Spokeswoman for Bourgie-kind

When I saw the headline “Kick ’em out, for their sake and your own” I thought it was for some far-right group proclaiming the nation for whitey. It was actually an opinion piece on the phenomenon of adult children staying in the family home.

Let me say this up front: If I was living in the same city as my parents and family, and I was in a similar position (trying to finish off my PhD), then I would live at home in a second. I moved home when I did my 4th (honours) year of my undergraduate degree and changed from working graveyard shifts to working weekend shifts. To say my life improved would be an understatement.

Firstly, the author, Lisa Pryor, is…. quite pretty. I deleted a rant about the reproduction of social privilege and people with Law/Arts degrees from sandstone universities (such as Pryor’s degree from USyd), but that would be pointless. Pryor already has enough fans and has actually done some good work, so she doesn’t need my bile. (Plus I doubt this is her blog. lol!) The only thing I will say is that I think she is from my generation — ie the equivalent of the ‘live-at-home’ generation — and not that of my parents, which is interesting.

She makes one good point. If the stay-at-home generation were kicked out of home, then things certainly would change, but at what cost? …revolution! Bring it on!

The two things she misses in her piece relate to the structural position of youth and students in a neoliberal economy and the ways the post-war economic boom in Australia (and probably other countries) is impacting on familial units.

‘Youth’ and ‘student’ are two structural positions that have emerged as employment categories in the casualised workforce/labour pool and workplace. The category of ‘student’ has been around for a long time. ‘Youth’ emerged as children and not-yet-adults were reinserted into the labour pool after the category of ‘child’ was constructed in an attempt to save them from forced labour conditions of industrial England and other places. The notion of having a flexible or excess labour pool to meet the demands of business has also been around for a long time (Marx talks about it). The problem emerges when the category of ‘youth’ or ‘student’ is used to describe jobs where there is no such categorical essence. I remember jobs like the one I had at the service station were described as ‘uni student’ or ‘youth’ jobs. Sure that applied to me, but not to my 100% working-class 40-something year old supervisor getting paid about $2-an-hour more than I was.

Only someone who comes from a world of privilege would believe that living in a situation in which present and future insecurity conditions every move you make is something equivalent to a lifestyle choice:

Is it any coincidence, for example, that it is the live-at-home generation who are so convinced that working on short-term contracts is, like, totally empowered? It’s not casual work, it’s “portfolio work”, they say.
After all, if you go without work for a few weeks, you just stop going out and invite your friends over to the family home instead. You watch the family television, drink the family beer and eat from the family fridge. After all, everyone knows that food from the fridge is free.

Yeah, right. ‘Portfolio work’. Good one. What tiny percentage of inner-city dwellers could this possibly apply to? I find this so infuriating. In the suburbs, “casual work” means a permanent ‘casual’ job in the service industry. Those who would like to have full time employment to start all those adult things like buy a house and have a family are denied until they are given permanency. This is not the same thing as, for example, the revolutionary factory workers of 1970s Italy who demanded non-permanent working conditions to enable a freer ‘flexible’ lifestyle. The ‘flexibility’ here in Australia circa 21st century is being imposed from the top down. For example, my brother would love to have a permanent job, yet he was forced to reapply for the same job every six months consecutively for three years. In the end he gave up and has begun looking elsewhere. The family home gives such people a little security in the face of ‘flexible’ working conditions.

The second thing relates to the the family home as a basic unit for the distribution of the affluence accrued during the opportunities of the post-war period. The family unit as a key site for the reproduction of social privilege in class-based societies is an old idea. However what is new is the specific historical conjuncture of a number of factors, including Federal Governments who bring in insecure workplace flexibility as the norm and a booming housing market that excludes first time buyers, the ‘stay-at-home’ generation does not have the same opportunities to accrue wealth as the previous generation. We are seeing the slow redistribution of wealth along familial lines. Instead of the welfare state, we have the welfare home.

