The Digital Journalist
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love to Shop
November 2006

by Beverly Spicer

Shopping. It is the only weapon offered the American people to fight the War on Terror, now known as the Global Struggle Against Extremism. We were told in the early days after 9/11 that the way we could really help was to go shopping and leave the rest to others. Just get on with life and go shopping. Shopping is more accurately described as consumerism, and in a world where corporatism is king, a populace consisting entirely of consumers is an imperial dream come true.

So, our once land of the free and home of the brave has morphed into a vast army of consumers, methodically trained and officially assigned to bravely go shopping. Onward shopping soldiers, marching as to war. Consuming everything in our path.

We consume goods and services, luxury items, and fuels. We consume tobacco, alcohol and pharmaceuticals. We consume junk food, snack food, fast food, comfort food, so much food – or should I say "edibles" -- that half of us are obese. We consume entertainment in the form of sports, television, movies, computers, radios, iPods, books, newspapers, magazines, theater, concerts, recreation, and travel. We are like force-fed geese with putrid paté. And I do mean force-fed.

We are force-fed all these consumables. We are force-fed advertising which feeds our insecurities while stimulating our appetites, and we become ever more ravenous. And we ourselves are consumed by force-fed fear that can be alleviated only by more consumption. We are the ouroboros, eating our own tails, consuming and at the same time being consumed. But is what we are doing creating a continuous, universal and renewable cycle, as typically symbolized by the ouroboros? Like the ouroboro that consumes even itself, do we then become more truly our Selves and therefore one with everything? Or, in a mythological dystopian fashion, are we more like Saturn, who ate his own children because he feared one of them would grow up to slay him? Like Saturn, with anxiety-based voraciousness we've begun to eat our children, and along with them, some say, also our future. In "New Rules" on Oct. 13, Bill Maher had a few insightful comments about our children and our future. Hear him out in the following video clip.

As a society, we consume more than 25% of the world’s energy supply. At 5% of the world's population, we are exceeding our natural allotment by 500%. Tell me again why we are alarmingly late to begin implementing fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly technologies and so woefully slow to develop renewable sources of energy and overall sustainability?

This subject makes me think of John Carpenter's 1988 sci-fi thriller, "They Live," in which magic sunglasses enable the hero to actually "see" what is going on in a society that has been taken over by an alien band of creatures who force the people to slavishly Obey, Consume, and Never Question Authority. See the trailer here. Be bold. Rent the movie. Get a gargantuan tub of popcorn and a 128-ounce soda, hunker down on one of these November nights, and watch the whole thing.

When things go wrong and get out of control, somebody has to be at fault, and that somebody is usually referred to as "they." Who is this "they" we are talking about? This question comes up time and again, and it remains not only inconclusive and unanswered but also makes for most disagreeable conversation. Is it Howdy Doody or Robin Hood, or the wizard behind a new security fence or an emperor with no clothes? Could it be the elephant in the room? Perhaps there are wolves in sheep's clothing or maybe "they" are some super-secret conspiracy that is as yet uncaught, but very red-handed? Machines? The Eggman? The Walrus? Coo coo kachoo. Have we met the enemy? Who are they? Are they within? Could WE be they?

Who is speaking out in this Tower of Babel that is being erected before our very eyes, and what are they saying? As meaning becomes more and more elusive, the only thing we can understand is, "Go shopping."

The language of shopping is universal. Even if you don't have money, it doesn't matter, there's always credit. Anybody can talk this kind of shop. These two show you how to do it even in the comfort of your own home. Be sure and watch the whole clip, as it illustrates how shopping can change your mood and even reality in an instant.

To borrow a phrase, I suggest we should have the audacity to hope that one day the Global Struggle Against Extremism will be over. Then we can calm down, embrace our enemies and each other, lose weight, shop less, and feel good about our lives, our leaders, and the world. But for now it's Kaufen macht Sicherheit. Shopping makes us safe. Screw up your courage and reach into that wallet even if there's nothing in it. Get some more credit cards. Make purchase, not peace. Cope with the madness. Entertain yourself. Get some satisfaction. Go to a Rolling Stones concert and try to figure out what elixir of eternal youth those guys are on.

The Rolling Stones concert in Zilker Park, Austin, TX, October 22, 2006

Shop, lest we drop. That's the message. Love is strange. Learn to stop worrying and love to shop. Or just learn to stop worrying.

© Beverly Spicer

Beverly Spicer is a writer, photojournalist, and cartoonist, who faithfully chronicled The International Photo Congresses in Rockport, Maine, from 1987 to 1991. Her book, THE KA'BAH: RHYTHMS OF CULTURE, FAITH AND PHYSIOLOGY, was published in 2003 by University Press of America. She lives in Austin.