Friday, June 8, 2012

A trivial consumer choice

Ever feel like buying something will make you feel better?  Lots of people are that way.  I suppose part of that is our overall culture, but hey aren’t we ALL materialists at some level?  Did you put on clothes today?  Live indoors?  Eat with a fork?  Welcome to the materialist club.   

To be at least marginally materialist is a GOOD thing… we need our “stuff” to survive.  I believe that materialism only becomes “bad” past a certain point or if you are into certain things for the wrong reasons.  For example, if a new pair of hiking boots would make your upcoming backpacking trip more safe and enjoyable, they are a “good” buy.  What, are you going to hike the Rockies in flip-flops?  On the other hand, if you were to buy a pair of Lowas just to impress your friends with how “outdoorsy” you are, that is rather sad.

In fact, there are varying “grades” of materialism.  The “best” kind is what you need to survive:  Food, clothing, shelter.   At the other end of the spectrum are consumer choices that negatively impact others.

I would rank it this way:
-          Best.  “Necessary” materialism.
-          Good.  “Comfort” materialism.
-          Acceptable/trivial.  Buying to fit in with a social circle or fill some empty void.
-          Toxic.  Consumer choice is harmful to other living things.

I’ve been getting a lot of great comments on my articles.  One of my best commenters is “Sweetie Pie” who stated that pet ownership, for some people, is a trivial consumer choice.  Almost like buying a pair of expensive shoes to impress others or feel better about oneself.  The zeitgeist is that pet ownership is a consumer choice that no one can be denied.  In other words, you can not only own that dog but you can do whatever you want with it.  Wherewithal, competence, and past performance be damned!  Hey, we don’t need a license to buy a pair of shoes, do we??

I believe that owning something can give one social identity and raise one’s social status in that indicated social circle.  Owning certain items, shopping in certain stores, attending certain universities, etc… can make you part of that “group” and also grant some social status within that group.  Owning a Ford gives you an “in” with the “Ford guys”.  If you are a collector of antique Fords then you are a GOD in that group.

Buying “things” to simply fit in or feel better about yourself is what I would call “trivial materialism”.  You didn’t really buy it because you genuinely had use for the item, you bought it in an attempt to gain favor from others or fill some empty void within yourself.  However, these choices *usually* harm no one.

Getting back to Sweetie Pie’s response, for some, purchasing/adopting a pet is clearly a trivial consumer choice.  They do it to fill some empty void within themselves or in an attempt to fit in with other “dog” people.  Dog owners aren’t the only one’s who do this, but I like picking on them so I’ll use them as an example!

The idiots across the street from I are excellent examples of making a trivial consumer choice to own dogs.  They brag about being “rescuers” when they obviously had no real interest in the animals in question.  I spoke with them many times and they were clearly VERY smug about being “dog” people and had a massive sense of entitlement to go along with it. 

The problem with a trivial consumer choice in a pet is, a pet is a living thing with real needs.  When those needs are not met there is REAL trouble.  The “poser” dog owner is WAY beyond the hiking poser who buys a $400 pair of hiking boots to fit in at the trail association picnic.  The trivial choice of the dog owner has become TOXIC.  Poorly cared for animals become a safety and health hazard.  Poorly cared for animals are MISERABLE.  Hiking boots cannot become a safety or health hazard on their own.  They do not bark, poop or bite.  You can throw that pair of boots in a closet and forget about them forever.  You dump your dog in the backyard and forget about him we WILL be hearing from him!  Thus, the trivial choice to own another living thing has now become toxic, both to the pet and to other human beings.

My colleagues and I in the trail association sometimes snicker and gossip about the various “Posers” within our ranks, but no real “problem” exists there:  Their trivial choices are sad but no real hazard to anyone.

However, there is a REAL problem in the dog owning community with the “Posers” within their ranks.  I believe the solution lies within the dog owning community itself.  You need to purge your ranks of these Toxic “Posers”.  When a moron like my neighbor sticks their nose in the air and proudly proclaims “Ah Am a DAWG Person!” put them in their place!  Scum who neglect their pets and use them as weapons deserve nothing but contempt from everybody!

The bottom line is, “owning” another living thing brings with it huge responsibilities and grave obligations.  If you can’t fulfill those, go buy a pair of shoes… you will feel better, I promise.


  1. I can so-o-o relate to the rescue braggarts. Used to be a family like that down the street.

    Before they move in, they dropped the dogs off at their rental. Where they proceeded to bark at every living thing. I think they even barked at wind rustling in the trees.

