Posts Tagged ‘conspicuous consumption’

Triangles

October 20, 2020

soundtrack

Cindy is sitting in a wooden chair, crying in Miss Glaciermelt’s office. She’s been using the blank looseleaf paper for her essay as a kleenex to dry her tears, so blue ink is smudged over the pink line.

Miss Glaciermelt: “Why are you having such a hard time with your term paper, Cindy? I’ve already given you a two-week extension.”

Cindy: “I know. But more time isn’t going to help me if I have zero inspiration. I don’t really understand what I am supposed to do with the two triangles I was assigned. What is there to say?”

Glaciermelt: “I asked you to compare two graphs or charts, one from the past, and one from the present. That’s it. The rest is up to you.”

Cindy: “I know that. But the two triangles are so different – I don’t know where to start. They’re both triangles, sure. But that isn’t much to compare.”

Glaciermelt: “I know they’re both triangles. But what’s different about them, besides that one is from the past and one is from now? And why is this difference important? What does it tell us about the past? About the present?”

Cindy: “Can you give me a hint. Something that’s different – and importantly different – about them? One single thing. Please.”

Glaciermelt: “Well, I can’t force-feed a student the content of her essay. But we could look at the two triangle charts together if you like, and I’ll give you some “clues” as you call them. But you have to take notes or I’m not doing this.”

Cindy: “Okay. I’ll take notes.

*she takes out a pen and binder*

Here’s the first triangle from my Social Health class. I got it from Mr. Freezin. He said I could use it for this class as well.”

Glaciermelt: “The Iceflowe Needs Ladder. Hmmm…

The hierarchical order of polar bear needs. At the bottom, you have basic biological needs like seal meat, water, and a place to hibernate. Once she gets those first-level things satisfied – but not before! – a polar bear can then seek safety needs. Now that she’s at Level 2, she doesn’t have to risk her life on thin ice to get food since she’s not starving.

And you just keep climbing the needs ladder all your life, step by step, until at the top, a senior polar bear can become completely content with their lives overall and the relationships and responsibilities they have had with their communities.”

Cindy: “Oh, Mr. Freezin explained the Iceflowe triangle to me pretty well last week when I saw him in his office. It’s the other one – the archival triangle – the human triangle – that I don’t really understand.

Like, what’s a Buick? Why is it better than a Chevrolet? And how do they make you feel fulfilled? I don’t understand the psychology.”

Glaciermelt: “The human triangle is from what humans used to call a car company advertisement. You can google that later.

This ad told humans – it was a lie – that they could have the same satisfaction by climbing a ladder of car-brand prestige. Their message was that, even if you have no community or even no friends, you could still climb to the top if you had enough money for a Cadillac. Cadillac was the car company’s replacement for self-fulfillment on the other triangle.”

Cindy: “Did the car company triangle work?”

Glaciermelt: “It’s not really a question of working or not. The problem with a normal needs ladder like ours is that the top three notches require some kind of community to satisfy them. You can’t feel “belonging” when you are always alone, and you can’t receive esteem or feel fulfilled if you don’t have a functionning community of your species to interact with.”

*Cindy quickly scribbles this down*

Cindy: “Yes, but did the Cadillac top-tier satisfy humans the same as the Self-Fulfillment top-tier of our polar bear triangle?”

Glaciermelt: “To know that, you ‘d have to ask a human. But they went extinct… so we have to rely on our research.

Their disappearance might steer you towards the conclusion you’re looking for. I mean, if their car company triangle worked, humans would probably still be alive to promote it some more. I suggest you look into the disappearance of human communities and social capital which was taking place at exactly the same time that this triangle was popular. Teacher’s two cents worth.”

Cindy hugs Miss Glaciermelt, and then leaves her office with a smile on her face. She’s really starting to feel like she belongs in Glaciermelt’s Post-Human Extinction class – and is thrilled to have reached Level 3 on the normal needs ladder.

click for polar bears


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