"You don't necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers when children are hungry in this country."
In May of this year, candidate for the 2016 Democratic Party presidential nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont gave another in a long line of television interviews.
He made the above statement.
A sympathetic interviewer got old Bernie going, revving him up in that staccato patois, that half stutter for which Sanders is famous.
Each word in his answer almost received its own place of prominence as a stand-alone sentence. You. Don’t. Necessarily.
His speech patterns harken back to a time of low grade microphone amplification, when oratory took place in halls where one. had. to. over. emphasize. each precious word in order to be fully understood.
There’s a hypnotizing quality to the way Sanders speaks. The everyman concerns, the salutation of almost each Bernie syllogism adding up to in. this. country.
Even his gesticulation is creepy.
I couldn’t imagine anyone saying much more of anything in utter and complete opposition to my own way of thinking.
Around the time I read Sanders’ now oft-quoted line, hammering consumerism, I ventured with my wife and kiddos to Vons.
Vons is a supermarket, and a chain sprouted up a few years ago when I lived in one of the oldest neighborhoods in San Diego, Mission Hills. It’s an affluent community sandwiched between downtown San Diego proper and Hillcrest, a gentrified gay enclave.
The relatively new Vons campus on Washington Street boasts three storeys, including underground parking. The amenities are new, and grocery science is on full display. Hordes of goods, a universe of material wealth there to tend or solve nearly any of life’s problems. Shit, there’s even gourmet lollipops.
We were at Vons on Washington as a stop in our quest to the bay, settling for a leisurely day of picnicking and lounging in a way San Diego is well known. Vons has a deli. We were set on deli subs, and made our way to that section.
The deli boasted of not just the usual fare, but lavished us with an olive and mushroom bar, sushi chefs at the ready, butchers to slice meats of all varieties, and, of course, our deli sandwich dude. It’s probably pretty standard to just assume all this. We’re first worlders, we expect as much. But I couldn’t help appreciate the complexity in front of us.
Thousands of people, maybe more, folks I’ll never meet or get to know personally, worked very hard to make sure those products, goods, services were available to me the moment I stepped inside.
They had no idea when I’d be by, if I’d ever make my way inside. No Czars, no commissioners, no laws, no hectoring, no bellicosity to force me their direction.
How could they’ve known?
The packaging alone was breathtaking. Every conceivable way to display items, giving more information to me than I could ever process. Just across from the sushi deli, a kiosk of Coca Cola boasted a large screen monitor, rolling the history of that great international company. Not only was I witnessing organic complexity, I was also treated to a history lesson.
Prices gleamed. Here is where mathematical communication reaches one of its prime functions in profit and loss. Prices are communicative in nature, they’re signals between buyers and sellers. Two prices hung from most items, what amounted to retail and then, of course, the discounted version should a consumer agree to allow Vons to track purchasing habits.
Rows upon rows of variety. Twenty types of cheese. Dozens of categories of animal proteins, from peasant cuts to trendy fads such as wild and free range.
When people are left alone by the retarded moralists of the Sanders sort, they’re inclined to try and please one another.
It’s not just an olive. The olive has a genealogy. It has a country of origin, and its marinade is of extreme importance to those who care about such things. But you don’t have to care. Someone has already cared enough for you, taking the risk to present you their most vulnerable artistic side … in an attempt to tempt your interest in trading with them.
Cheese isn’t just milk fat. It’s not just curd. It has its own artisanal variety, its language, its cultural expression.
Meats aren’t only for kings and the very rich. Productivity has so vastly outstripped demand that a gourmet meal is available to someone like me, someone not at all wealthy, most nights of the week if I so desire.
Sanders’ dismissal of deodorant and shoes fails to notice what varieties of shoes and deodorant signal. The infinite choices in how one smells and the kicks she walks around in are expressions of the individual. Companies are completely redefining both areas, and by the time Sanders made his inane, childish comments, the numerical throw-away line was already tripled at least.
His is a false choice between feeding supposed hungry American children, notoriously obese, categorically overfed as acknowledged by all serious people, and the variety of consumer goods in a relatively free economy.
It’s not a choice between a beautiful pair of shoes and stuffing a Dickensian street urchin. Typically, freer people generate many times in excess of their standard material needs, producing a healthy disposable income. Not only do they opt to freely donate a sizable chunk of that income to needy mouths, ever decreasing, but the very act of buying deodorant and sneakers prevents starvation.
The multiplicity of variety in sneakers and cosmetics can be directly translated into employment, and free employment is the only sure-fire way to lift someone out of chronic poverty. For every brand and sneaker design out there, that’s a different set of artists, manufacturers, retail stores. For every scent of deodorant in circulation, someone can feed their kid without resorting to a Sanders-like character to save them.
Fuck Bernie Sanders in the neck.
Free people don’t wait for handouts. Free people make their own way.
And I mean it.
Craig Edward Kelso is a felon, father, husband, controversialist. He lives in Southern California with his adorable family.
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