PROBLEM IS THAT NOT
EVERYBODY CAN BE A REBEL.
IN FACT THIS SORT OF REBELLION
IS ITSELF A POSITIONAL GOOD, AND
THAT'S OUR CRUCIAL CLAIM, RIGHT?
COUNTERCULTURAL REBELLION IS A
POSITIONAL GOODS.
FOR EXAMPLE, EVERYONE WOULD LOVE
TO LISTEN TO FABULOUS
UNDERGROUND BANDS THAT NOBODY'S
EVER HEARD OF BEFORE, BUT
UNFORTUNATELY NOT ALL OF US CAN
DO THIS.
ONCE TOO MANY PEOPLE FIND OUT
ABOUT THE LATEST GREAT BAND,
THEY ARE NO LONGER UNDERGROUND
AND SO WE SAY THAT THEY'VE SOLD
OUT, OR GONE MAINSTREAM OR THAT
THEY'VE BEEN CO-OPTED BY THE
SYSTEM.
WHAT HAS REALLY HAPPENED IS THAT
SIMPLY TOO MANY PEOPLE HAVE
STARTED BUYING THEIR ALBUMS.
SO THAT LISTENING TO THEM NO
LONGER SERVES AS A SOURCE OF
DISTINCTION.
THE REAL REBELS, THEREFORE HAVE
TO GO OFF AND FIND SOME NEW BAND
TO LISTEN TO, THAT NOBODY ELSE
KNOWS ABOUT IN ORDER TO PRESERVE
THIS DISTINCTION AND THEIR SENSE
OF SUPERIORITY OVER OTHERS.
THE SAME BASIC PATTERN MANIFESTS
ITSELF IN ANY NUMBER OF AREAS,
INCLUDING, ART, FILM, HAIRCUTS,
FOOD, FOOTWEAR, SPEECH PATTERNS,
TRAVEL DESTINATIONS, LIVING
LOCATIONS, EMPLOYMENT AND A
DOZEN OTHER LIFESTYLE CHOICES.
SOMETHING STARTS OUT AS
UNDERGROUND, ALTERNATIVE OR
SUBVERSIVE, KNOWN ONLY TO THE
NONCONFORMING REBELS.
THEN THE ALTERNATIVE PRESS
STARTS TO TALK ABOUT IT, SOON
THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA STARTS TO
TALK ABOUT IT, AND THE NEXT
THING YOU KNOW, EVERYBODY IS IN
ON THE ACTION.
AND SO THE REBEL HAS TO MOVE ON,
AND THE CYCLE OF OBSOLESCENCE
BEGINS ONCE AGAIN.
THE KEY POINT IS THAT THIS
PROCESS OF REBELLION AND CO-
OPTATION IS NOT A PLOT ON THE
PART OF THE SYSTEM TO STIFLE
DISSENT.
IN FACT WE DON'T THINK THERE IS
ANY SUCH THING AS CO-OPTATION IN
THE COUNTERCULTURAL SENSE.
WHAT GETS CALLED CO-OPTATION IS
ENTIRELY A PRODUCT OF
COMPETITIVE CONSUMPTION ON THE
PART OF REBEL CONSUMERS.
ADVERTISING HAS ALMOST NOTHING
TO DO WITH IT.
AT BEST, IT SIMPLY HELPS OUT
THOSE WHO ARE LATE TO THE PARTY,
FIND THEIR WAY.
AND THANKS TO THE MYTH OF
COUNTERCULTURE, AND THE IDEOLOGY
OF THE REBEL CONSUMER, MANY OF
THE PEOPLE WHO ARE MOST OPPOSED
TO CONSUMERISM, NEVERTHELESS
ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE IN THE SORT
OF BEHAVIOUR THAT DRIVES IT.
CONSIDER NAOMI KLINE.
SHE STARTS OUT HER BOOK, “NO
LOGO,” BY DECRYING THE RECENT
CONVERSION OF FACTORY BUILDINGS
IN HER TORONTO NEIGHBOURHOOD TO
“LOFT LIVING CONDOMINIUMS.”
SHE MAKES IT CLEAR, THOUGH, TO
THE READER, THAT HER PLACE IS
THE REAL DEAL.
A GENUINE FACTORY LOFT, STEEPED
IN WORKING CLASS AUTHENTICITY,
YET THROBBING WITH URBAN STREET
CULTURE, AND WHAT SHE CALLS, “A
ROCK VIDEO AESTHETIC.”
KLINE ALSO DROPS ENOUGH HINTS
ABOUT HER NEIGHBOURHOOD THAT ANY
READER FAMILIAR WITH TORONTO
KNOWS THAT SHE WAS LIVING IN THE
KING SPADINA AREA, AND ANY
READER WITH A FEEL FOR HOW
SOCIAL CLASS IN CANADA WORKS,
WOULD KNOW THAT AT THE TIME
KLINE WAS WRITING, A GENUINE
FACTORY LOFT IN THE KING SPADINA
AREA WAS ONE OF THE COOLEST,
MOST DESIRABLE PIECES OF REAL
ESTATE IN THE COUNTRY.
UNLIKE MERELY EXPENSIVE
NEIGHBOURHOODS IN TORONTO, LIKE
ROSEDALE AND FOREST HILL, WHERE
IT IS POSSIBLE TO BUY YOUR WAY
IN, GENUINE FACTORY LOFTS IN
KLINE'S NEIGHBOURHOOD COULD BE
ACQUIRED ONLY BY PEOPLE WITH
SUPERIOR SOCIAL CONNECTIONS.
THIS IS BECAUSE THEY CONTRAVENED
ZONING REGULATIONS, AND SO COULD
NOT BE BOUGHT OR LEASED ON THE
OPEN MARKET.
ONLY THE MOST EXCLUSIVE SEGMENT
OF THE CULTURAL ELITE, THE
GENUINELY COOL PEOPLE, COULD GET
ACCESS TO THEM.
UNFORTUNATELY FOR KLINE, THE
CITY OF TORONTO, AS PART OF A
VERY ENLIGHTENED AND SUCCESSFUL
STRATEGY TO SLOW URBAN SPRAWL,
DECIDED TO REZONE ALL THE
DOWNTOWN NEIGHBOURHOODS TO
PREVENT MIXED USAGES.
KING SPADINA WAS REZONED TO
PERMIT ANY COMBINATION OF
INDUSTRIAL, COMMERCIAL AND
RESIDENTIAL USE.
BEFORE LONG, AN ENORMOUS
REVITALISATION OF THE
NEIGHBOURHOOD BEGAN, AS OLD
WAREHOUSES AND FACTORIES WERE
RENOVATED, CONDOMINIUM COMPLEXES
WERE BUILT, NEW RESTAURANTS
OPENED AND SO FORTH.
YET FROM KLINE'S PERSPECTIVE,
THIS WAS A DISASTER.
WHY?
BECAUSE THE REZONING ALLOWED
YUPPIES TO BUY THEIR WAY INTO
HER NEIGHBOURHOOD, SOMETHING
THEY PREVIOUSLY COULD NOT DO.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH YUPPIES, OTHER
THAN BEING YUPPIES, WHAT CRIME
DID THEY COMMIT?
KLINE CLAIMS-- ALTHOUGH NO ONE'S
ACTUALLY A YUPPIE, RIGHT?
LIKE, I KNOW PEOPLE WHO ARE SUCH
YUPPIES WHO COMPLAIN ABOUT
YUPPIES.