The real issue, if one can look beyond one’s privilege, are those poor sprogs who do not have a family who loves and cares for them or simply does not have a family that can support them in times of need. Pryor needs to look beyond the orbit of her bourgie-centric world to see what is going on around her. Staying at home is not a ‘lifestyle choice’ but is often a socially debilitating decision that is not easily made.

Of course, it would be nonsense to make the damning suggestion that Pryor‘s article is motivated by her role as “specialising in property reporting and urban affairs” for the SMH. By that I mean, perhaps without her even knowing, such an article plays into the hands of the Real Estate industry who, I suspect, would very much like there to be an excess of prospective new renters and home owners to keep the inflated housing market bouyant…

I drink a lot of coffee

Specters of Espresso: Seeking Derrida’s ghost(s) in a bag of fair trade coffee by Jesse Oak Taylor-Ide. A consumer-centric reading of Cafe Fair‘s coffee bags:

With [the image of two hands, one brown, one white, grasped in solidarity], the bag attempts to define itself against the exploitive history of imperialism. In an Althusserian sense, it interpolates me as an inheritor of imperialism, utilizing my knowledge of that inheritance (and my discomfort with it) specifically so that I will be attracted to it as a means of appeasing my troubled conscience through replacing exploitation with solidarity. And yet in deploying this image the bag situates itself directly within the imperial (plus or minus “post”) narrative. I, the coffee-drinking white man, have a choice. My coffee-dependency can be filled elsewhere. The bag tells me that the farmers, songbirds, and general ecosystem in Latin American and the Caribbean, however, are dependent on my decision to buy this coffee. The power to “make a difference” is in my hands, rather than the assemblages of colored dots on the bag.

Taylor-Ide’s piece is consumed by the mystified thingyness of the commodity. This is clear in the footnote 12 where he argues the difference between “fair trade” and “free trade” is “in terms of essence rather than degree.” There is another way to experience the coffee bag, one which does not demand that the bag be ‘read’ as if the consumer was an associate professor. The bag’s chief task is to modulate the affective terrain that bestows the ‘coffee’ assemblage with a consistency:

  1. One axis is coffee drinker/coffee maker/coffee importer/coffee grower. This is a limited continuum involving technologies of circulation and distribution. Everything is targeted. The right growers in the right agri-political climate. The right importer giving the right price for the right coffee. The right maker using the right coffee beans to make the right coffee in the right way. Lastly, the right coffee drinker who exists in the right market and frequents the right coffee shop.
  2. Another axis involves the signs and discursive regimes which circulate around coffee. Any coffee, not free/fair/fucked trade coffee. Discourse of the morning coffee/caffeinated buzz. Discourse of the ‘time out’ coffee break. Discourse of the ‘sleepless night’ irresponsible coffee drinking. So on and so forth.
  3. The affective complex that ties all this together is pervasive. It is partly physiological — the coffee dependency — an of-the-body-ness that gives the temporality of coffee consumption (like any addiction) an embodied aspect: cravings/relief/caffeination. 

However, drinking coffee exists within a  number of cultural narratives that have affective and cultural dimensions to their scripts:

  • The ‘coffee break’ literally breaks up the rhythm of the day. It is a deployment of a contemporary ritual that buys some time back from the wage labour contract. It is something to do, rather than something that needs to be done.
  • ‘Doing coffee’ is a leisure-time activity where (the friendly) atmosphere (of the favourite cafe) mediates relatively intimate (trans-table) discussion.
  • ‘Have a coffee, sometime’ is to open the future to the excitement of romantic possibilities.
  • ‘Get a coffee’ the coffee assemblage is so pervasive that like the warm glow of the fast food signage it reassures us of the familiar on level from which perception is formed.

The coffee bag has sign of solidarity, signs of anti-corporation, signs of ‘organic’. The body feels these signs before it reads them. It is an ideological interpellation only after the affective induction. The bag is an inducer that modulates the affective terrain of the coffee assemblage.

One paradox of drinking coffee is the feeling that you are moving faster, the world is moving faster, etc This is normally what is refered to the caffeination ‘buzz’. The general idea is that coffee speeds you up. The only problem with this is a logical inconsistency, because if coffee actually sped you up, then it would actually slow the world down, not make it feel faster!!

