Monday, September 07, 2009

Cosa Nostra: A&E's "Hoarders"

George Carlin said it best:

When you're born you get a ticket to the freak show.
When you're born in America you get a front row seat.

I have just seen the most compelling tv in I don't know how long; "A&E's "Hoarders."

Oh, OH sweet decadent bliss that is America gone wild, we have finally found our talking mirror, Achilles heel and ultimate dope all rolled into one big super-sized, deep-fried cinnamon bun and oil barrel sized soda with free refills. On sale.

Between friends and relatives, many, if not most, cannot park in their garages because of all the crap they have shoved in them. The rise of consumerism and the formula of an ever-expanding market based upon buying things - incidentally which constitutes something like 70% of our economy - has met its match; space! There's simply not enough space.

At least 8 or so years ago, I remarked to my bud Mitch that it might be worth looking into investing in Public Storage. My thinking was that since Americans are steeped in buying, and I noticed friends and relatives hoarding plus the rise of Public Storage... But I never dreamed it would come to literally about 4 or 5 storage companies including 2 Public Storage locations within a 2 mile radius of me.

I know first hand about hoarders because my ma is one. She comes from that post depression generation marked by poverty and desire, powerful markers for kids coming up in a new empire. So I kinda understand. My Auntie/Ma's older sister moved a few years back, and my cousin was telling me about how she pitched in to help. They had to rent one of those huge industrial dumpsters.

But there's a qualitative difference, based in psychological imperatives born of historical forces - between that generation's post-depression "need for hoarding" and the post-modern DNA of conspicuous consumption.

It really is interesting to consider this in light of Hegelian dialectics, because the seeds of conspicuous consumerism's destruction are already bearing fruit and ripening.

Carlin had that classic routine about "stuff," riffing that we needed to have a place to put all of our stuff. Not that I want to live like St. Francis or Gandhi, who I heard somewhere that upon his death, all he possessed were his glasses, sandals/clothes and his spinning wheel. But Great Cesar's ghost, Warhol evidently had an entire warehouse for all of his stuff. I'm sure that made his heirs pretty happy.

The phenomenon of American consumption and hoarding is really tied to access to credit, the rise of credit as the ultimate drug. The REAL church, with global consumption as religion. About two years ago, I cited what I thought were the roots of our present debacle, and not much has changed my mind. (If you aren't interested in a critique of Naomi Klein, then skip the first part and head to the second part after the break markers halfway through.)

This system of American capitalism gone wild is very clever to boot. I can take or leave Tom Friedman, but he's right about how naming something = ownership. Take Bush 1 and his infamous demonizing of "the dreaded 'L word'" - to date, Democrats and even progressives avoid using "liberal" for fear of... for fear of what...? In this way, it's interesting to consider the term (and even more, WHO named it) "CREDIT card" when in reality it's a "DEBT card" ....

And now, here comes the concluding volley; credit card debt is a trillion dollars, and at least Meredith Whitney agrees with me in saying that it's just one more bubble about to burst. With people out of work and bills to pay, it's not hard to see how things can get much worse. Japan and England are right there behind us in the DEBT card madness.

Back to the show; On the site you can watch full eps. I implore you, give Hoarders a try, it is some SICK ass shit. Some of it is so unbelievably stomach churning... but it's like the mother of all train wrecks, and you're passing by in the slow lane.

This all makes me wonder; do other countries have this problem?