CONSPICUOUS COMBUSTION

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Quite some time ago, in a previous gilded age, socio-economist Thorstein Veblen came up with term “conspicuous consumption” to describe the spending by the nouveau riche of their discretionary income/wealth to advertise their elevated status. To the old moneyed, the newly well off wished to say, “We are as good as you.” And to the still poor, the invidious spending said, “we are now your betters.”

Things have changed a bit since 1899, though. These days, lots of people would rather believe that they are not poor but not rich yet and by buying “bling” they can hide the “yet” part. This is so because their Consumerist faith’s creed states that performing the ritual of buying stuff will make them better people. Consumerism’s priests–the bankers, marketeers, etc.–are always ready to help with those acts of faith.

But as the not-rich-yet have taken over the conspicuous consuming, so the nouveau nouveau riche–you know, the current first family and their entourage, all the CEOs of every company and I’ve worked for, and no doubt many others I don’t know of– something more awesome to mark their economic turf.

How about conspicuous combustion? That would be not just wasting your own wealth, but destroying the wealth of others and doing so for your own pleasure, just because you can get away with. Ah, the joys of unfettered capitalism, the best darn economic system in the history of the world!

All the justification they, the loyal followers of the Narcissist faith, then, need is to believe that life is zero sum and so by destroying others/infidels/mere consumerists,they are blessed.And as that seems to be working, I don’t think they’ll be stopping any time soon.

 

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