Blogs vs Coke Astroturf Campaign

From Mel caught wind of this:

The Age article was probably the last straw. Very soon, thezeromovement.com as a Coke frontgroup was dead. Coke attempted to ‘out’ themselves, but the internet community had beaten them to the punch.

Above from Tim Longhurst. Sourcewatch called the ‘zero movement’ an ‘astroturf campaign’:

 

The Zero Movement is an astroturf campaign by Coca Cola to sell a new sugar-free drink called “coca cola zero” in Australia. The campaign has involved viral marketing strategies, including buying billboards and the backs of magazines for ads apparently by “The Zero Movement”, as well as putting up posters in public places [1]. There is also a website which includes a manifesto. 

Gary was concerned that blogs would not have the same political impact in Australia as they have had in the US. I agree with Gary on a lot of things, but it was only a matter of time before there was an example of the blogosphere working in relation to the ‘old media’ media institutions to have a political effect. I think the response to the ‘zero movement’ is an example of this happening as the negative attention from the internet community has seemingly contributed to Coke’s action to change the zeromovement.com site.

From the Age article:

Mr Honeywill says Coke’s “zero movement” targets the tech-savvy, brand-conscious and motivated generation Ys, or “neos” – those 4.5 million Australians born between 1978 and 1994 who make up 24 per cent of the population and have more than half the discretionary spending power. […]
“But these brands find it very hard to reach and motivate neos through traditional media, because they’re not influenced by traditional media. Ninety-eight per cent of them are online, for example.”[…]
But creating a movement or brand that will hook a well-informed and critical market is no easy task. Already this type of “below the line” marketing has its critics, who – not surprisingly – voice their distaste on blogs. […] According to the blogger’s musings on invisiblegovernment.net: “(It’s) pretending to be something it’s not, pretending to be ‘street’ and non-commercial when it’s just, like everything else, trying to sell us another f***king product.” […]
“These neos are vicious if they are conned,” Mr Honeywill says. “If they find out they have been conned, they have better networks in spreading the word than anybody else on the planet, so there is a danger with not being authentic with them.” 

Fuck. I burst out laughing when I read that. Vicious. Conned. Networks. I think the only people who have been conned are the people in charge of logitistical distribution of Coke’s image when they listened to the ‘creative’ who had the half-arsed idea to try to emulate the ‘street’ buzz.

I still need to write that rejoinder to that ‘Cool’ book, but here is a tip for the Coke-man. Thinking about it in terms of ‘authenticity’ is the wrong way to do it. The concept of ‘authenticity’ implies that there is something real and something fake and perhaps a continuum of real/fake between them, and that to be authentic means to be more on the ‘real’ end of the spectrum than the ‘fake’ end. Firstly, it is odd that we have a spokesperson from a company whose tagline is (or was) ‘the real thing’ telling us it is ‘about’ authenticity… Second, Coke-man, never use the word authenticity again. Not because you work for a ‘bad’ company and you are, in fact, evil, but because most people have figured out when a company starts talking about ‘authenticity’ they are referring to a model of reality that the company is in fact attempting to create through advertising and so on.

Enter the recent advertising campaigns for Coke that told us what it ‘really’ was to be a rock fan (see Mel’s blog post about the rock campaign here) or what summer ‘really’ is about. In the cases of the ‘summer’ and ‘rock’ campaigns the marketers working for Coke did a really good job of deciphering the cultural model of what it was to be a rock fan or what it was to experience summer in Australia (if you are anglo, young, good looking and don’t have to work).

These cultural models have to develop and grow over time. ‘Time’ being human frames of reference that take years, if not generations, to develop, not ‘time’ being the hegemonic time of global capital. What drugs were the people at Coke on to authorise the zeromovement campaign? Seriously! It is such a half-arsed attempt. Why do they not do something that captures a kernel of truth in their ‘authenticity’ rather than attempt to fabricate some idiotic shit… that even has a manifesto!!! A manifesto is written by someone with passion and the clarity of purpose, not something created in the cocaine addled brain of a Melbourne creative.