The audience laughs.

Joseph says THAT'S PART OF OUR POINT.
ANYHOW, KLINE CLAIMS THAT THESE
YUPPIES BROUGHT WITH THEM, “A
PAINFUL NEW SELF CONSCIOUSNESS
TO THE NEIGHBOURHOOD.”
BUT AS THE REST OF HER
INTRODUCTION TO “NO LOGO.”
DEMONSTRATES, SHE, TOO, IS
CONSCIOUS, PAINFULLY SO, OF HER
SURROUNDINGS.
SHE DESCRIBES HER NEIGHBOURHOOD
AS ONE WHERE, “IN THE '20s AND
'30s, RUSSIAN AND POLISH
IMMIGRANTS DARTED BACK AND
FORTH, DUCKING INTO DELIS TO
ARGUE ABOUT TROTSKY AND THE
LEADERSHIP OF THE INTERNATIONAL
LADIES' GARMENT UNION.”
EMMA GOLDMAN, WE ARE TOLD, THE
FAMED ANARCHIST AND LABOUR
LEADER, ONCE LIVED ON HER
STREET.
HOW EXCITING FOR KLINE, WHAT A
TREMENDOUS SOURCE OF DISTINCTION
THAT MUST BE.
IT IS HERE WE CAN SEE THE TRUE
NATURE OF HER COMPLAINT.
THE ARRIVAL OF YUPPIES LED TO AN
EROSION OF HER SOCIAL STATUS.
HER COMPLAINTS ABOUT
COMMERCIALISATION ARE NOTHING
BUT AN EXPRESSION OF THIS LOSS
OF DISTINCTION.
TEN YEARS AGO,
SAYING, “I LIVE IN A LOFT AT
KING SPADINA,” SENT A VERY CLEAR
MESSAGE TO ANYONE WITH EARS TO
LISTEN.
IT SAID, I AM EXTREMELY COOL,
QUITE POSSIBLY COOLER THAN YOU.
BUT WITH A
DOZEN NEW CONDOMINIUM COMPLEXES
AND A FLOOD OF YUPPIES, THE
NOISE THREATENS TO DROWN OUT THE
SIGNAL.
WHEN YOU SAY YOU LIVE IN A LOFT
AT KING SPADINA, HOW WILL PEOPLE
KNOW YOU LIVE IN A REAL LOFT,
AND NOT JUST ONE OF THOSE YUPPIE
ONES.
KLINE CAN SEE ONLY ONE SOLUTION.
IF THE LANDLORD DECIDES TO
CONVERT HER BUILDING TO
CONDOMINIUMS, SHE WILL HAVE TO
MOVE OUT.
SHE DISCUSSES THIS IN “NO LOGO.”
AS IF IT WERE SELF EVIDENT.
YET, IF THE LANDLORD DECIDES TO
CONVERT HER BUILDING, WHY NOT
JUST BUY HER LOFT.
THE PROBLEM, OF COURSE, IS THAT
A LOFT LIVING CONDOMINIUM
DOESN'T HAVE QUITE THE CACHE OF
A GENUINE INDUSTRIAL LOFT.
IT BECOMES, AS KLINE PUTS IT,
MERELY AN APARTMENT WITH,
“EXCEPTIONALLY HIGH CEILINGS.”
HERE WE CAN SEE THE REAL
PROBLEM.
IT'S NOT THE LANDLORD
THREATENING TO DRIVE HER FROM
THE NEIGHBOURHOOD, IT'S THE FEAR
OF LOSS OF DISTINCTION.
WHAT KLINE FAILS TO OBSERVE IS
THAT THE CACHE ASSOCIATED WITH
HER NEIGHBOURHOOD IS PRECISELY
WHAT'S DRIVING THE REAL ESTATE
MARKET, IT'S WHAT CREATES THE
VALUE OF ALL THOSE YUPPIE LOFT
LIVING CONDOMINIUMS.
PEOPLE BUY THESE LOFTS BECAUSE
THEY WANT TO BE COOL LIKE NAOMI
KLINE, OR MORE SPECIFICALLY,
THEY WANT SOME OF HER SOCIAL
STATUS.
AND NATURALLY, SHE'S NOT AMUSED.
THIS IS A DEMONSTRATION OF THE
FORCES DRIVING COMPETITIVE
CONSUMPTION IN THEIR STARKEST
FORM.
THE EXTRAORDINARY THING IS THAT
THEY PASSED COMPLETELY UNNOTICED
EVEN THOUGH THEY OCCUR IN THE
INTRODUCTION OF A BOOK THAT HAS
BEEN ADOPTED AS THE BIBLE OF THE
ANTI-CONSUMERISM MOVEMENT.
SO HERE WE HAVE THE PARADOX OF
ANTI-CONSUMERISM.
THE MAJOR REMEDY FOR THE
CONSUMER SOCIETY, WHICH HAS BEEN
ADOPTED ALMOST WITHOUT QUESTION
BY THE LEFT AND BY CULTURAL
RADICALS MORE GENERALLY, HAS
BEEN ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL
FORCES DRIVING CONSUMER
CAPITALISM.
THE AD BUSTERS SNEAKER IS JUST
THE LATEST, MOST EXTRAORDINARY
EXAMPLE.
THIS IS WHY WE SAY THE
COUNTERCULTURAL REBELLION IS NOT
A THREAT TO THE SYSTEM, BUT
RATHER HAS BECOME THE SYSTEM.
OKAY, TO CONCLUDE.
IN THE REBEL SELL, WHAT WE'RE
OFFERING, IS WHAT WE CALL, NOT
EVERYONE CALLS, BUT WE CALL A
LEFT WING CRITIQUE OF
COUNTERCULTURAL THINKING.
UH, WHAT MAKES IT LEFT WING?
MOST OF US ARE FAMILIAR WITH THE
RIGHT WING CRITIQUE OF
COUNTERCULTURE, FROM ALAN
BLOOM'S “CLOSING OF THE AMERICAN
MIND,” TO DAVID FRUM'S BOOK
ABOUT THE '70s, “HOW WE GOT
HERE.”
WHAT THESE CRITICS SHARE WITH
THE COUNTERCULTURE IS THE
CONVICTION THAT NONCONFORMITY
REPRESENTS A GENUINE THREAT TO
THE SYSTEM OR TO THE ESTABLISHED
ORDER.
THE RIGHT WING SIMPLY THINKS
THAT THE SYSTEM IS GOOD, AND
THEREFORE SHOULD NOT BE
OVERTHROWN.
THUS FRUM LAMENTS THINGS LIKE
RISING DIVORCE RATES, THE
PROSPECT OF GAY MARRIAGE, WHILE
ALAN BLOOM DEMONISES MICK JAGGER
FOR HIS ROLE IN CORRUPTING THE
YOUTH AND TURNING THEM AWAY FROM
THE WISDOM FOUND IN THE GREAT
BOOKS.
FOR THOSE OF YOU KEEPING SCORE,
THAT'S NOW SIR MICK JAGGER, PEER
OF THE REALM.
AND KEITH RICHARDS ACTUALLY GOT
UPSET, WHEN MICK JAGGER GOT
KNIGHTED, HE ACCUSED HIM OF
SELLING OUT, WHICH I THOUGHT WAS
NICE.
IT SUGGESTS THAT KEITH RICHARDS
BELIEVES THAT HE, HIMSELF HAS
NOT YET DONE THAT.
ANYHOW, AS YOU CAN SEE, WE
REJECT THE IDEA THAT THE SORT OF
NONCONFORMITY THAT CHARACTERISES
COUNTERCULTURAL REBELLION IS ANY
THREAT TO THE SYSTEM WHATSOEVER.
WHAT WE SHARE WITH THE
COUNTERCULTURAL LEFT THOUGH, IS
A RECOGNITION THAT ALL IS NOT
WELL IN OUR SOCIETY, AND THAT
THERE IS MUCH THAT CAN BE
IMPROVED.
THERE IS TOO MUCH POVERTY AND
INEQUALITY, BOTH WITHIN CANADA
AND BETWEEN THE DEVELOPED AND
THE DEVELOPING WORLD, THERE'S
OVERWORK, THAT IS AVERAGE HOURS
WORKED HAS INCREASED IN NORTH
AMERICA, IN THE LAST TEN DECADES

