Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Story of Stuff... American culture at its worst

The latest viral video is "The Story of Stuff" (a fellow teacher e-mailed it to me a few days and now it's turning up everywhere). Well worth watching. (I love the white background + simple drawings, which remind me of the terribly clever videos of The Common Craft Show...)

Throughout the 20-minute film, activist Annie Leonard, the film’s narrator and an expert on the materials economy, examines the social, environmental and global costs of extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal. Her illustration of a culture driven by stuff allows her to isolate the moment in history where she says the trend of consumption mania began. The “Story of Stuff” examines how economic policies of the post-World War II era ushered in notions of consumerism — and how those notions are still driving much of the U.S. and global economies today.
-- taken from the press release


Yes, it's political -- and very American, e.g., in its definition (and images) of government, but the message is still worth spreading. Especially as we approach the great consumer holiday of Christmas.

When Annie Leonard laments American culture as one that glorifies shopping and accepts planned obsolescence, I couldn't help but think of how it echoes some of the American "codes" described by Clotaire Rapaille in his book The Culture Code (2006):
  • American code for shopping = RECONNECTING WITH LIFE (going out to play)
  • American code for quality = IT WORKS (service is more important to Americans than great quality -- because "it works")
  • American code for perfection = DEATH

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