Is culture a commodity? Not exclusively and it shouldn’t be. Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa all have important historical and cultural origins which we can draw from as we construct the narrative of our own lives. But instead there are other stories that are told for us, and we’re buying them up. Apple versus Android, PlayStation versus Xbox; in too many cases people are incorporating products that lack any real substance into their self-concept. It is important to remember that there’s more to life than material things.

Take clothing for instance, it’s true that fashion is a form of self-expression and there are definite personality differences between a person who makes an effort to be fashionable and one who doesn’t. Fashion is not the clothes one buys though, but the aesthetic principles that underlie the choices an individual makes. Which is to say that basketball shorts are as much a fashion choice as dress pants and that they should be differentiated by the reasons for choosing and not the status conveyed by their cost.

Another notable example of this trend is in electronics. The only differences between the old iPhone and the new one are the name and the price tag, aside from that they are functionally identical. But people line up to spend hundreds of dollars, for what? If only difference is the name then that can be the only reason—it’s a status symbol. In this case as in the case of clothing possessions are acting as a replacement for personality or else they’re making no notable addition to an already developed personality, but in both cases the cost far exceeds any benefit.

People are not their clothes, their phone or their car; they are the choices they make. As actors we have a responsibility for our actions and it is necessary to examine and understand them. In the end, it is a suicide of character to give up control of your own narrative to corporations into whose interest you do not figure, which is all of them. No matter how convenient it is to conform to ready-made stories, it is far better to live deliberately and maybe with a little less stuff and a little more self.

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