We see it on television, hear it on the radio, and read it all around us – high prices for so-called, ‘cooler’ products. Whether it’s the outrageously overpriced automotive industry that ‘drives’ (no pun intended) itself into the ground with greed, the construction industry banking on ‘prevailing wage’ jobs, or our everyday devices such as cell phones, all of these commodities come with a very high-priced component called: Status. This component is not like gold, silver or other rare earth metal insomuch as it does not have a physically quantitative value. Rather, status is the only, figuratively ‘physical’ element that you won’t find on the periodic table, and I say physical, because it’s almost as prevalent as silicon and infinitely more powerful than the most volatile particles in the universe. And, in its infinite power, status can turn the most powerful and wealthy into the poorest people on the planet.
So, what is it?
Status is that emotional drive in human beings that is a derivation of the primal instinct: Survival of the fittest. Status symbols provide people with a self-indulgent sense of power and control over others where they convince themselves that they are more important and powerful than everyone else. Note that I did not define status as an inclusive portion of the human need to ‘fit in,’ or be loved. While those do play a part in it, the fact that status can be used for a show of superiority between two individuals and increases delusional belief in one’s own power as the rate of popularity grows is more akin to megalomaniac style behavior.
Another reason for status not being a part of the human desire to be liked is because status does not cause other people to like other people. Status thrives on envy of an object. If anything, the popularity does not lie in the individual, but the commodity to which it is applied. Therefore, status is more equal to power than it is to any other role in the human psyche.
Unfortunately, status only works in a classed society. As long as there are poor and suffering, there can be rich and arrogant. This does not mean that all individuals of wealth are arrogant. Rather, those that partake in the status game are the subject of this discussion (and, although the majority of people do thrive on status, it is a behavior mimicked by the poor and middle class as well). The wealthier classes buy based on the quantity of status an object has regardless of price or physical characteristics. The price of commodities is driven upward by status-based purchasing. Products that should cost tens of dollars, cost hundreds; products that should cost thousands, cost tens of thousands; and up … and up … and so on.
A Ferrari is a highly coveted car for one reason and one reason only: status. A Ferrari has terrible gas mileage and is costly to drive. Ferrari’s require a lot of expensive, annual maintenance. For anyone larger than a smurf, Ferrari’s (many of them) can be very uncomfortable and difficult to drive. So, is it their really cool appearance that justifies a 6 figure price tag? Sadly, the answer is, no. The price tag of this poorly designed, poor-quality operational vehicle made of fragile materials is based on a hidden element that, no matter how much you disassemble it (even down to the nuts and bolts), you cannot see.
Status. The status of a Ferrari or any other high-priced vehicle is based on the concept of: Waste. Yes … waste. In other words, those who are wealthy enough to “throw away” their money … are the most popular. And, in owning these vehicles, the wealthy do have to throw away their money (or learn to drive their cars a whole lot less).
So, what’s the juxtaposition? Simple. It would be logical to think that those who are poor must resolve themselves to purchase low-quality, poorly constructed, and poorly functioning products. Yet, a vehicle with only a fraction of the price tag and 6 more years of operating time (aka used) may never see a repair shop in its owner’s lifetime (or at least, be far easier to maintain). Yes, if cared for and driven as infrequently as its expensive counterpart, the lower-end vehicle will last just as long.
S0 – does that mean that all products, of higher value, are garbage?
Well … for the most part … yes. Take the higher priced I-Phones. Their functionality and usage is only as good as the additional money dished into them above and beyond the startlingly high, original price tag. Yet, many of their counterparts in the Android market, 1) stay in use much longer, 2) are more durable, and 3) typically have more features at a lower cost. From televisions to computers, clothing to everyday products, the higher the price tag, the more fragile and seemingly poorly built the device.
But … the fancy products do look cooler (at least, when they’re not broken). And, they do get more attention. The Commercial Industry knows this. They do not build their products to function – they build them to impress. So, to the elite, the addition of ‘status’ in their cell phones, vehicles, homes, etc., is not only worth the extra cost – it’s the entire value of the product.
Is this a bad thing? Perhaps …. and perhaps, not. But, waste is waste. Is the ability to buy junk the definition of being wealthy? Is the ability to afford to be ripped off by overpriced services a sign that one is secure in their financial position? Does knowing this deter you any from wanting more in life … or just wanting more ‘things?’
The oddity is that, those who are wealthy and arrogant look down upon the poor, avoid associating with the lower class, and flaunt their “junk” status symbols like peacock feathers at mating time. But, knowing that their products were overpriced, constructed to break quickly so they have to spend more money more frequently, and that essentially, they’re living in a self-designed, false-reality, is not what one would expect.
It is foolish to spend money on a product that will break sooner, cost more to operate, and is priced to literally ‘steal’ from its purchaser by its intentional design to fail?
If the intended purpose of purchasing peacock feathers is to show off and attract attention, then perhaps, no. On the other hand, if those feathers are made up of Kopi Luwak, then perhaps it is time to reconsider one’s ultimate goal (whereby resorting to drinking feces as an indication of class is more like an indication of a mental illness). Peacocks show off their fancy feathers to find a mate – not because they want others to admire them.
Social media has proven human’s desire for popularity as a driving instinct equal to and/or possibly greater than the more real and valuable emotions of friendship and love. And, while it seems like the wealthy are destined to prove their superiority by living in a kingdom of junk, perhaps there is wisdom in the farmer who chooses to live in a sturdy, low-cost, small home. When the rain falls and temperature drops, the farmer can light a fire in his humble, yet functional, fireplace (that he won’t have to pay to rebuild any time soon).