fetishizing unsullied potential
Wednesday, January 25 2006
The newish Andrew Leonard column in Salon called How The World Works is a consistently good read. Tonight I read about how the Chinese invented porcelain, how the technology was eventually stolen by the Europeans, but that now China is once again its biggest exporter, cranking out cheap imitations of European designs that themselves derive from cheap imitations of Chinese designs.
Less interesting but more satisfying was a recent column about how the American auto industry dropped the ball with its shortsighted pandering to the great American SUV fetish.
I understand fetishes; they're easy for me to have and they're impossible to explain. Take a bucket of copper fittings or (better still) a small heap of brand new ball valves. There's something about the purity and potential of these things that makes me want to fondle them. Unlike some of my other fetishes, the one I have with plumbing parts is completely non-sexual. But I know it's a fetish because my interest greatly exceeds the value or the utility of the object involved. My interest is wrapped up almost entirely in potential; a piece of plumbing loses nearly all of its fetishistic appeal the moment it has been incorporated into something.
I remember as a kid back in third grade how I went through a brief period of fetishizing blank paper, storing up huge amounts only to throw a fit the day a teacher's aid "borrowed" a sheet without asking. Blank paper is, after all, nothing but potential, and at the time my naïve little pre-heartbroken-mind suffered cognitive dissonance at the idea that an adult could so flagrantly rob me of my potential.
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