Monday, July 7, 2008

Fashion, Trends And Their Mixed Blessings

There are economic reasons for fashion. If You can persuade ten million people to wear an outfit, read a book or buy a CD at the same time, the per unit cost of manufacture goes down. It is easier to advertise, and transport whatever you want people to buy. Promoting shifts in tastes keeps people working. It also provides the consuming masses with changes of pace. The only time fashion is a problem is when it promotes ideas, entertainment or clothing that cause harm. I actually read an article that advocated "starter marriages" where you get married for a few years with no intention of it being a lifetime commitment. ( trendoid article on "starter marriages)
Back in the 70's the big thing was "open marriage" in which the concept of fidelity ceased to exist. Adultery was judged to be a "victimless crime". Psychiatrists willing to lie to the highest bidder rendered their "professional" opinions that children are not hurt by divorce. I have heard from too many people how divorce in their home scarred them later in life. I have observed behavioral traits that are genetically transmitted in my own children. As the biological source of some of these traits, I am better genetically inclined to relate with empathy to my children than would be a step father. The books and body of literature that destabilise family life are a growth industry. Millions of books , movies and CDs are sold that promote such destructive ideas.
I don't like to be the first to get a new computer , buy new music or new videos. The guy with the new computer has to iron out all of the defects in design. He is paying a premium price to be a guinea pig.
A book is not like a head of lettuce. It will not spoil if it is left on the shelf too long. Some technical books might be a notable exception to this. A book on Windows 95 is an ancient relic. But a novel or language book has a much longer shelf life. I am in no hurry to have the latest book. If it does not become a classic, I saved myself some money.
Some women's clothes are actually injurious to their wearers. Orthopedic surgeons honed their ankle repair skills on thousands of serious injuries caused by platform shoes. Some skirts make running physically impossible Tight pants are detrimental to circulation. Ridiculous is in the eyes of the beholder, but there is not much argument about what is bad for the health.
Back in the seventies, there was a fad of smoking clove cigarettes. It turned out that they caused serious and permanent lung damage in a short period of time.
I am grateful for those who crave novelty in appliances and entertainment. Their toys of today will be my breathless discoveries in five years. I pride myself in a reckless indifference to fashion. It gives me practice in greeting new political ideas and faces with the skepticism they so richly deserve. New York is a great place for those those aesthetic sense is not dulled by an addiction to fashion. I have seen African and Middle Eastern Fabrics that have a long lineage overseas. I have bought fruits that had names I could not read or pronounce. I have gone into a Chinese record store and hummed a song I heard on Chinese cable TV. The couple who owned the store looked at me in wide eyed astonishment and found the song in about ninety seconds. Somewhere in China, I added to someone's royalty check.
We should certainly continue to use fashion to drive our economy. Even those like me who are aloof to the latest trends enjoy a trickle down benefit from those who are first to buy a book or appliance. The only harm is when the medically or socially injurious is given the imprimatur of popular fashion.
In the early part of this century opium addiction was a pressing public concern. At one point, a synthetic substitute was lauded as the wave of the future. Some people switched over, and were less than thrilled with the long term results of their change. What was the miracle opium substitute? It was heroin. In more recent years, the party drug ecsasty was also mistakenly believed to be harmless.
Popular culture deserves the same skeptical eye as pharmaceuticals. We should be skeptical of the ideas and trends that shape our lives . As we used to say back in the seventies, "Take it slow".

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