"What You Want" Consumer Catalogue - A Betrayal Of Spirit - Satisfaction Of Base Needs With No Connection To Wisdom Or Social Justice - The Use Of Youth And False Expressions Of Happiness To Sell Products No One Needs

Social Criticism - November 13, 1999

1999.11.13. Saturday, 12:52 p.m.

I'm looking at a small catalog of items for purchase titled, "What You Want," and I find myself filled with disgust.  Why this revulsion?  Let's start with the title. It underscores the basest of personal needs.  What you buy is not about your becoming more beautiful, or about your promoting peace in the world.  No -- it's about a primitive urge -- it's about what you want.  My favorite catalogs have titles that represent concepts or ideals that I aspire to, or that I at least respect.  To call a catalog "What You Want" is akin to naming a sexual technique and paraphernalia catalog, "Uhhh" -- the sound one might make at the point of orgasm.  But is "uhhh" all sex is about? -- What about romance, communication, intimacy, foreplay, the biology of reproduction, sexual paraphernalia such as dildos and vibrators, or birth control information?  Is the whole constellation of sexually-related information to be reduced to a single orgasmic, "uhhh?"  I don't think so.  So, my critique is that it is not so much wrong to acknowledge "what you want" as it is to identify one's needs in a moral and social vacuum.  Wants occur in a context, and some wants are better -- more wisely supported -- than others.  To attempt to divorce the self from the fabric of society -- all in an attempt to eroticize and merchandize our basest, most materialistic impulses -- is akin to evil.

I have a lot of additional problems with "What You Want." Many of the photos evince materialism and fakeness. It's mainly young, overly made-up women holding various objects for sale with expressions of delirious joy in their faces. They all have perfect teeth, perfect hair, perfect physiques, and perfect attires. Looking at the catalogue you would expect it to be your personal gateway to materialistic bliss. But you look at all these 22-year-olds' eyes (the models cannot be any older than that) and they appear empty and dull. There is no inner connection to their outward expressions of pleasure. It is obvious that they are not truly happy -- that their supposed joy is ephemeral and not sustained. To seek satisfaction that is not rooted in inner wisdom or social justice is an expression of false consciousness, a betrayal of God.


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