IN THE LAST DECADE, WHICH--
SOMETHING WHICH MAKES, FOR THE
MOST PART, ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE.
SO WE NEED TO MAKE SURE FOR
EXAMPLE THAT GLOBALIZATION MAKES
THINGS BETTER, NOT WORSE.
WE NEED TO BE ON GUARD AGAINST
ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION AND
UNSUSTAINABLE ECONOMIC
ACTIVITIES EXACERBATED BY
EXCESSIVE CONSUMPTION, FINALLY,
KLINE AND HER FOLLOWERS ARE
RIGHT, WE'RE SWIMMING IN A SEA
OF ADVERTISING, AND MUCH OF IT
IS UNWELCOME AND SOME OF IT IS
POSITIVELY REPREHENSIBLE.
WHERE WE DISAGREE WITH THE
COUNTERCULTURAL LEFT IS OVER THE
MEANS WE SHOULD USE TO ACHIEVE
OUR GOALS ON THESE AND OTHER
ISSUES.
WE REJECT THE SUPPOSEDLY DEEPER
CULTURAL SOLUTIONS TO THESE
PROBLEMS AND PREFER TO WORK
THROUGH INSTITUTIONS USING
LEGISLATIVE OR MARKET BASED
INITIATIVES WHENEVER POSSIBLE.
TO DEAL WITH THE EXCESSES OF
COMPETITIVE CONSUMPTION AMONG
STUDENTS, FOR EXAMPLE, WE
RECOMMEND A RETURN TO MANDATORY
SCHOOL UNIFORMS IN PUBLIC
SCHOOLS -- PINK FLOYD ASIDE.
THIS ACTUALLY IS A NICE EXAMPLE
OF HOW CONFORMITY CAN ACTUALLY
SOLVE THE PROBLEM OF CONSUMERISM
BY ELIMINATING COMPETITIVE
CONSUMPTION.
WHEN IT COMES TO THE
ENVIRONMENT, A SYSTEM OF
TRADABLE POLLUTION PERMITS WOULD
DO MORE TO ALLEVIATE ATMOSPHERIC
POLLUTION, THAN ANY, THINK
GLOBALLY, ACT LOCALLY,
INITIATIVE.
FINALLY, IF WE'RE REALLY WORRIED
ABOUT ADVERTISING AND THE BRAND
BULLIES, IT WOULD BE ENORMOUSLY
EASY TO STRIKE A DEVASTATING
BLOW AGAINST THE PRACTICE WITH A
SIMPLE CHANGE IN THE TAX CODE.
THE GOVERNMENT COULD STOP
TREATING ADVERTISING
EXPENDITURES AS A FULLY TAX
DEDUCTIBLE BUSINESS EXPENSE,
MUCH AS THEY DID WITH
ENTERTAINMENT EXPENSES IN CANADA
SEVERAL YEARS AGO.
ADVERTISING IS ALREADY A
SEPARATELY ITEMISED EXPENSE
CATEGORY, SO THE CHANGE WOULDN'T
EVEN GENERATE ANY ADDITIONAL
PAPERWORK FOR BUSINESS.
BUT THIS LITTLE TWEAK IN THE TAX
CODE, WOULD HAVE A GREATER
IMPACT ON ADVERTISING THAT ALL
OF THE CULTURAL JAMMING IN THE
WORLD.
YET THESE AND
OTHER INSTITUTIONAL REFORMS ARE
SYSTEMATICALLY REJECTED OR
UNDERVALUED BY THE
COUNTERCULTURAL LEFT, ON THE
GROUNDS THAT THEY ARE COERCIVE
OR THAT THEY BUY INTO THE LOGIC
OF THE SYSTEM.
THIS TENDENCY TO REJECT
INSTITUTIONAL INITIATIVES LEAVES
COUNTERCULTURAL ACTIVISTS AND
THINKERS TO IGNORE PERFECTLY
GOOD SOLUTIONS TO CONCRETE
SOCIAL PROBLEMS, IN THE NAME OF
DEEPER OR MORE RADICAL
ALTERNATIVES THAT CAN NEVER BE
EFFECTIVELY IMPLEMENTED.
BY REJECTING
ANY PROPOSAL THAT STOPS SHORT OF
A TOTAL TRANSFORMATION OF HUMAN
CONSCIOUSNESS AND CULTURE,
COUNTERCULTURAL ACTIVISTS WIND
UP EXACERBATING PRECISELY THE
PROBLEMS THEY WERE HOPING TO
SOLVE.
THUS COUNTERCULTURAL THINKING,
IN OUR ANALYSIS, IS NOT MERELY
UNHELPFUL, IT OFTEN POSITIVELY
IMPEDES OUR ABILITY TO BRING
ABOUT THE REFORMS NECESSARY TO
THE ACHIEVEMENT OF INCREASED
WELFARE AND SOCIAL JUSTICE IN
OUR SOCIETY -- THANK YOU.

