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We can enjoy Super Bowl without Gospel of Consumption

  • Author: Kim Heacox
  • Updated: September 29, 2016
  • Published January 31, 2009

It's Super Bowl Sunday and I'm excited. Not so much for the game as for the clever, comical advertisements. And the halftime music. It's Bruce Springsteen this year, an all-American guy and working class hero. He'll no doubt sing something to make us feel good about ourselves, as we should. We've just shown the world how democracy works, with a remarkable transfer of power in Washington, so peaceful and hopeful.

Last year Tom Petty performed. The year before that it was Paul McCartney, a big deal for me.

I grew up with Paul, John, George and Ringo: the Beatles. Prior to Paul going on stage, an ad appeared that I remember clearly. It showed a big, shiny SUV bullying its way up a mountain as a serious voice intoned (and I paraphrase): "The new GMC four-by-four Yukon-Denali-Tahoe-Shenandoah-whatever. It isn't more than you need, it's more than you're used to."

Well there you go. If whatever you just bought seems too big, get used to it, then buy something even bigger and get used to that. Fill it with stuff. A truck, a home, a boat, a television, a Costco special quart-sized jar of mango salsa. According to the Gospel of Consumption, there's no such thing as more than you need. We need it all.

Sir Paul appeared. I had hoped he would begin with a solo act: just him and his acoustic guitar as he played "Blackbird." A brilliant song filled with simplicity and raven wisdom.

For all his talent and genius, Paul is no John Lennon. He's a pleaser, not a challenger. He's there to make us smile, not think.

So Paul stood on the Super bowl stage with his band and belted out "Baby you can drive my car," and took off from there, electric guitars wailing, his incomparable voice ringing over time and space as everybody went wild.

Yes, of course, I thought. "Drive My Car." Perfect.

"Beep, beep ... beep, beep ... yeah."

I watched the game at a friend's house, and drove home in my old dented, windshield-cracked 1990 Subaru with 125,000 miles on it. It still makes that funny sound down near the transmission that won't be so funny when it falls apart one day. I should have it looked at.

Nobody I know in my little coastal town owns a new car. You can only get here by boat or plane, and vehicles come by barge maybe once a month, if the skipper is up to it. Moss grows on bumpers; rust on door handles. Under every STOP sign somebody has written THE WAR. Everybody waves. If a passerby doesn't wave back, he's from out of town. Forgive him. If he doesn't wave the second time, invite him to dinner. If he doesn't wave a third time, run him off the road.

I make half as much money here as I used to in a big city, and I'm twice as happy.


The Gospel of Consumption, I burned it. I don't spend. I live where there's little or nothing to buy; where nobody locks a door and neighbors aren't strangers, they're dear friends who play music and make me laugh and will help me die one day, as I will help them. In our homes.

Norman Rockwell would have painted this place. Hemingway would have fished here. Steinbeck and Ricketts would have gone tide pooling, and learned all the names and the relationships, the human ecology. It's all we need.

Not so long ago, before the Gospel of Consumption, America thrived on thrift, and excelled at frugality, and stood proud on the wild shore. We may have to again, one day; learn to live as our grandparents did, in other spheres of happiness, creativity, and notions of fulfillment.

Economies expand but ecosystems do not. Might progress be something other than economic growth, just as economic growth is not always progress?

We'll find out. Probably not while Bruce Springsteen is singing today.

Imagine if it were John Lennon.

Kim Heacox is an author who lives in Gustavus.



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