Monday, April 21, 2014

Seduction Capital: Why Humans are not Iphones


I watched a TED talk not too long ago. Like most lectures on the site it was dynamic and thought provoking. The topic? Love. 


In the talk, French philosopher Yann Dall'Aglio elaborated on how the nature of romantic partnerships in Western Society have evolved from relationships based on fulfilling gender and societal roles. Before modernity, men were bread winners who deferred to their elders and social betters. Women were caretakers who submitted to the men in their lives. Now, with roles and positions no longer clearly defined according to gender we base our romantic choices on personal preferences and on something else. Dall'Aglio defines this something else as 'seduction capital'.

Indeed,” He says in his rich native language. “our consumer society is largely based on seduction capital. It is said about this consumption that our age is materialistic. But it's not true! We only accumulate objects in order to communicate with other minds. We do it to make them love us, to seduce them. Nothing could be less materialistic, or more sentimental, than a teenager buying brand new jeans and tearing them at the knees, because he wants to please Jennifer. Consumerism is not materialism. It is rather what is swallowed up and sacrificed in the name of the god of love, or rather in the name of seduction capital.”

While consumerism may not be the same materialism, it seems that we are a generation of pure consumers and that we devour everything in our lives like materials, including the people around us.

We are such consumers that we treat people and relationships like products to be bought and adjusted according to our preferences. We buy each other not necessarily with cash or credit but with 'seduction capital', charisma and, inevitably, a large amount of false self-advertising. We market ourselves to others like a drink or a brand new car. Like in all advertising the product is never quite what is show in the commercial or poster. Nevertheless, we buy the illusion. Only to eventually discover a flaw with our latest purchase. The person doesn't fulfill every need as advertised, they don't match the ideal image in the commercial or come with all the features and benefits we thought they did. Eventually many people discard the person, like they would a latte that didn't quite have all the ingredients they wanted. And the cycle keeps going. It will keep going until we realize that people are not lattes, iphones or cars that can be perfectly tailored to all our individual whims.

I realize this is not how many people approach relationships. However, I do think it's very telling that so many in contemporary societies approach relationships in a way they would approach choosing an outfit or selecting a particular brand of coffee.

We live, people from the 1st world, in age where everything is tailored to personal preference, completely, succinctly. Is it any surprise that so many approach romance and partnership with the same expectation of total satisfaction in all fields? We expect a person, our partner, to have all the right apps, to keep us perpetually entertained and provided for. We always expect the best performance. Yet no one can deliver all the time.

It's a sad mentality to be caught up in. I've certainly 'bought' into it to an extent.

I think' like Dall' Aglio, we need more tenderness in our romantic relationships. We need to be willing to remember and be open with our frail humanness. We can't be perfect machines. So why pretend not to have so many weaknesses?

Realizing we are fallible, recognizing our faults and weaknesses doesn't mean that we can't improve ourselves. This also doesn't mean glossing over personal weaknesses and or problems. Actually, I believe being opening to our loved ones about our blemishes means committing ourselves more fully to self-improvement. People can learn. It's one of the best aspects of being human. In certain areas of our lives we can raise the bar. We can alter bad habits and develop good ones. But it takes time; a lot of time. In an age of instant gratification, that can sometimes seem impossible to remember. We can't download a program to make our operating systems run smoother.

However, we can't be an Iphone. We can't ever be it all or have it all. We're human and we shouldn't have to be anything else but that. 



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