The audience applauds.

A slate appears with the caption “Question and answer session. Why isn’t a more self-aware consumption the way to go?”

Andrew says IT'S A BIG
QUESTION, AND I'LL SAY
SOMETHING, AND MAYBE JOE WILL
JUMP IN.
WE WERE JUST TALKING ABOUT
ORGANIC TODAY.
ONE PROBLEM, I
MEAN I SAT ON A PANEL ABOUT
CONSUMERISM LAST YEAR, AND AT
THE END OF IT, WE ALL HAD TO GO
AROUND AND GIVE ONE SUGGESTION
ABOUT DOING SOMETHING ABOUT
CONSUMERISM, AND THE FIRST
PERSON SAID, UH, HE SAID, I
REALLY THINK WHAT WE NEED TO DO
IS MAKE SURE THAT WE GET OUR
CLOTHES HAND MADE LOCALLY IF WE
CAN.
BUY FROM LOCAL
MANUFACTURERS AND HAVE SHOES
HAND MADE IF YOU CAN.
AND THE NEXT GUY SAID, YEAH, I
THINK YOU SHOULD EAT ORGANICALLY
AND SOURCE ALL YOUR PRODUCE
LOCALLY AS MUCH AS YOU CAN,
RIGHT?
THE FIRST ANSWER TO THAT IS,
THAT DOES NOTHING ABOUT SOLVING
CONSUMERISM, RIGHT?
WE'RE STILL SHOPPING.
THE SECOND ANSWER IS, THE
DISTINCTION THAT YOU WANT TO
DRAW BETWEEN CORPORATE THINGS,
THE THINGS THE CORPORATIONS GIVE
YOU AND THINGS THAT LOCAL PEOPLE
GIVE YOU, WELL IT'S A BIT OF A
FRAUDULENT DISTINCTION, WHEN YOU
REALISE THAT COMPANIES LIKE
STARBUCK'S AND THE GAP BOTH
STARTED AS TINY LITTLE BOUTIQUES
IN SAN FRANCISCO AND SEATTLE,
OFFERING THIS LITTLE REBELLIOUS
PRODUCT TO PEOPLE.
AND THEY GOT BIG, RIGHT, BECAUSE
LOTS OF PEOPLE WANTED THE
DISTINCTION THAT GOES ALONG WITH
THAT.
AND SO THOSE ARE ANSWERS -- A
THIRD ANSWER IS, ORGANIC
PRODUCE, JOE AND I WERE TALKING
ABOUT THIS TODAY -- IT'S VERY
EXPENSIVE.
UM, AND UH, I MEAN WHERE'S THE
BIGGEST ORGANIC PRODUCE GROCERY
STORE IN TOWN, IT'S IN YORKDALE,

YORKVILLE, I'M SORRY, I DON'T
LIVE HER ANY MORE -- AHH.
IT'S IN YORKVILLE, RIGHT, AND
IT'S REALLY EXPENSIVE.
AND WHERE ARE THE REALLY GOOD
ORGANIC RESTAURANTS?
RIGHT, WELL THEY'RE NOT IN
PARKDALE AND THEY'RE NOT IN
REGENT PARK.
AND SO YOU NEED TO REALISE THAT
WHAT YOU'RE DOING HERE IS
ENGAGING IN PRACTICES THAT MIGHT
BE, FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE ABOUT
GAINING STATUS AND NOT
NECESSARILY ABOUT DOING ANYTHING
ELSE.
I MEAN, I CERTAINLY HAVEN'T
HEARD ANY LEFT WING PEOPLE
ADVOCATE FOR SUBSIDIES OR FOOD
STAMPS FOR UH, THE POOR TO GO
AND BUY ORGANIC PRODUCE, AT
WHOLE FOODS.
I MEAN, THAT CERTAINLY HASN'T
BEEN [Inaudible] AS FAR AS I CAN
TELL.

