To Buy Or Not To Buy?

January 01, 2007
Andrew Morris

Happy New Year to all Desicritics readers! It's been great to become part of this online community this year, to hear from you, read your comments, and get to know some of you.

Here are a few cheery thoughts on consumerism and inequality to start off the new year. I sat on the plane bound for Singapore last week, idly flicking through the Duty Free magazine, with its fantasy world bathed in golden light. Here were perfumes whose names and bottle designs alone have consumed the energies of the brightest and best Madison Avenue has to offer. So what was available? Would you prefer Kenzo Amour, whose blurb read: "the bottle itself...is a stylised expression of an abstract bird. It is a symbol of love, the sensuous curves of a woman and the desire to travel"? Or for the rugged male, perhaps Boss Selection, which declared, "It's about striking a note, leaving a mark: distinctive and always present." Bollocks. I would have thought it's about making a profit. But then what would I know? Such perfect examples of consumerism creating a gap which we never knew existed, until we were instructed to notice it, and then of course to fill it.

But wait, there's more. Beyond the standard fare of alcohol, jewellery, watches, wallets and bags, you could buy even more vital daily necessities. There was, for example, a thermometer by Georg Jensen, the famous Danish designer: an elegant but functional piece. Just what you'd need up your butt, I reckon. Reading on, there were ergonomically-designed thermos jugs in beige and olive green ($150) perfect for the coffee-drinking executive whose life had hitherto been blighted by the lack of an ergonomically-designed thermos, and a complete set of essential wine-opening accessories ($209) with which to impress your friends at a dinner party. Unless of course, they also had one, in which case back to scouring the magazine next time you fly...

Best of all though was the item described as Georg Jensen Spin (I jest not): a 'two-armed box" (yours for a mere $67) whose picture revealed it was a matt silver container large enough to hold precisely one key and a cufflink. But never mind such limitations: we were reassured it represented an infinity symbol, which "perfectly counters the stress and intensity of life today". Perhaps I should have bought one for my rickshaw driver.

But the pièce de résistance was at Singapore airport itself. There among the green ferns, the subtly lit boutiques, the Japanese garden with its little bridge, the tinkly music, my eyes travelled up the escalator to the sign above the lounge. At the end of a list containing such tempting enticements as "Massage" and "Fully-equipped gym", was a new product: "Oxygen" (complete with a cool, understated "O" logo), at a mere "$15-$23." When they start selling you oxygen surely something has gone a bit awry?

Perhaps the cheaper air is imported from Dhaka and the top-end stuff from Geneva. Either way, a quick calculation suggests that it would take your average Bangladeshi slum dweller approximately a month to earn enough money to buy this amount of air.

Go figure.

Andrew is from Wales, UK, but currently living in Dhaka. He's been visiting Bangladesh for many years, and loves the place. Now he's working as a teacher trainer and writing a book, which he's sure will be a bestseller (in his own house). He can always be found at www.morristhepen.net
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To Buy Or Not To Buy?


Author: Andrew Morris


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January 4, 2007
09:59 PM

Andrew : Again as usual,you used even the time in the waiting lounge to read through the magazine and noted the nitty gritties with a surgeon's precision. Well,I would blog or send you an email on my analysis on the same and the factors that drive this based on my travel,experience and reading...

But don't you feel we may talk of open market,globalisation,blah blah but what I see and feel is with all these the Rich is becoming richer and the Poor is becoming poorer. Will also blog/email you about the theories and the reason behind all these.

Try this,since you are in Dhaka,just notice a lawyer,an engineer or a banker,if s/he is not able to go for a HUGO BOSS deodarant/cologne spray/perfume today,chances are high that in a year's time,s/he is capable to afford that. Now notice, a rickshaw (tri-cycle) puller,today if he drinks a glass of simple water or lime water when he is exhausted of pulling the rickshaw,even after one year it is difficult for him to afford a bottle of COKE to each of his family members.

So the present day consumerism which you see,is definitely socio-economical class driven.

Andrew Morris
January 5, 2007
05:26 AM

Very true Tanay. I'm afraid that on an individual, as well as on an international level, there is not only a disparity between rich and poor but a direct causality. Countries like the USA and UK are rich only because other countries are poor, and are being kept in poverty.

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