Only the Privileged are Left Behind

March 13th, 2011

-or-

You probably won't be able to buy anything like a banana soon enough.

A few weeks ago I was confronted with the happy and relaxing task of reinstalling Windows, a tradition I've heard is enjoyed among the people of the world in a ritual celebration filled with cursing, feelings of being completely dead inside, and microwaveable sandwiches. My attempt at joining in on this unifying horror of the international computer-using community was abruptly halted, however, when I found the tool I'd need to copy the installation disk to reinstall the operating system was only available in a conveniently bundled package containing about 15% what I wanted, and 85% proprietary junk. Junk without which no modern program can possibly work, seeing as its absence might reveal the embarrassing nakedness of actual content.

The best course of action seemed to be complaining, which I immediately directed at an innocent friend:

Once upon a time, a girl could go to the store and get a banana. She could peel it, and eat it, and all was well. Then as the years went by, bananas started getting all of these extra things added to them. Nutritional boosters and peel decorations, and little baubles that hung off the tab at the top. Genetically engineered brown spots that ensured an even distribution of burnt sienna. And if you wanted to buy a banana, you had to first sign up for a banana membership and have your banana receptors scanned and catalogued, and you had to have a fruit processing unit to get the peel open, and you had to have a government approved pre-mastication operator.

The friend asked me where I was quoting from, as if I'd been reading a bizarre science fiction premise mysteriously preoccupied with fruit.

In the sense that it's excessive, obnoxious, and illogical, sure, it's bizarre. In the sense that it is, I'm convinced, entirely likely, it's not bizarre at all. Nearly everything intended for human consumption, no matter the delivery method, is being geared towards the lowest common denominator. Towards a barely-human mass of coveted expendable income and Cheez-It crumbs that has no idea what a consumable object is, nor how it could possibly be useful, and therefore needs enough packaging and sensual lubricant to ensure objects of any size or purpose can be uniformly sent careening down its gullet.

Why is it that almost without fail, videos online are defaulted to the highest possible volume? Why does nearly every purchase come with an opt-out phase to avoid automatically buying more products or attracting more offers to buy more products? Why are the gripability and mouth girth of bottled soft drinks worth "improving," or even pointing out? Are you tired of having to get up in the morning? Don't worry, now auto-complete will fill in your day for easy and immediate living.

It seems that the ability to establish a meaningful connection with what we consume is becoming more and more rare, a superpower of the privileged. Today's luxury isn't about adding more value. It's about the pure and simple delivery of the thing desired, an experience that's always been marked by bliss, but which is increasingly closed off to masses of people who are relegated to life lived under the suffocating cellophane of the Value-Pak.

As the world hurtles towards its latest rendering of progress' horizon, the privileged stand back, in a three-dimensional space where there exists more than flat and infinite forwardness, enjoying the fruit of the earth, of their labors, and of each other. It's explained away as luxury, but it's in fact reality, this world where you open a banana and you eat it, and it's good, and that is all.

And that is all.

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