Joseph says YEAH, I JUST
WANT TO SAY, ONE OF THE POINTS
WE MAKE IN THE BOOK, AND WE'RE
HEAVILY INFLUENCED BY THIS
REALLY NICE BOOK THAT I'VE NEVER
SEEN DISCUSSED, CALLED “THE
'60s,” BY ARTHUR MARWICK, AN
HISTORIAN.
AND ONE OF THE POINTS HE MAKES,
THAT I THINK--
OUR TWO CENTRAL ACADEMIC SOURCES
FOR THIS, WHERE WE'VE BEEN,
WHERE WE'VE SORT OF TAKEN IDEAS,
IS FIRST OF ALL, THOMAS FRANK,
AS WE MENTION IN THE PAPER AND
THEN MARWICK.
BECAUSE BOTH OF
THEM, THOMAS FRANK IS THE ONE
WHO CAUGHT ONTO THIS IDEA THAT
IT'S COUNTERCULTURAL REBELLION
DRIVING CONSUMERISM, AND HE
DIDN'T ARTICULATE IT THAT
CLEARLY, BUT HE CLEARLY IS THE
PIONEER OF THIS CRITIQUE, AND
THEN MARWICK IS THEMATISED AS
THE COUNTERCULTURAL IDEA AND
TREATS IT THEORETICALLY IN A WAY
THAT WE FOUND REALLY, REALLY
HELPFUL IN FORMULATING OUR
THOUGHTS.
BUT ONE OF MARWICK'S POINTS, IS
THAT BASICALLY, THE
COUNTERCULTURE HAS BEEN
INTENSELY ENTREPRENEURIAL FROM
THE GET GO.
AND HE DOES-- OF COURSE I WAS
BORN IN THE LATE '60s, I HAVE NO
LIVING MEMORY OF ALL THIS SORT
OF STUFF, BUT YOU KNOW, THERE
ARE ALL THESE--
IF YOU LOOK AT THE FASHION
INDUSTRY OR IF YOU LOOK AT
COSMETICS AND BEAUTY AND SO ON,
IT'S EXTRAORDINARY THE NUMBER OF
PEOPLE WHO ALL GOT THEIR START
IN THE COUNTERCULTURE IN LONDON.
LIKE VIDAL SASSOON, IT NEVER
OCCURRED TO ME THAT HE WAS A
REBEL AT ONE POINT, RIGHT?
BUT THE COUNTERCULTURE HAS BEEN,
LIKE THE DO-IT-YOURSELF SCENE,
THE IDEA THAT IT'S VIRTUOUS, TO
PUT ON YOUR OWN GIG OR WHATEVER,
INSTEAD OF BUYING MASS PRODUCED
MUSIC, AND SO FORTH, RIGHT?
I MEAN THAT'S THE SPIRIT OF
CAPITALISM, THAT'S CALLED
ENTREPRENEURSHIP, AND IT'S NOT
AN ACCIDENT THAT FROM THE VERY
BEGINNING, PEOPLE HAVE BEEN
MAKING REAL MONEY OUT OF
COUNTERCULTURE ACTIVITIES.
WHY?
BECAUSE OFTEN THE COUNTERCULTURE
GENERATES BETTER PRODUCTS, AND
AS A RESULT, THEY, “SELL OUT,”
RIGHT?
SO AS WE SAY, IT'S NOT AN
ACCIDENT THAT SAN FRANCISCO IS
THE HOME OF THE 3 DOLLAR LATTE AND THE
4 DOLLAR SOURDOUGH.
THAT'S BECAUSE THE
COUNTERCULTURE MADE BETTER
BREAD, BETTER COFFEE, AND THEN
THAT GENERATES THE FORMULA THAT
GAVE THE WORLD STARBUCK'S,
RIGHT?
SO, YOU KNOW, THERE'S NOTHING
WRONG WITH ENGAGING IN SUCH
ACTIVITIES, BUT I'M NOT SURE IN
WHAT SENSE ANY OF THEM ARE
VIRTUOUS, AND CERTAINLY NONE OF
THEM ARE CONTRARY TO “THE
CORPORATE SYSTEM.”
IF ANYTHING, THE COUNTERCULTURE
IS AN INCUBATOR FOR THE
CORPORATE SYSTEM.

He air quotes “corporate systems.”

Another slate reads “Do we have to legislate change?”

Andrew says JOE AND I BOTH
SORT OF THINK YEAH, TO A CERTAIN
EXTENT.
I, IN PARTICULAR, AND PEOPLE ARE
PROBABLY STARTING TO GET TIRED
OF HEARING THIS RANT, RIGHT?
BUT I WAS REALLY ANNOYED DURING
THE LAST FEDERAL ELECTION
CAMPAIGN, WITH THE AMOUNT OF
MEDIA ATTENTION THAT WAS PAID TO
THE ALIENATED VOTER.
I MEAN THAT WAS THE MOST POPULAR
VOTER, RIGHT, WAS THE VOTER WHO
THOUGHT THAT ALL POLITICIANS
WERE LIARS, AND THAT NO MATTER
WHO WON, THE SYSTEM WAS GOING TO
GET IN ANYWAY, OR SOMETHING
RIDICULOUS LIKE THIS, RIGHT?
AND THERE WAS A GROUP OF PEOPLE
GOING AROUND ADVOCATING EATING
YOUR BALLOT AS THE ONLY WAY OF
TRULY JAMMING THE SYSTEM, THE
EDIBLE BALLOT SOCIETY, RIGHT?
AND THEY GOT A LOT OF PLAY ON
THE CBC AND SO ON, WITHOUT
ANYBODY ACTUALLY SAYING, HEY,
ARE YOU STUPID OR WHAT, RIGHT?
AND IT WAS REALLY OBNOXIOUS, AND
I THINK TELLING PEOPLE THAT NO
MATTER WHAT THEY DO, THE SYSTEM
IS STILL GOING TO BE THERE, IS A
REALLY UNHELPFUL WAY OF
APPROACHING THE SYSTEM.
I MEAN YOU KNOW, THERE'S NOTHING
WRONG WITH PIECEMEAL CHANGE, BUT
IT'S A LOT OF WORK.
AND UH.. AND I THINK FOR A LOT
OF PEOPLE, IT'S TOO MUCH WORK,
AND THEY PREFER THE PARTIES THAT
GO ON ALL NIGHT AT THE LATEST
CULTURE JAM OR THE ANTI
GLOBALIZATION PROTEST.
AND YEAH, THAT'S SQUARE ADVICE,
BUT POLITICS IS AN EXTREMELY
SQUARE ENDEAVOUR.

