Convenience is a noose

years ago my friend went to a fashion show, where a famous designer said this at a panel discussion:

what do we mean when we say “luxury” sunglasses? are they glasses that cost as much as a car? what about cheap, $2 glasses we can leave (lose) anywhere, without a care in the world? isn’t that true luxury?

now that we’re in month 18 of Kung Flu, with no end in sight, i want to revisit this riff on “luxury” through the lens of “convenience.”

what is convenience?

convenience is the ability to accomplish effortful things, effortlessly. instead of cooking, delivery. instead of driving to the movie theater, stream. instead of building deep relationships, swipe right.

convenience is a dream that technology makes come true. until it doesn’t.

convenience, the tyrant

the day is March 15, 2020. powerful governments orchestrate to strip the rights of their citizens. pending one’s location that Sunday afternoon, it was possible to be arrested for simply being outside.

in another time, say 15 years ago, none of this would be feasible. we’d die of starvation, boredom, homesickness, or lack of filled prescriptions long before a vaccine arrived to save us. but thanks to Convenience Infrastructure, we’ve built the means to oppress ourselves.

convenience vs ownership

to be clear, convience is derived from services, not products. a product that “saves you time in the kitchen,” for example, is a service with compatible hardware.

but nowadays it’s common to rent the product that provides the service. from cars to mp3s, most of us don’t own the means of production anymore. which means we’re 2 abstractions away from the thing we really want, and this is a vulnerable position.

pain and freedom

the amount of pain you’re willing to endure is often directly, inversely correlated to the amount of freedom bestowed upon you. a classic example is the Boston Tea Party.

yet it appears that even after 18 months, most of us would rather deplenish our freedom 1 basis point at a time than be yelled at by a mask nazi. why?

i want to put this worm in your brain. with any luck it will spread as quickly as the Delta variant. and when we’re all infected, we’ll have no choice but to stop worshipping at the feet of convenience.

becuase true luxury is glasses you can throw away. and true convenience is the ability to say no.