Monday, January 21, 2013
I do not look at the world the same way after 1984. The book has awakened in me something basic but something that I have been conditioned to ridicule and suppress.
I had a short talk with X yesterday, and we talked very interesting marketing. And he mentioned, in passing, the differences between the nature of the markets in India and China. Nothing new. Perhaps it was the way he said it, the terms he used. We all know India is a difficult market, and that we tend to prefer a cheaper product even if it is of inferior quality. The new China, on the other hand, is very brand conscious. In his words, some of them, would cut down on meals to buy a brand they covet. So, he talked about some super elite products. We'd raise the price, he said. And we'd limit the volume. That way, the brand becomes more covetable, elusive, elite. Interesting as the whole interaction was, there was something sinister about the examples. For a fleeting second, I saw him as this enormous talent unaware of his own role in this unnatural thought driven by greed that is gripping the world and slowly strangling out of it of all that should be natural and easy and free.
Capitalism is this giant ever-growing organism that has grown its limbs into all our lives. And I see nothing wrong in that, as long as it functions as an organism. In balance with the world outside. Giving and receiving in equal measure. It has altered all of us. In unimaginable and sometimes frightening ways. It does not just fulfil needs anymore. It creates them.
A society progresses when it finds leisure. It rises above its current and immediate needs and thinks of more glorious, more noble things. Leisure needs to be valued. Un-knowledge and curiosity need to be preserved. There needs to be, sometimes, a wait before we attain something we need, material or intellectual. We need that wait, that anticipation, that wondering the mind does before it receives or finds the answer, that picture the heart paints before we obtain something. What we don't need is so much boredom. Language is a clever tool. It has the power to scale down the magnitude of absolutely abhor-able things. Boredom in the virtual presence of a whole world of possibilities on a screen in our laps is not ok. It is an indication that the more we have, the more we are taking for granted.
It is possible to be a balanced capitalist. And although we have been made to believe that thinking in this direction is impractical and ridiculous, I believe that this is not just possible but necessary. The ideas of profit maximizations and trade-offs between stakeholders alone, will, by general logic, leave the world a highly unbalanced place, with excesses that are wasted but not consumed by those in need. We are already almost there. It is time we started looking at businesses in their entirety, their entitlements as well as obligations to the environment where they thrive.
I can not say what exactly would happen if we didn't start to be balanced yet. But this whole unpredictability, opaqueness and creepy totalitarianism in the name of data collection does not give me a good feeling.