Joseph says MAYBE I'LL JUST
SAY SOMETHING ABOUT THAT AS
WELL.
I THINK AN EXAMPLE OF HOW LITTLE
POWER WE HAVE AS CONSUMERS, YOU
KNOW, THIS IS GOING TO BE LOOKED
BACK ON AS THE MORALITY TALE OF
THE LATE 20th CENTURY, IS SUVs.
IT'S A GOOD EXAMPLE IN THAT SUVs
ARE SAFER IN ONE RESPECT, WHICH
IS THAT IF YOU RUN INTO
SOMEBODY, THE PERSON IN THE
LARGER VEHICLE, IS MORE LIKELY
TO SURVIVE THE CRASH THAN THE
PERSON IN THE SMALLER VEHICLE.
SO IT'S A GOOD EXAMPLE OF SAFETY
IN THAT RESPECT IS A POSITIONAL
GOODS.
IN OTHER WORDS IT'S NOT THE SIZE
OF YOUR VEHICLE THAT GUARANTEES
YOUR SAFETY, IT'S THE RELATIVE
SIZE OF YOUR VEHICLE THAT
GUARANTEES YOUR SAFETY.
AND SO PEOPLE HAVE AN INCENTIVE
TO BUY VEHICLES LARGER THAN THE
AVERAGE VEHICLE ON THE ROAD.
AND BECAUSE OF THAT, IT SETS OFF
A RACE TO THE BOTTOM WHEREBY
PEOPLE HAVE TO BUY LARGER, AND
LARGER AND LARGER VEHICLES, IN
ORDER TO PROTECT THEIR SAFETY,
THEIR KIDS, WHATEVER.
WHAT CAN YOU DO AS A CONSUMER?
WELL YOU CAN CLEARLY, I MEAN, I
DRIVE A MINI, SO OBVIOUSLY I'VE
OPTED OUT OF THAT PARTICULAR
ARMS RACE.
BUT FRANKLY ALL THAT DOES IS IT
MAKES IT A LOT EASIER FOR OTHER
PEOPLE TO RUN AROUND IN THEIR
SUVs, AND SEE RIGHT OVER MY
HOOD, AND ALSO IT DOESN'T
ADDRESS THE FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEM,
WHICH IS THAT I'M ACCEPTING A
MAJOR COMPROMISE IN SAFETY IN
ORDER TO DRIVE A SMALLER CAR, SO
I'M BEING VIRTUOUS, BUT IT
DOESN'T REALLY SOLVE THE
PROBLEM.
AND SO THE ONLY THING IN THE--
WHEN WE TALK ABOUT TRADITIONAL
POLITICAL ACTION, THE ONLY THING
THAT'S GOING TO FIX THAT
PROBLEM, OF EXPANDING VEHICLE
SIZE IS A REGULATORY SOLUTION.
I JUST CAN'T POSSIBLY IMAGINE,
OR A PRICE SOLUTION, I MEAN GAS
PRICES MAY SOMEDAY DO IT.
BUT I JUST CAN'T SEE HOW ANY
CONSUMER BASED OR MORAL SOLUTION
IS EVER GOING TO WORK, SIMPLY
BECAUSE IT GENERATES
EXPLOITATION OF THE MORAL BY THE
IMMORAL, RIGHT, THE PEOPLE WHO
ARE WILLING TO PLAY ALONG JUST
MAKE IT THAT MUCH MORE
BENEFICIAL FOR THOSE WHO REFUSE
TO PLAY ALONG.
SO UNLESS YOU'VE GOT SOME LAWS
IN THERE, YOU SIMPLY CAN'T SOLVE
THE PROBLEM.

Another slate appears with the caption “Isn’t The Left about more than just counter-culture?”

Joseph says THE CLAIM WAS
THAT WE'VE MISCHARACTERISED THE
LEFT BY SUGGESTING THAT IT'S ALL
ABOUT TRIVIAL COUNTERCULTURE
POLITICS, WHEREAS IN FACT IT'S
ALL ABOUT BREAD AND BUTTER
ISSUES.
I THINK OF COURSE, AT NO POINT
DO WE SAY THAT THE LEFT IS THE
COUNTERCULTURE.
WE SAY IS THE COUNTERCULTURE
THINKING HAS HAD AN ENORMOUS
INFLUENCE ON THE LEFT, AND THAT
THAT INFLUENCE HAS BEEN
UNHELPFUL.
THERE'S NO
QUESTION THAT BACK IN THE '60s,
THE POLITICAL ACTIVISTS, THE
CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT, THE ANTI-
WAR MOVEMENT AND THE
COUNTERCULTURE, REGARDED
THEMSELVES AS BEING VERY, VERY
DISTINCT AND OFTEN ANTAGONISTIC.
IN THE '70s, THE TWO GOT SORT OF
BLURRED SO OFTEN IT'S DIFFICULT
TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN
THE TWO OF THEM.
BUT LET ME GIVE YOU AN EXAMPLE
OF THE PROPOSAL THAT I MADE AT
THE VERY END, ABOUT ADVERTISING,
ELIMINATING THE TAX
DEDUCTIBILITY OF ADVERTISING AS
A BUSINESS EXPENSE.
IT'S AN IDEA THAT COMES FROM
ROBERT FRANK, AND [Inaudible]
IT'S GOTTEN NO PLAY ON THE LEFT.
AND WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT “NO
LOGO,” OF COURSE THERE'S ALL
SORTS OF DISCUSSION OF POVERTY
AND FACTORY CONDITIONS AND SO
FORTH AND SO FORTH, BUT THE CORE
THESIS OF THE BOOK IS THAT
GOVERNMENTS ARE CONTROLLED BY
CORPORATIONS, AND CORPORATIONS
ARE ABLE-- THE ROOT OF CORPORATE
POWER IS THE BRAND.
IN OTHER WORDS IT'S THE
COLONISATION OF CONSCIOUSNESS
WHICH GIVES CORPORATIONS THE
CAPACITY TO DICTATE PUBLIC
POLICY.
THEREFORE, RATHER THAN ENGAGING
IN DIRECT POLITICAL ACTION,
WHERE YOU'RE PLAYING BASICALLY A
RIGGED GAME, WHAT YOU NEED TO
ATTACK IS THE ROOT OF THE SYSTEM
WHICH LEADS TO CORPORATE
DOMINATION, AND THAT'S
ADVERTISING, RIGHT?
SO YOU HAVE A VERY CLEARLY
ARTICULATED THEORY, WHICH YOU
KNOW, IT DIAGNOSES ALL SORTS OF
PROBLEMS, BUT WHAT DOES IT SAY
ABOUT THE SOLUTION?
IT SAYS THAT THE SOLUTION IS TO
ATTACK ADVERTISING.
AND THAT'S BASED UPON A THEORY
THAT HAS ITS ORIGINS IN THIS
CRITIQUE OF MASS SOCIETY WHICH
WE THINK IS FALSE.
NOW THINK ABOUT IT FOR A MINUTE.
THINK ABOUT THE SERIOUSNESS OF
THE ISSUES WHICH KLINE LAYS OUT
IN NO LOGO.
AND THEN SHE SAYS, LET'S ADDRESS
THIS BY ATTACKING BRANDS.
WELL WHAT IF THE THEORY THAT
SAYS THAT BRANDS ARE RESPONSIBLE
FOR ALL THIS WAS MISTAKEN.
WHAT A DISASTROUS POLITICAL
MISCALCULATION.
TO WANT TO TREAT ISSUES OF THAT
LEVEL OF SERIOUSNESS WITH A KIND
OF, WHAT WE TAKE TO BE VERY,
VERY TRIVIAL AND SUPERFICIAL
CULTURE JAMMING TYPE POLITICS.
BUT OUR PROPOSAL, FOR EXAMPLE,
FOR ELIMINATING THE TAX
DEDUCTIBILITY OF ADVERTISING,
NOTABLY IS NOT MOOTED AND HAS
GOTTEN NO PLAY ON THE LEFT.
WE'VE ACTUALLY ENCOUNTERED
SIGNIFICANT RESISTANCE TO IT,
IRATE LETTERS TO THE EDITOR, OF
THIS MAGAZINE, SAYING THAT
PEOPLE ARE NOT INTERESTED IN OUR
KIND OF SUPERFICIAL SOLUTIONS TO
THE PROBLEM OF ADVERTISING, THAT
YOU KNOW, THEY WANT SOMETHING
DEEPER, A WAY OF TRANSFORMING
CONSCIOUSNESS.
PEOPLE USE THOSE ACTUAL WORDS IN
OBJECTING TO OUR PROPOSAL.
NOW INSOFAR AS THAT REMAINS A
POWERFUL ELEMENT IN THE LEFT, I
THINK THERE'S VALUE IN
DEVELOPING THIS KIND OF
CRITIQUE.

