Choose your placebo.

The Alantic Monthly has a special issue on China for July/August. Unfortunately, the article China Makes, The World Takes is only available for subscribers — but if you have an interest in the issue of American and European companies that have their products made in China, I recommend reading it.

Of course, I have Jon to blame for bringing it to my attention. And how could I not be interested, when I see the cover featuring all of those containers ready for shipping? I see them every day on trucks going up and down I-5 from the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma. The photo on the lead article comes from Shenzhen, but I see so many of those same containers here on the roads, and stacked up in the ports. (btw and slightly off-topic, the second Season of The Wire, which is filmed in Baltimore, feature some of these same containers and the yards.)

The gist of the article, as far as I can tell, is that American companies making goods in China isn’t all bad. Well, crap. That stalls my continuing trek to the polar end of consumerism. This is inevitably what happens to me whenever I start trying to define a position that I’ve shown an interest in taking. I get introduced new data that rounds out my view point, and makes it harder for me to rally on one side of the issue. Maybe it’s my diplomatic nature – or even a Buddha-nature of finding the Middle Way. All choices have their positives and negatives, and when it comes to consuming products the only answer is what to consume, as opposed to not consuming at all.

And then choosing who and what you value the most.

The article in the Atlantic highlights that China can not only deliver inexpensive, yet well made goods to the global economy, they can also produce and ship it faster. Plus, American and European countries have afforded a better lifestyle to many Chinese people. Well damn — these are good things. Efficient production/shipping of product, and the workers, though they work hard, have their basic needs cared for, plus a higher standard of living than w/o the Western corporations. Additionally though, these factories use a lot of energy, and produce a lot of polution. Bringing those kind of jobs back to America would likely bring the pollution with it. Better their backyard than ours, right? (Of course, I’m not sure I agree with that statement.)

Is it irony when a Coimmunist country is responsible for a majority the Western borgeousie’s material possessions?

Humans have to consume to survive. The accumulation of material goods is also a part of our survival in that it provides for an emotional need. It seems to be one of the great placebos. The transaction provides for momentary pleasure, and sometimes longer term contentment. “I don’t know how I got by without X before! Life is just so much better now!”

So with all this, I’m left with feeling impotent. What do I do if I just don’t feel like NOT consuming? What do I do when the ads (and society) poke at my insecurities, and I’m left with a feeling of inadequacy and pangs of depression? Do I choose to consume a religion (with all the accoutrements), food, service, sex, friendship, medications/drugs, cosmetics, or media?

In making that last list- I realized that friendship and sex are the only ones above that don’t necessarily have a monetary value — perhaps our splintered communities, our urge to drive alone in vehicles and working in our little cubicles are the heart and soul of all this.

Maybe our human relationships are the only thing that will save us from our consumer culture.

After all, isn’t the best way to survive a hostage situation to talk to the hostage-taker about your family?