    Things didn't improve after the people moved in.

    There was another time when they went off on holiday and left all the dogs out to freeze in the yard. (Yes, Tucson winters can be cold.)

    And when they moved out, they left the dogs behind. Some lowlife was coming around to feed them and do who-knows-what-else on the property.

    What really rang my alarm bells was the time that he led some of the neighborhood kids off the street, through the gate, and I don't know about into the house. But it was around midnight. What were the children doing with that guy at that hour?

    The authorities were alerted, dogs were removed a few days later, and Mr. Lowlife stopped coming around.

    These people now live up the street. Last I heard, they were running some sort of pit bull rescue in their back yard. One of my friends went over there to check it out, and he said that one of the wigglebutts playfully nipped him.

    If it had been me getting nipped, the owner of that property would be dealing with my lawyer.

  2. Fantastic post! This is so true! When I was growing up all purebred dogs were extremely expensive. In fact, they might have been a couple hundred dollars at the "not show quality" level 40 years ago. Same as today, except 200 dollars was a lot more then.

    Today, dogs are cheap and "rescuing" is an easy statement, as you said, for the superficial people of the world. They are treated just like boots.

  3. YQN: If that were me getting nipped, the PB in question would get a friendly reminder from my 2 security guys: Mr. Sig and Mr. Sauer. They are 2 Swiss gentlemen and are very persuasive.

  4. When a pit bull playfully nips you, it's testing you out and simultaneously winding itself up to go into attack mode. Check out the pit bulls killing one of their own here, tail-wagging and smiling all the while, to them it's just a kind of play:

    1. Thanks for the link, Sputnik. In that video, the pit nutter neighbor looks like a classic example of a lowlife.

      And, everyone, you'll simply love the story that goes with the video. It's a classic case of what one of our friends likes to call Animal Uncontrol.

      Final line from the story:

      "Animal Control and the city say they're reviewing everything, but for now they view the dog problem as a civil issue."

      Yeah, Animal Control, it sure is a civil issue. Until it becomes criminal.

      In the meantime, I hope you have good lawyers, Animal Control. Because the plaintiff's bar is becoming *very* interested in the mayhem that pit bulls cause.

  5. I hope you don't mind if I now rant on a non-barking, non-pit-bull, simply Entitlement issue?...

    I just got an email from a close friend. Her cat was lazing around in its own back yard (which this friend owns). The neighbors have a couple of terriers (not mutants, oops, I mean pits), one of which is always raging at the cat. My friend has been extremely accommodating. She actually helped construct a fence that all hoped would keep this other woman's dogs on their own property.

    Nope. The terrier SOMEHOW got around the fence and attacked the cat. The cat defended himself. Apparently adequately, because at this moment the terrier (not the cat) is at the vet's getting wounds treated.

    Comes the Entitlement frigging shite: The terrier's owner thinks the cat owner -- whose cat was attacked on it's own property by a trespassing dog -- should pay at least half (preferably all) the vet bills.


    Analogous scenario: My dog runs off in the woods, barks at and tries to bite a horse, comes back kicked in the head by a horse defending its own life -- and the horse owner has to pay me for the damage to my dog?


    Dear AnUnc, maybe hugely high licensing fees are a good idea for owning any dog. Better yet an IQ test? Preferably both.

  6. The thing I have noticed particularly in my neighborhoods is the young couples that do not have children but instead have one or two dogs. I don't think there has been a study done on this one, but from what I see it appears that many are opting for dog ownership vs having children. I think the upper scale professionals don't think there is much responsibility in pet ownership. Both husband and wife work so they are gone 10-12 hours in which their neighbors get barking indoctrination all day long and don't think twice about letting others tolerate their noise.
    We bought them they are ours and there is nothing anyone can do because we are the privileged owners with status.
    As mentioned in your article I foresee a huge group of fed up people eventually turning this irresponsible behavior upside down. I am hoping it is soon.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Yes, JohnT - eventually the worm will turn and snarl, and it will increasingly become open season on dogs everywhere. Too many lives have been wrecked or destroyed and there's no sign of remedial reforms anywhere.

      It's increasingly obvious to me that pestilence termination is now the only way left whereby peace, quiet and safety can be restored. The dog plague has been allowed to overtake whole nations.

      Owners and officialdom will be to blame. The fault ALWAYS lies with THEM.

  7. Hey, I'm back again here late because this post had me thinking, and my thoughts needed time to crystallize. Hope it's okay to be commenting so much later...

