The newest face at the top of the body that leaped and slalomed and looped and landed at the feet of the judges -- that face smiles and cries. We are sitting inside the camera, we millions, inches from this newest face. Next to the face at the top of the body that flew -- is a corporate logo. (The brand is in the frame, on a head-band, a ski, the edge of a turtle-neck.)
The newest face has a biographical story that we've heard all week. Michael Phelps is worth $50 million now, and this fact is in the first paragraph of the story of the newest potential gold medalist. Sponsorship grosses are in the biography of any newest face. The newest face got up before dawn at the age of seven, training for this moment. The newest face is smiling and then crying and then flying to the Today Show and then to Disneyland and on into a vortex of corporate imagery.
Meanwhile, on another screen or channel, the media is full of pronouncements about the brokenness of public life. Great institutions are constricted in fear; corporations control the nation-states, which act like adolescents; we are committed to fossil fuels and permanent war. Public discussion has become a pollution of righteous blame. As a group of living things, as a species, we are at a crossroads the earth is forcing on us.
Consumerism escapes blame. It manages the blame. It is Consumerism's job to normalize itself, and this is present in every newest face and every latest ad. Consumerism can't let us back away from the newest face and see the whole picture, the dying mountain upon which we stand. No, Consumerism is like a cancerous growth that doesn't care that when the whole body dies, it dies too.
So, we don't notice that Consumerism is not thought of as a separate system with its own laws. We can't step back and make a decision about it. We still believe that the newest face picked that logo on that ski -- out of emotional innocence. Maybe we still believe that it doesn't matter anyway, that the moment of highest international achievement can be pre-sold; Consumerism normalized again.
We don't notice that as consumers our lives become less and less interesting. We don't notice that the champions are becoming consumers, too. The newest faces are less and less interesting to us, because they were over-achieving since childhood and, missing the variety of experience, they lack a full personality now. We notice the smiles and cries of the newest face next to the logo, but we don't notice that all we hear is the word "Awesome!"
Maybe we will finally notice on that fateful day when the newest face IS the logo. The two become one. Maybe we will finally notice when they figure out how to make the logo get up to train before dawn, and give it a media-friendly personality with a gold medal body. We will finally notice when the logo gasps and smiles and cries in public and there is no human being in the picture. Maybe we will finally notice. Maybe.
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