The Coles and Woolies Campaign is Bullshit; Let Me Count The Ways

So this is some bullshit right here.

As much as I know we all want this kind of thing to be good it’s really the complete opposite of that. I’ll give you a few reasons, and there’s more I won’t go into now, but the essence is that this is “better than regular capitalism” – which is just a flat-out ideological smokescreen. Remember the McDonald’s video? Similar thing is happening here – the problems posed by capitalism are provisionally addressed by some kind of appeal to capitalism with a human face, or capitalism with a smile. While in the McDonald’s video it was the gesture to transparency that ends up hiding the hideous manipulation in plain sight, here it’s an “offset” ideology. Offset the worst, while using the same (sales; marketing; etc) techniques as everyone else.

Capitalism is still going to ruin the planet, but since we’re inevitably stuck on this path of utter ruin how about we put some smiles on some faces at the same time? That’s their (unstated) position and argument as to why you should ditch “regular” capitalism and instead “do some good” while expressing your consumer capitalist purchasing power. Do I need to add how problematic it is basing one’s capacity to do good on the excess purchasing power of middle class, aspirational young people? Why do you think there’s no one over 30 in this video – why are they all the exact same people who gravitate towards prestigious NGOs?

I’m tempted to see this as yet another extension of what Graeber acknowledges about the way the middle-class Left monopolises any kinds of altrusitic work outside of the church or the military. The way that it keeps these people out is primarily via wealth – if you can’t afford to intern, you’re shit out of luck – and via culture. Look at the homogenous pricks in this video. Do you think a single one of them has ever had a unique thought in their short lives?

As an example of the monopolisation of this kind of work, my mum was a solicitor for 25yrs, has two masters degrees in development studies and international relations and STILL can’t get work at an NGO or similar because she doesn’t fit the cultural/ideological profile of the kind of person they want to hire in order to uncritically keep doing what they’re doing. It’s the blind leading the blind, honestly.

The other thing that’s worth pointing out is the way that the video is totally rife with bullshit semio-capitalist assumptions about work and labour and activism: “If you’re a little bit creative like me” UGH, NO YOU ARE LITERALLY THE LEAST CREATIVE THINKER OF YOUR WHOLE WRETCHED GENERATION. Is this what activism consists of now? Entreating impressionable, aspirational young people into doing little dances and flooding the Facebook pages of our national supermarket duopoly to pressure them into accepting their demands?

Oh, and you know how Woolies and Coles decide what products they stock on shelves? They charge a large shelf-space fee. Remembering that no one, least of all a corporation like ThankYou Water, can be entirely altruistic under capitalism (or else they’d starve/go out of business/etc) do you really think ThankYou Water is trying to do this only out of the goodness and kindness of their hearts? Market share is fucking lucrative, and whether they intend it or not that is a powerful and politically fraught move. They only get away with it because of the ideology of “doing good”.

But lets say they *are* doing it purely out of the kindness of their sweet-little hearts – what kind of market advantage do you think they’ll get by not having to pay the Woolies/Coles shelfspace fee? That’s going to fuck with other business owners business and their ability to operate?

Are you getting the unspoken message yet: BOOOO look at all those selfish yucky business owners who are doing NOTHING for the world except making money for themselves *tisk tisk tisk*. This is some next level shit.

This kind of thing is so insidious. Just looking over the above, it takes fucking pages and pages of explanation to unpack why all this bullshit is so fucking odious, and even my attempt at an explanation will probably fail to convince most people, who will get so hung up on “doing GOOD” and the POSITIVITY of the message. And at the end of the day everyone working at ThankYou Water will still go home and feel good about what they’re doing, safe in the knowledge that they, and only they, are the TRUE spirit of capitalist generosity.

Edit: Cameron Kunzelman reminds me of this Zizek video which, honestly, is probably the precise place I started to think about these ideas.