OK, enough time on this stupid shit. Back to PhD and my overdue draft chapter.

EDIT: Forgot to mention my suggestion to Coke for their next campaign. From the comments to Mel’s post:

i wonder if coke ever thought that they should spend some of their massive fuckin profits on something good for the world. no one has to drink coke, there is no rule about it. I normally drink water, but i would actually buy a coke every now and then if I knew some percentage of the profits was actually going to help people, maybe pay off some global debt to rectify the catastrophic post-war attempt to ‘develop’ ‘developing’ nations. Think of the equation this way: 

How many people are driven away from mutltinational companies and their products because of stupid shit like this campaign (ie lost customers) + How much money developing this flavour of coke and ad campaign cost (ie lost money) = is this combine cost greater than the percentage of profits required before the majority of people believe that coke is doing something ‘good’ in the world. anyone got any figures on Coke’s annual revenue and profits and how much this campaign cost globally?

Anyway.

Call it “Coke Lefty”

The catchphrase is “It’s already red.”

I am totally serious! Maybe not about the name and catchphrase, but about the concept. Don’t invent a new Coke, just have the old Coke in two bottles. One where, say, 20% of the profit goes to rectify world debt. The other bottle where all the money goes to Coke. If the people at Coke really are capitalists, rather than imperialists, then it should be about maximising profits. So it wouldn’t take them long to figure out two things:
1) They primarily need consumers in the world. The more consumers in the world the more Coke they sell. People can only drink so much Coke. The more people with enough money to buy Coke, the greater the possibility that there will be greater number of limited-Coke drinking, but still Coke drinking, consumers. Ford discovered this in the early 20th century, hence the $5 day. The New Deal attempted to work this out on a large scale.
2) How many people do they think would choose the other Coke, or any other drink for that matter, over one that actually redistributes wealth in the world, instead of tapping into some idiotic imaginary bullshit like this zeromovement campaign.

Do London

Myke Bartlett‘s How to Disappear Completely: The Terrible Business and Salmon and Dusk is available as a podcast.

I know Myke from Perth. Oddly I knew his younger brother first as he went out with a friend of an ex-g/f of mine, then I knew him because he was friends from uni with another ex-g/f of mine. Crazy. Check out his book, it can be downloaded and played on your mp3 player. He has a mild British accent that makes listening lovely and he lives in Melbourne having just finished a post-grad dip-ed (I believe?). Plus he is devilishly handsome and all that jazz… 😉

The spoken-word text is real prose, not the wannabe-movie-script of the star-struck deluded. There are passages where Myke seems to write purely in quotes from a text that not yet exists, but is brought into being as you listen. This includes some astonishing turns of phrase that I think would force you to re-read lines if it was text-based. Have you ever found that? Like when reading, you come across a line that is so remarkable that you have to quickly read it again as if the delight might be frightened from the page or as if it was the text-based reincarnation of a multi-striped hard-boiled lollie that changed its taste mid-lick across your tongue. Myke’s prose is something like that, and I think you can tell he has fun playing with descriptions, perhaps it is the joy you can hear? Anyway, it begs to be listened to again (even when listening to it ‘again’).

Hmm, also, for all the scholars doing tech-based research this might be an interesting case of old (‘writing’) and new (blogs, podcasts, etc) coming together.

Reviews

Collin Brooke has some comments on Latour’s latest book on his blog. I like ANT, my supervisors are ANT-heads, but I use it to get to Event-Network Theory (from “A Sociology of Attachment” in Actor-Network Theory and After).

Also, I received a copy of Culture and Technology: A Primer by Jennifer Daryl Slack and J. Macgregor Wise for which I shall write a review for the RCCS. My interest is that it is an introductory text written by two scholars who could be described as ‘Deleuzian’. So far (30 or so pages read last night) it looks very introductory, but the actual introduction included some interesting premises. I shall post a draft review up here if anyone cares to comment.

As a sidenote, when I was an undergrad the core texts were always referred to by their authors or editors. This text would be known as the ‘Slack and Wise’. Brilliant…