Possession is nine tenths of the law.

Andy Clark’s photo at the Battle of Seattle of 1999 pictures local police protecting the city’s Nike store.

Are those that own more more entitled to have their voice heard? Ireland has become a place of mass materialism, having more than we used to; more radio stations, more rooms in our houses, more holidays. In the next few weeks, Dublin will have its own Nike store and an Apple store cannot be far behind as we become more ‘discerning consumers’ or a more ‘developed marketplace’. What does the accumulation of material possession do for people? Where does our desire lie? I recently read a posting on the launch of the ‘this is not a plastic bag‘ bag here in the Republic. No doubt there’ll be lines around the corner of Brown Thomas’ stores for an object that unambiguously tells others that you don’t use a plastic bag while at the same time sends out a signal that you are a corporation’s property. All this after a levy was introduced to curb plastic bag use over 5 years ago. Slavish? Me?

Above all of this though are some other quotes that I picked up in the lead in to the launch of Apple’s new iPhone. Like the hype that surrounded the publication of the last Harry Potter book, e.g. ‘leak’ of the book, security in the German publishers, the iPhone had plenty of advance publicity too. What was evident from some of it though was the symbolism of the new product and its encapsulation of desire among some punters:

The toy shop might have been a disappointment all those years ago, but now you’ve got your own credit card and you’re at the top of your own gift list. And if you really, really want it, you can have it.

That’s from a Henley Management twonk, and then this from New York Magazine about six weeks ago:

With the rise of the Web, the computer revolution was, for the first time, becoming genuinely personal. No longer were people using their machines just for serious stuff—documents, spreadsheets. They were using them for purposes that were purely recreational…And once the PC entered the realm of fun, it became a province of fashion.

So now the computer is a fashion item, we want the most fashionable. I am writing this on Apple’s iMac and the irony is not lost on me but to continue, Steve Jobs is great at doing this:

Every product he crafts he regards as a sacred object, the primary aspiration of which is to incite naked lust.

That Jobs is about to do it again—to unleash another object of overwhelming, consciousness-drenching, culture-shifting desire. That Apple’s past is merely preface to a period of increasing and metastasizing dominance.

The mistake this author makes though is that desire is satisfied by a product that we can believe is made by angels in heaven itself. Is it any wonder then that people follow the progress of new models through their life cycle? It is not what you have now, at present that makes you happy, it’s the one that is about to appear on the marketplace. This is the pursuit of the unobtainable, a kind of commodity Tower of Babel where ‘perfection’ is attained in objects outside of ourselves and not within. In a new ‘secular’, post-Catholic Ireland is our happiness within or without?

The more you possess, the more right you have to shout about the diminution of your rights. Each citizen in this state has one vote; unfortunately that vote counts for more in another arena: the symbolic. Those with bigger cars and bigger houses have ‘more’ rights because they have accumulated more symbolism. It is not about who you are but what you possess. And the more you possess, the more of a person you are. We can then disregard those who have nothing as non-persons.

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