4.10 Flings and Bling
Seeing how bias will be reinforced in people who’ve been defined by a consumerist mentality depends upon how people confront the reality of consumer culture, and on whether marketers can tap into those responses. One response is cynicism and resignation. People will care for you and what you did and consider you wise if you wind up with a lot of money. Consumer culture will never end, and wisdom, like talk, is cheap if you don’t have the bucks or the celebrity to back it up. Besides, who’s listening to old people who don’t have money? Like children, they have no voice; unlike children (whose parents are, or at least should be, their spokespersons), seniors have no sanctioned advocates of their own (not including the AARP, which speaks for the entire senior community but not for individuals within it).
Reinforcement of their despair keeps the old folks quiet. How’s that for a big ol’ cup of nihilism? You want that “to go”?
The counter to this is a response that devalues simple consumerism in favor of the life well lived. It denies that wealth necessarily equates to wisdom. Because culture is reinvented and reimagined by tribes, and not by individuals, this existential puzzling about wisdom is worked out within tribes. There’s a paradox here for Boomers, whose search for meaning and wisdom is self-referential to a fault. Even the most vain Boomer can still find meaning and wisdom in the shared reminiscences and experiences of their tribe. Enabling that sharing will create substantial wealth for a number of businesses. One can do well by doing good.
It would be tempting and uplifting to report that the choice of wisdom over materialism is the wave of the future. Indeed Wal-Mart’s move to go organic, combined with a revived and highly profitable grassroots green movement, suggests that effective communication is that which helps tribe members overcome predominating personality crises, eventually influencing the culture at large. Still, even the most risk-averse forecaster can safely rely on less morally-attuned communicators continuing to push Christmas bargains at Halloween, or persuading the uninformed into business obligations they are ill-equipped to manage, such as the sub-prime mortgages destined to be the new millennium’s second financial pothole, much like the savings and loan debacle that hit Boomers in the mid-’80s.