Saturday, November 05, 2005

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility And A Kimono

I've never been very convinced that an overabundance of choice is one of the bad features of decadent Western consumerism. I recall the heart-rending and possibly apocryphal tale of some professor or other, transfixed in the breakfast cereal aisle of a supermarket, utterly unable to meaningfully distinguish between the brands. In the distance, the problem is only exacerbated by the presence of five million other products, most in a number of subtly diffent forms, and some in economy sizes. (Can't be bothered to find link to someone seriously advancing argument. Too sleepy.)

The main reason this has always sounded unconvincing to me is that the professor in the story isn't doing anything to shape his own existence: all he can do is complain about the immodest variety of processed cheese slices, rather than taking affirmative steps to masochistically limit the choices available to him. Only permit yourself to eat muesli! Become a lipogrammatical consumer! Pretend you're only allowed to shop in the frozen-food aisle! Nobody's stopping you!

Or so I would have said. Lately, though, I too am becoming alarmed. You see, the fruits of my slack-jawed wandering, when carried upstairs and laid out in the cold light of the kitchen, are beginning to make less sense than I would like. Today I made it home with a dozen cinnamon donuts, a bread knife, and a kimono. I'm worried that the invisible hand of the market is trying to nudge me towards becoming a really bad superhero.