Another slate reads “What do you think about the beauty industry?”

Joseph says I HAVE TO SAY,
ACTUALLY, THERE WAS A CHAPTER
CUT OUT OF THE BOOK, WHERE WE
ACTUALLY HAD AN EXTENSIVE
DISCUSSION OF COSMETICS AND THE
BEAUTY INDUSTRY.
SO LET ME SAY BRIEFLY WHAT THE
ARGUMENT WAS.
THERE I COMPLAINED ABOUT THE
OTHER NAOMI, NAOMI WOLFE,
BECAUSE THE BEAUTY MYTH IS, IF
YOU READ IT CAREFULLY, AN
ABSOLUTELY ORTHODOX PRESENTATION
OF THE COUNTERCULTURAL THEORY.
WHERE BEAUTY IN HER VIEW, IS AN
IDEOLOGY WHICH IS DESIGNED TO
IMPOSE REPRESSION UPON WOMEN,
ULTIMATELY TO DENY THEM
PLEASURE.
THE WAY THE COUNTERCULTURAL IDEA
THEN FORMULATES, IS IN TERMS OF
THE FOLLOWING ANALYSIS.
IT SAYS, LOOK, WHAT THE INDUSTRY
DOES THROUGH ADVERTISING IS THEY
SET UP ARCHETYPES OF FEMALE
BEAUTY, AND THEN WOMEN, BEING
CONFORMISTS, TRY TO LOOK LIKE
WOMEN IN THE MAGAZINES, AND SO
IT'S A SYSTEM OF CONFORMITY
FUNDAMENTALLY IS HOW COSMETICS
AND BEAUTY FUNCTION.
IT'S THAT COMPULSIVE CONFORMITY
WHICH THEREFORE GENERATES
CONSUMERISM AMONGST WOMEN AND
THE UNPRODUCTIVE SPENDING ON
COSMETICS WHEN THE MONEY COULD
BE USED FOR MORE USEFUL
ENDEAVOURS.
NOW WE BELIEVE THAT'S A
FUNDAMENTALLY MISTAKEN ANALYSIS
OF HOW THIS WORKS.
BECAUSE AGAIN, CONSUMERISM IS
NOT ABOUT CONFORMITY.
WHAT THAT ANALYSIS COMPLETELY
IGNORES IS THE COMPETITIVE
STRUCTURE OF BEAUTY.
SO THIS IDEA THAT THERE ARE
ARCHETYPES THAT THEN PEOPLE TRY
TO CONFORM TO, IS REALLY NOT HOW
BEAUTY WORKS, RIGHT?
PEOPLE GET VERY, VERY TANGIBLE
ADVANTAGES TO BEING MORE
BEAUTIFUL THAN THE PEOPLE AROUND
THEM.
BEING THE BEST LOOKING PERSON IN
YOUR OFFICE, BEING THE BEST
LOOKING PERSON IN THE BAR.
WHAT MATTERS, IS NOT HOW YOU
KNOW, WHETHER YOU LOOK LIKE, YOU
KNOW, LINDA EVANGELISTA, WHAT
MATTERS IS THAT YOU LOOK BETTER
THAN THE PEOPLE WHO ARE YOUR
COMPETITION, IN THE BAR OR AT
WORK OR WHEREVER YOU MIGHT BE.
THAT'S WHERE YOU GET THE
ADVANTAGES FROM AND THEREFORE
WHAT DRIVES THE COSMETIC
INDUSTRY LARGELY, AND I THINK
YOU CAN SEE THIS REALLY CLEARLY
IN PLASTIC SURGERY, IS
COMPETITION AMONGST CONSUMERS.
WHAT THE CORPORATIONS ARE DOING
IS THEY'RE BASICALLY FUNCTIONING
LIKE ARMS MERCHANTS.
THEY'RE SUPPLYING MATERIALS, BUT
THEY'RE NOT THE ONES CREATING
THE CONFLICT, ULTIMATELY IT'S
COMPETITIVE BEHAVIOUR.
AND THAT'S WHY THE KIND OF
PRESCRIPTIONS THAT NAOMI WOLFE
GIVES IN THE BEAUTY MYTH ARE
UNHELPFUL, BECAUSE HER VIEW IS,
IT'S ALL A BIG IDEOLOGY AND YOU
CAN JUST SNAP OUT OF IT, RIGHT?
YOU NEED TO JUST REALISE ONE DAY
THAT THERE'S THIS GIANT SYSTEM
OF REPRESSION THAT WANTS YOU TO
CONFORM, AND SO YOU'RE SUPPOSED
JUST KIND OF STOP.
AND OF COURSE, YOU KNOW, EVERY
WOMAN I KNOW, READ THAT BOOK,
AND NONE OF THEM STOPPED, WHY?
BECAUSE IT FAILS TO RECOGNISE
THE COMPETITIVE STRUCTURE OF
BEAUTY, AND THE FACT IS THAT IF
YOU DROP OUT OF THAT
COMPETITION, JUST LIKE IF YOU
DECIDE NOT TO BUY A BIGGER CAR,
OR YOU DECIDE NOT TO BUY
DESIRABLE REAL ESTATE, IF YOU
DECIDE NOT TO PARTICIPATE AND
MAKE USE OF ANY NEW COSMETIC
PRODUCTS THAT ARE AVAILABLE OR
FASHIONABLE CLOTHING OR
WHATEVER, RIGHT, IN OTHER WORDS,
IF YOU DECIDE TO LOOK DUMPY, YOU
SUFFER SEVERE SOCIAL
CONSEQUENCES FOR THAT.
LESS SO IN A UNIVERSITY THAN IN
LIFE OUTSIDE A UNIVERSITY.
[Audience laughter]
I THINK THAT'S WHY, YOU KNOW,
PEOPLE READ THIS BOOK, AND IT
DOESN'T DO ANYTHING TO CHANGE
THEIR BEHAVIOUR, BECAUSE THE
BOOK MISDIAGNOSES THE PROBLEM,
SUGGESTS THAT IT'S AN IDEOLOGY
WHEN IN FACT IT IS NOT.
SO ACTUALLY, I'M GLAD YOU ASKED
THE QUESTION, BECAUSE OUR POOR
CHAPTER THAT GOT CUT OUT, TRIES
TO IDENTIFY THIS AS A CLASSIC
EXAMPLE OF COUNTERCULTURAL
THINKING, AND IT ALSO SHOWS THE
EXTENT TO WHICH COUNTERCULTURAL
THINKING HAS SERIOUSLY DOMINATED
FEMINIST THOUGHT SINCE THE 1960s
AS WELL.

