Friday Report: Choices of a lifetime
September 18, 2014
Hey kids, believe it or not, there was a time when phones didn't take pictures or guide you to Applebee's. You couldn't use it to pay for hamburgers, check Facebook, text your BFF or scan your boarding pass. The only thing phones used to be good for was to call mom.
Now this sounds prehistoric but just three generations ago televisions had only one channel that shut off at midnight under the assumption that people slept. The only Angry Birds targeted your car. There was no Instagram and no tweeting that didn't come from trees. No photo-sharing, no email, no texts that didn't sit on shelves. Apps were appetizers, being gay was a happy frame of mind, and wars were paid for as they were fought. It was simpler back then when people cherished their sanity.
Today we are inundated with more variety than could have been conceived of in 1955. If choice is good, Americans should be delirious with 50 brands of toothpaste alone. It's not even enough just to pick one of those brands. Crest comes in 10 different types that include Fresh Mint, Smooth Mint and Clean Mint. How does one ever pick from that pack? Hey! It's just toothpaste from an industry that has apparently run out of words.
So you sort through 50 brands of toothpaste, triumphantly throwing the perfect one in the virtual shopping cart and wait impatiently for 15 minutes before the Amazon drone thumps it on your doorstep. But later that night, do you lie awake wondering if there's a better toothpaste out there? Maybe the brand you got was made in China and full of melamine! Three AM and you sit bolt upright, convinced that your toothpaste is killing you. It's time to switch. You fire up the laptop and the hunt begins anew.
There are clear lines drawn in generational sands when it comes to music, but nowadays the sheer volume of music available with a wink at your Google Glasses tempts one to bury their heads in that very same sand. How does one wade through all the artists today to pick out favorites? There are 15,000 stations across the AM/FM dial and apparently Pandora's Box was filled with nothing but internet radio stations.
It's hard to beat new cars when it comes to choices. A 2015 Chevrolet Suburban tops out over $80,000, if you wade through all the options including your choice of three different muffler tips. The new iphone 6 has lots of features including a button that casts a hologram of Steve Jobs telling you how to use it (not true). It even has a forward-facing alert that stops you from running into things while Skypeing on your bicycle (also untrue).
The average LoDo bar has about 75 craft beers on tap. Try each one and you can win a free night's lodging (true).
There're all these consumer choices in things that are only vaguely important. I mean, who chooses Clean Mint over Fresh Mint? We have a myriad (did you know that word means 10,000?) of choices in things that don't matter but when it comes to something as important as running America we only get to choose between two wealthy dolts with good hair?
I think the Supreme Court got it completely backwards in the 2010 5-4 Citizens United decision allowing unlimited corporate campaign financing. That decision ensures that the guy in office was either wealthy enough to buy it, or poor enough to be indebted forever to the corporate shareholders who paid for it.
Less than half of us will vote in the coming mid-term election. The rest will just have to live with what they deserve.
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