Dark Hypocrisy, etc.

Dark Hypocrisy, etc.

Today's installation in 'finding the dark hypocrisy at the heart of Middle America' is on Starbucks.

It brought us exotic places and sounds, exposed us to an underground in the safety of a cushy seat: teaching us about places where our coffee came from, and new music and literary voices. It tried to be our cultural guide and helped us feel good about our environmental footprint through its green campaigns and aid to farmers, even if Starbucks did little and we did nothing but buy coffee. It did so consciously, purposefully manipulating our desires, hopes and aspirations, all the while making us feel good about ordering up a venti soy latte.

But, we also knew, on some level, that it was all a delusion we actively participated in. “Starbucks worked as a simulacrum,” Simon writes, “it stamped out the real essence of the original idea of the coffee house and, through proliferation and endless insistence, became itself the real thing for many bobo and creative types.” Even as we believed we were being individuals, demonstrating our sense of style, we were just following the javaman’s master plan.
Good lord, people.

Why do you have to believe that there is some 'dark hypocrisy' about this? Starbucks is selling you a product: coffee. It has many competitors, so it tries to find a niche for itself. It offers what it claims is premium coffee, at a premium price. It offers you the chance to 'upgrade' your purchase by allowing you to buy 'fair trade' coffee. Some people want to do that, so they find themselves with a niche market, and they make a good living. Meanwhile, you buy the coffee (and, perhaps, the good feelings) you want.

What's the hypocrisy? Starbucks is making you a fair offer; you're free to accept or reject it.

I went into a Starbucks not long ago, while I was up in D.C. The fellow behind the bar was carefully projecting his gayness to everyone, and carefully taking their orders for very fancy and sophisticated styles of coffee, using the pseudo-Italian terms that the franchise prefers.

As soon as I stepped up, he looked at my cowboy hat and asked very pleasantly, "Small, medium or large?" I thought that was good service: pretense for those who want to buy pretense, strong black coffee for those who only wanted that.

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