    Core points: Rescuers, Toxic 'I'm a DAWG person' Posers, and the police our own ranks question.

    Some of us are adamant about not contributing to the breeding problem, so our dogs are all second-hand. Already born because of the breeding problem, and without us they would have become shelter dogs. And here comes my point: We used to call them shelter dogs. Getting a shelter dog was an act of compassion and good (anti-breeding) conscience, but not an act of heroism. When did we start calling them rescues? When did the element of heroism creep in? Who was it that started hysterical campaigns about a certain kind of dog that would be PTS in two days if no one heroically swooped in to transport it to another state, RESCUING it?

    Re the other two points, I suddenly realized one of the reasons why 'I'm a DAWG person' is suddenly such a superior thing to be (reason to be toxically smug), and why we normal, not anti-social dog owners are having such a hard time policing our own ranks: various television channels!

    And my heart sinks. How in heavens name can ordinary good citizens compete with corporate advertising (disguised as informative programs -- I take it all will know which ones I mean, and it ain't Victoria Stillwell)?

    The more I read what you write, and the more I think about it, the more I fear legislation is going to be the only remedy.

    P.S. I wonder sometimes whether Oprah ever feels bad about having featured the dog hairdresser on her show (I believe it was twice).

  8. Sweetie Pie (above) believes that legislation will provide a remedy to the dog plague that's been allowed by default to swamp us and wreck so many lives. I wish it were really so.

    Sorry Honey, but legislation often needs enforcement to be truly effective.

    In Australia there's very little enforcement of the barking laws. The police think the role is beneath them and councils don't want to spend the time gathering forensic evidence, nor do they want to risk a failed prosecution.

    The universal device most commonly used to avoid all involvement is denial - simple denials like "There is no dog problem in the area" or "the dog was not found to be causing a nuisance" or "the neighbours did not confirm the existence of a barking problem."

    In short, the so-called enforcement authorities lie - like dog owners do under oath in court.

    Lies in the witness box can get the offender off the hook, and lies by our regional councils do the same.

    And so Sweetie Pie, amended legislation might not be the answer we once so earnestly hoped for because everyone, offenders and enforcers alike, will simply go on ignoring it.

    For real control in this hideous perennial daymare and nightmare some drastic method has to be devised and implemented.

    I have become increasingly convinced that the only real solution is No Dogs Anywhere in residential areas - vigorously enforced.

    A No Dogs Anywhere online petition awaits further signatures from those who agree. It's one of the three petitions accessible here:

  9. Peter,

    Its true that a law is nothing but a piece of paper with something written on it. Politicians all over will play a game where, they allow a crisis to develop and overwhelm us and claim "there was/is nothing we can do". The financial crisis of 2008 is a good example. They clearly had the tools to head that off but they simply chose not to. The end result was they typed up 2000 pages of legislative SPAM that they proceeded to ignore.

    That said, some laws ARE strictly enforced. Traffic laws are a good example. Here in FL, they'll pull over and cite anyone not wearing a seatbelt. Thats not high end police work, either, but they people they work for (the politicians) set their priorities for them.

    Its all a question of priorities. Enforcing animal control codes is simply not a priority in most places. Politicians are mostly cowards, and they will not take any action that they perceive to be unpopular or politically incorrect. Right now, they continue to promote the interests of pet owners above public health and safety because they think thats the "popular" thing to do.

    That said, if the electorate makes a big issue of this, the priorities can and will change. We send the message to them that this is now a high priority. If they continue to ignore it, the ass sitting on the curb after election day is going to be theirs!

    Moreover, I believe that penalizing lousy pet owners en masse is right around the corner. Its already starting in LA, and this activity will spread to other locations. Politicians are waking up to the fact that they can milk barking dog owners for some pretty stiff fines and the cities need the money.

  10. In my city of 45,000 people the local council won't write barking tickets even though it's just as you say above - bad owners CAN be milked AND the city needs the money.

    My council's management refuses to enforce the barking laws because of the perceived risks in doing so, for example failed prosecutions in court where the offender walks out laughing.

    Management has learned that the easiest way to avoid risk is to never get involved with enforcement laws in the first place - despite the potential for fiscal benefits.

    My area is a working-class area and council management won't fine offenders according to the procedures of law because it does not want to impose financial hardships on them. An example of this is the chronic barker next door to me where the council eventually DID fine the owner - but $20 instead of the legislated $260.

