The push and pull of an all-consuming life

feast-or-famineDo you ever get the sense that we live in a culture of gratification that says we should submit to our every whim, while at the same time demands we disavow our desires? On one hand, Nigella tells us that it’s fine to indulge in that extra bit of chocolate, but The Minimalists tell us that we can somehow be made pure through abstention?

And do you ever feel anxious that you may not be living a good life? Or a nice life?

It would be wrong to say that these desires are something that is new to humanity. We have always aspired to want something more – it’s what makes us human. And aspiring to live a good life – one that identified pleasure with tranquility and a reduction of desire – was the foundation of the movement founded by Epicurus (341 – 270 B.C.). Aspiration is mostly a good thing – it meant that we decided to pick ourselves up and move on from the savanna millions of years ago. And it means that we constantly seek to progress.

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You just don’t seem to understand

1839502-the-radical-transformation-of-customer-service-rotatorIn 2017, the telecommunications industry and the Australian Communications and Media Authority will be re-assessing the customer information obligations framework for telecommunications companies – what is referred to as the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code (the TCP code). The Australian telecommunications industry has indicated long-standing desire for more flexibility with fewer restrictions in the information provided on a mandatory basis to consumers. It has been contended that current mandatory consumer information requirements, particularly in terms of the amount of information that must be provided at point-of-sale, are not necessarily useful to consumers and result in substantial cost to the industry.

One concern of consumer advocates has been that important consumer protections could be lost in the absence of independent evidence-based information and research, to the detriment of both industry and its customers. Consumer information is fundamentally important, but it has to be carefully designed so that customers can understand what they’re buying, how to use the service, and how to constructively resolve issues into the future. In the past, with the development of the code and some other regulations, there has been an absence of sophisticated empirical evidence about the best way to effectively communicate this fundamental information in the telecommunications space.

Informed consent sits behind most legal agreements, but in reality, the notion of informed consent is usually measured by directly asking consumers whether they understand their obligations and rights under a contract. While this is indeed testing the reflective capacity of consumers in relation to their belief that they have understood something, it is arguable that it is not actually measuring whether the consumer has actually understood the agreement. In other words, a person may claim to understand the implications of their signing a contract, but may fail to appreciate the possible consequences until they are presented with a particular challenge arising from or related to the terms of the contract.

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Desire, luxury and consuming our identity

luxury_home_41Recent news that consumers in Adelaide are willing to pay $400 for a taste of Wagyu steak sounds ridiculous, but in reality, wanting something that others in your particular group can’t have is part of being human.

Do you own a $6000 toaster? A Weber barbecue? Or a Dyson vacuum cleaner? Maybe a Francis Francis coffee machine? What about a SMEG fridge?

Have you ever bought an expensive perfume, or some exclusive jewellery; a pair of designer shoes or an Elk bag?

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Life, death and what’s important

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It’s interesting that the way we think about death at different times in our history is a useful expression of our broader cultural and social praxis.

In visual art, in music, and even in family homes, up until the 20th century, the momento mori (remember death) served as a reminder that we while we are alive, we should attempt to perfect our character, and embrace the importance of living a worthy life. It probably also reflected how dangerous it was to be alive, and how lucky we were if we survived childhood.

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The rise of American authoritarianism

Such an interesting thesis by Amanda Taub on Vox, and so much more cogent than the explanation for the current political climate as simply “anger”.

This could be just as relevant for Australia (the rise of the ultra-conservative wing of the Liberal Party) and the UK (UKIP).

If you can, read the whole article, but here are some interesting quotes:

“… there is a certain subset of people who hold latent authoritarian tendencies. These tendencies can be triggered or “activated” by the perception of physical threats or by destabilizing social change, leading those individuals to desire policies and leaders that we might more colloquially call authoritarian. Continue reading

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Resistance is (mostly) futile: How buying nothing is harder than it looks (especially at Christmas time)

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While there are thousands of people all over the world taking part in the “Buy Nothing” movement, along with a whole range of other groups of people doing what they can to reduce consumption, resistance to commerce is nothing new. The first Buy Nothing Day was held in 1992, and books such as Kalle Lasn’s (1999) ‘Culture Jam’, Naomi Klein’s (2002) ‘No Logo,’ and, locally, input from economists like Clive Hamilton (Growth Fetish, 2003; Affluenza with Richard Dennis, 2005) have all posited that consumption is not the answer to all of our problems. But, with the rise in access to information, consumer-resistance movements are becoming increasingly popular, prevalent and visible in contemporary Western society.

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Not so cashed up

timtam4In early May, 2015, news services reported that Denmark, one of those wacky Scandinavian countries that just seems to be obsessed with being progressive, would allow retailers to only offer card payment, and allow them to ban cash as a means of transaction. For quite a while, Scandinavia has been all about a cashless society. In Sweden, they’ve taken it one step further with a vein scanner, where you pay for your coffee by entering the last four digits of your mobile phone number, and then hold your hand above a sensor, while it scans your veins – presumably to see if you have Black, Platinum, Gold, Silver, or just boring old red blood.

But, will we ever see Australia go completely cashless?

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