Another slate appears with the caption “Aren’t competitiveness and consumerism a natural part of being human?”

Andrew says ON THE FACE OF
IT, I THINK IT'S CERTAINLY THE
CASE THAT YOU'D BE HARD PRESSED
TO FIND A GENUINE CULTURE THAT
DOES NOT HAVE A STATUS
HIERARCHY.
I MEAN, YOU KNOW, I DON'T THINK
THERE EVER HAS BEEN ONE, RIGHT?
WHAT THAT SAYS ABOUT ANYTHING
NATURAL, I DON'T KNOW, IT
CERTAINLY SAYS SOMETHING ABOUT
THE CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH
HUMANS FIND THEMSELVES.
PART OF THE PROBLEM IS THAT IN
NORTH AMERICAN SOCIETY AND SO
ON, RIGHT, WE LIVE UNDER THE
ETHOS OF AUTHENTICITY
AND INDIVIDUALITY AND SO ON,
RIGHT?
WHICH PUTS A PREMIUM ON YOU
KNOW, POLONIUS' INJUNCTION TO
LEYERTES, RIGHT, THIS ABOVE ALL,
TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE,
RIGHT?
NOW THE
PROBLEM BECOMES ONCE WHEN BEING
AN INDIVIDUAL SUDDENLY BECOMES
NOT DOING WHAT YOU WANT TO DO,
BUT DOING WHAT OTHER PEOPLE
AREN'T DOING, RIGHT?
THAT INSTANTLY
PUTS YOU INTO THE COMPETITIVE
CYCLES, RIGHT, AGAINST THE
MASSES.
I MEAN, IT DIDN'T COME
NECESSARILY WITH THE
COUNTERCULTURE, YOU FIND IT IN
EMERSON, IN HIS ESSAY ON SELF
RELIANCE EMERSON SAYS, RIGHT, HE
WHO WOULD BE A MAN, MUST FIRST
BECOME A NONCONFORMIST, RIGHT
AND STAY AWAY FROM THE MASSES
AND SO ON, SO IT CERTAINLY, THIS
IDEA THAT YOU DISTANCE YOURSELF
FROM OTHERS, AND DISTINGUISH
YOURSELF, WHO YOU ARE AS AN
INDIVIDUAL IS ESSENTIALLY
DISTINGUISHED FROM WHAT OTHER
PEOPLE ARE DOING, RIGHT?
IT'S CERTAINLY A CENTRAL PART OF
THE IDEOLOGY OF OUR SOCIETY.
AND YOU WOULD HAVE TO DO A LOT
OF WORK TO GET RID OF THAT.
YOU KNOW, JOE AND I ACTUALLY
SAY, YOU KNOW, LOOK, AT ONE
POINT IN THE BOOK, YOU WANT TO
BE A REBEL, WEAR A UNIFORM.
YOU WANT TO STRIKE A BLOW
AGAINST CONSUMERISM IN SOCIETY,
WEAR THE EXACT SAME THING EVERY
DAY.

Joseph points at the screen behind them.

Andrew says WE HAD A PROFESSOR, A COLLEAGUE
OF JOE'S A PROFESSOR OF MINE,
WEARS THE EXACT SAME THING EVERY
DAY, RIGHT?
HE'S A COMMUNIST, AND HE KNOWS
THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT.

Joseph says WE MEAN THAT IN
THE NICEST WAY.

The audience laughs.

Andrew says THIS IS RIGHT,
THE VARSITY ONCE RAN A PHOTO OF
HIM--

Joseph says HE'S A
COMMUNIST, BLESS HIS SOUL.

Andrew says BLESS HIS
SOUL.
THE VARSITY ONCE RAN A PHOTO OF
HIM SITTING AT A DESK AT A
CAREER DAY OR SOMETHING LIKE
THAT, IT SAID, “THE LAST
COMMUNIST ON EARTH,” RIGHT AND
HE'S SITTING THERE LIKE THIS.
[Audience laughter]
YOU KNOW BECAUSE THERE ARE
REALLY ONLY TWO WAYS OF
REBELLING, YOU KNOW, EITHER DO
SOMETHING EXTREMELY CRIMINAL,
CHARLES MANSON WAS A REBEL,
RIGHT, OR YOU ACTUALLY STRIKE A
BLOW AGAINST THE CONSUMERS AND
BUY YOU KNOW, DON'T ENGAGE IN
THE PROCESS OF DISTINCTION.
THANKS GUYS, YOU'VE BEEN GREAT.

The audience applauds.

Watch: Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter on The Rebel Sell