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     Volume 11 |Issue 01| January 06, 2012 |


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My F Factor- A Consumerist Dilemma

Sharmillie Rahman


Almost every alphabet today is a vehicle for a powerful image, empowered by consumerist symbolism. The F enclosed within a glittering crystal unmistakably vends its own mystical aura of glamour. Fendi. Yes, the emblem gracing my spectacles has a larger than life presence almost surpassing my own persona. Why do we go for such superficial, supercilious exhibitionism? Apparently, because of the manipulative strategies of capitalist market economy that drives the power structure of today's world making every individual into a mere pawn in the commercial game. How easily we fall prey! Yet, there are still a whole community of informed, worldly folks who staunchly keep there distance from the allure of free-marketeering, holding their own with dignity in the face of all materialist schemes. I am more like a fish in troubled waters. I go with the flow, or rather the strong current resisting which is not an easy job as you have your carefully wrought image intertwined with your material acquisition. The story of representation is fraught with struggle for power, privilege and choices one makes. The GDP index may very well have landed Bangladesh on the developing nation bandwagon, but it has also not failed to bequeath its baggage on the unsuspecting citizens. The supposed ills that I speak of are an exposure to brands and their outsourcing adventures that transported first world products to third world shores. Look around you, turn your gaze to the media surfaces, TV, billboards, flyers, ramps, every strategic space devoted to performing consumerist aesthetic practices teem with images jostling for attention. Making a statement has never been so important! The self-styling icons of market economy controls the lives of an undulating multitude.

I recently have been to a wedding, to my uncritical amusement the bride resembled just about any character from just about any 'saas-bahu' Hindi serial. We live in an age of reproduction. Our desires and demands are all manufactured in light of faddish prototypes and handed down for compulsive consumption. To me the global phenomena is far from humanistic, and even less utilitarian, it is all-consuming and operates on its own logic. You are either 'in' or 'out', either way you are pre-determined. Images loom large and we cater to their every whim.

Bringing first world products to the third world shores. Image: Internet

All these garblings have already been garbled by luminous predecessors in lucid articulation. It has also been shown how the dopamine induced feel -good factor derived from the euphoria of instant gratification, a by product of consumerism, makes us anxious to buy more. Petrifying! I have friends and relatives coursing through life in relative moral ease without resorting to spending money on brand products, seemingly oblivious to the resultant implication for their social status. Why is my gaze fixated then, on the over-arching signification of the Gs and Fs and Cs, honestly, what is their to it?

Today it is the life-style cults that steer the way we see the world. It's what you own is what determines who you are. This predilection to consumerism has spread its tentacles from the centers to the peripheries. Every individual with his own purchasing power is touched by the magic. I was at the Rifles Square haplessly standing in front of the window display of an electronics shop, while my boys where out hunting for game CDs, when I realised quite a swarm of young men had formed by my side murmuring engagedly their opinions on the pros and cons of mobile phones and before I moved away some snatches of their conversation had already been caught on my radar: “Jai bolish, Nokiar ekta bhab achche.” The 'Bhab' bestowing Nokia might be a Chinese reproduction but the strength of the 'N' is such that owning your first set might even call for a celebration at KFC.

In a country where the manufacturing industry is lagging far behind in the global competition, is it any wonder that the growing aspiring middle-class will be hankering for foreign brands? Reputation presumably goes hand in hand with expertise. Why not a phone with multiple reliable apps if it's affordable? Here another contention makes its way in. Affordability is an elusive term, it's that fuzzy area where logic and even pragmatism stumble and fall. Chasing our dreams, we soar like Icarus too close to disaster. I believe, the kind of taste we develop for commodities is very culture specific. Cultural permissibility may span the spectrum from austerity to extreme flamboyance. There is also the factor of shifting values to contend with. The choices we make today are influenced by the power of the 'spectacle', images.

Back to what we said earlier, everything boils down to how we see the world, whether in terms of its global connections or distinct parochial dimensions. My mirror reflects my Fendi glasses and my newly acquired Mickael Kors bag, is it vain mimicry? I would like to believe it is a form of a tribute to the aesthetic ingenuity and years of dedicated craftsmanship these names embody. These names certainly do not identify any existential markers for me, but yet I can not brush off the lurking fear at the back of my mind ;do they not represent, when exhibited, to some extent my 'me' to the world? Though I could think of a horde of flippant rebuttals in an attempt to clear my conscience, still the question remains- have I unwittingly turned these acquired articles into signifiers of my identity? If not then why do I keep collecting the suggestively collectible names? I would like to believe, just for fun!

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