Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Commoditization of Everything

I had a coffee with the Bagel Toaster after work today. She mentioned in passing that if she won the Lottery she'd go into property development and I bit her head off stating that I thought was a rotten thing to do, which wasn't very kind. At the time I didn't know why I reacted so strongly, it was a gut feeling, but I've been having a think and I reckon it boils down to a "commoditization of everything", by which I mean all costly objects are being refined to appeal to an imaginary lowest common denominator. If you develop properties (not "houses", you note, nor God-forbid "homes") but property, you must not offend anyone, that would drive away potential sales and thus all these identikit houses are being tweaked to the highest levels of blandness possible. Everything is cream or magnolia. The bathroom is white, the fittings chrome. The carpet is mushroom and so on and so on. Houses so inoffensive, they completely suppress the individuality of the person who lives there. Or to put it another way, a commodity.

Look at car design. The same problem is endemic. Fiat may get a kicking in the press over the Multipla and its design and to an extent I agree, it's not a thing of beauty, but at least it looks different, it isn't a generiCar like 95% of the other cars on the road.

Under this Tyranny of the Dull a house simply becomes a machine to live in. Period. A car is a machine to move you from your house-machine to your work-machine or shop-machine. All human individuality or expression is expunged in order to maintain some notion of market-value. Surely a house is more than this? It is a fundamental part of being human. Our ability to construct complex dwellings of staggering variation is one aspect that sets us apart from the animals. It is a solid expression of who we are, what we're about, what and who we care about. It is a home. It is where we return to the womb, where we lick our wounds ready to take on the next day's travails. In short, magnolia don't cover it.

And that's why I don't like "property development".


Anonymous The Tall American said...

A friend of mine has a little house in Eastville, in Bristol. She's got an incredible sense of style and decor, which in the case of her home manifests in a look I like to call "Barbarella on crack". It's 60s-licious, and it's comfy and gorgeous and elegant and quirky and colourful and fun, and I love visiting. She's now getting ready to do up the bathroom, and the last time I was there we were talking about looks for it. What she really wants is a chocolate brown suite and some lovely textured wallpaper, and I think it could be fabulous. But she said she's worried that if she does anything weird with the fittings, it'll bring down the value of the house.

This would never have occurred to me, and it made me very sad to hear her say it. Is that what you mean?

1:39 pm  
Blogger Mr Atrocity said...

That's precisely what I mean. It upsets me more that there are people who strive to create blandness in pursuit of mammon.

11:24 pm  

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