    My council could dodge its Dog Control Act duty for barking control by instead using the Local Government Act which authorises and empowers councils to keep good order in their areas.

    So we have unprincipled Australian councils being just as dodgy as bad dog owners.

    That illicit complicity of convenience denies barking victims the relief they so earnestly seek, and their complaints to the police about daytime barking offences always prove futile.

    I see no way to resolve this insane impasse but by the use of force - and who will suffer most because of this widespread dereliction of duty?

    I will tell you. It will be the poor suffering dog whose life is already a misery because of its ignorant, reckless and uncaring owner never wondering why his unnaturally incarcerated dog barks so much.

  11. Hello Peter,

    The excuses your authorities make are just that: Excuses.

    A few thoughts:

    - The government doesn't want to lose in court. I say: SO WHAT? They don't have a 100% conviction rate on ANYTHING! Even if they only get a 25% conviction rate, that should make the effort worthwhile.

    I don't know how it works in your country, but here if you are cited for say, a traffic violation, you have a couple of options. You can simply plead guilty (checkbox and signature line on the citation) and mail in the penalty, or you can make arrangements to plead your innocence in traffic court. Many people simply choose to plead guilty and mail in the fine.

    - Financial hardship excuse. This goes to my point that dog ownership is treated as an ENTITLEMENT in most places. Their argument being that, IF they can't pay, we shouldn't expect them to.

    To that I say: TOUGH LUCK CHAMPS! If you can't afford the dog DON"T HAVE one and that INCLUDES paying the occasional citation. Again, if that were a traffic violation and they didn't pay they would lose their license, and/or get tossed in the county jail for 30 days AND get stuck with a bigger fine!

  12. Quiet Tasmania has proposed the binary method of ticketing as a new form of inducement to benefit both offenders and councils through greater compliance with Infringement Notices.

    At there's this:

    Submission to the Tasmanian Government during its
    Review of the Dog Control Act 2000

    TOPIC: Infringement Notices

    The maximum penalty a Court may impose for a barking offence is currently $500.

    The prescribed penalty for this offence when punished by Infringement Notice is $200. This
    penalty for barking is regarded by many as too severe and they resist payment.

    Councils and the Police may issue Infringement Notices under s64 of the Act.

    Councils hardly ever do, and the Police never do.

    There is a Fines Collection Unit.
    In Tasmania it is common for offenders to ignore fines.

    This situation has been allowed by default to become conventional.

    While the non-payment of fines is condoned by the government the desired improvement in
    offender conduct is less likely to occur.

    To reduce the torments of day and night barking
    a practical working method to secure compliance with law is essential.


    1. That a simple, easily understood formula for the imposition of fines be devised and

    2. That it be agreed that the formula most likely to be readily understood is one based on the binary system.

    3. That the starting point for this formula should be a Standard Percentage of the maximum fine
    that a Court can impose. As an example let this be 20%.

    Currently this translates to a reduction
    in penalty to one half of the present $200, that is, it’s now down to $100. Payment of this
    reduced sum is less likely to be resisted.

    4. To further help secure payment within 21 days, the offender may be offered the inducement of a halving of that sum, namely to $50, but should he refuse to do pay that amount within 42 days then that inducement offer is forfeited and he becomes liable for the standard 20% of the maximum. This is still only half of the current penalty.

    5. That in the event of subsequent barking offences the penalty will double each time with the
    same 50% reduction inducement for prompt payment.

    6. In the event that the offender commits a fourth barking offence in any twelve month period he must be immediately offered the option of another penalty doubling with no halving inducement or the mandatory re-location of his animal at his own expense.

    7. Should the offender refuse to co-operate in the re-location of his dog, the animal is to be seized forthwith without recompense and immediately becomes the property of the state for disposal as it sees fit.

  13. Peter,

    Interesting ideas. My first thought is, if they can't pay the fine, they should not have the dog IN THE FIRST PLACE.

    A reduction for those who simply plead guilty might be appropriate, though. So, if the plead out on a $200 fine, the fine would be reduced to $100. If they go to court and are found guilty they would have to pay the full fine.

    The thing to do in any case is to convince the government they need the money. In these challenging financial times, they should NOT be cutting services or raising taxes when all of these offenders are allowed to skate. Thats just wrong.

  14. It certainly IS wrong.

    The explanation lies in the fact that politicians, government employees, council officers, magistrates and judges have dog of their own.

    They know that if they devise, implement and administer truly effective control legislation then THEY themselves will also be at increased risk of penalty.

    So they don't.