Monday, December 14, 2009

The convexity of the system

The other day checking the post, among all the rubbish that you get with the letters, I found a consumer survey. It was interesting, the main claim was that filling it would improve my life in many ways, if you consider an improvement in your life getting more leaflets, or telling Wallmart or Target what would I like in their shelves. Freaky enough, my name would enter in a raffle in which the first prize was a $1000 cheque to be spent in goodies from those shelves!

Anyway, I was amazed with the questions; I have a cat, but I don't particularly buy cat treats or stuff like that. I don't buy hand sanitizing products or bottled water but I learnt on products, which I didn't know their existence. So, I got really interested in the survey because it was pointing to a certain citizen who live in a certain part of America who seems to be my neighbour, and more important than that: somebody out there is sending me a lot of stuff in the post that I don't even bother to open and goes straight to the recycling bin!

So, I did the exercise and spend about half an hour filling the survey, skipping whole sections (like cigarettes) or answering "We don't buy" or "One every ten years". Some question had to be answered in an additional added line, because my option wasn't considered within the answers.

I have to say that it was quite satisfactory to fill. In fact, I had a very entertaining half an hour doing it, learning about my neighbours and on brands of products that I don't even know of their existence.

So I sent it; they provided a paid envelope so it was the case of just stick it in the mail box, which I did (what would be the point of an incomplete exercise)... and I forgot about it.

And now the amazing fact and the title of this article in one go: you really cannot leave the system as some people (California?) might believe. You can pretend that you are out, buying organic products and composting your green left overs. But you cannot really leave!

Few weeks after the exercise the amount of posted material did not decrease; but the kind of leaflets that I am getting now are from companies who offer subscriptions to "lefty journals", charity organizations with the same flavour, and organic products that you can buy in a catalogue. In particular, I was surprised with a journal of clear anarchist flavour... asking for a formal subscription; what kind of anarchy is that one?

You never leave, the options can be disguised or adapted to fill your particular profile... but at the end of the day, there is a label stick on your forehead always.

But I personally, don't have any problem, I really don't want to leave. If I need food I buy it in a supermarket, if I need some electronics I will head to Target, but if I need clothes of shoes I guess I will end in a charity shop (thrift store in America). I am trying to get the best of both worlds in a cynical way. I might not have a straightforward label in the consumption map (or perhaps the label "cynic"), because I move through the categories horizontally. This is a sort of label anyway, one that the system does not take care because the numbers or cynic people are very small... so far I haven't subscribed neither bought anything that it has been posted at my door. Freedom is to be alone.