Potlatch Culture (new glossary entry)

cookiesPotlatch Culture

A potlatch was a ceremonial feast among tribes of the Pacific Northwest who were so rich in resources that they demonstrated their wealth at big celebrations by wasting it, for example, by preparing mountains of fish and dumping them back in the ocean. I see alarming hints of this mentality in today’s consumer society as if our appetite for consumption is it’s own animal and cannot be satisfied simply by consuming what we desire, we must now waste.

I observed two examples of this recently. One, in an article in The Wall Street Journal:

What’s a Wedding Without 18,000 Cookies in 150 Varieties Made by 45 Helpers?
In pockets of the country, a reception is rated on the size and quality of its cookie table. ‘I wanted the biggest’

Unless there are 9,000 guests coming to this wedding, I don’t see how this is anything but a potlatch.

The second example I observed watching my husband’s new favorite channel, Velocity. There we watched a commercial for “figure-eight racing” – check it out (it’s actually better at 2x speed!):

I don’t know what exactly that is, but I can’t help but think our society is somehow too rich if we’re this bored!


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