Empirical consumerism

This post might err on the side of saccharine; I want to talk to you about milieus and customer service. Taking permission from empiricalism – in which everyday experiences is knowledge – I’d like to make some statements from personal experience, bouncing off a Deleuzean mirror. Also too, I am interested in substantive philosophy: something that can be internalized has more value to me.

Passing through a city, we encounter multiple sites of exchange. We pay for transit, food, too many beverages, learning, accessories, entertainment, fashion, housing. Our lives are paid for at every level. Aside from negotiating, or choosing what is the appropriate product to consume (based on personal guidelines, beholden to personal standards), the method of transaction is fairly automatic. Present the good, receive the price, hand the money over, watch the cash be put in the register, the change is counted out and the receipt enclosed. The moment that this perfected chain of events is interrupted is if there is a problem with the expected good/payment, or if there are questions/information needed to complete the purchase. The certain chain of events has been disrupted. The reaction of the consumer ranges from nonchalant, to awkward, to even irate, and possibly angry. Customer service representatives, don’t they just take it all in?

These representatives fill our environment; racing feet to fetch that thing, busy hands to fold that item, arrange, rearrange, provide, and solicit. They occupy the establishments we go to, and we hold them accountable for our experience. Good service or bad service, the very mood of our purchases is attached to that person, or team of people expected to fulfill our needs and wants in exchange our money.

Now, let me qualify my stance before I slant this piece. I have a crazy hospitality resume. In about 12 years, I have worked in hockey arenas, golf course maintenance, snack shack, beer cart, cafes, university residence, hotel, hostel reception, butchery, honey factories, vineyards, housekeeping, and bars. I’ve despised and adored my jobs in the same day. To get through to the next paycheck, there was something in me to care about these jobs. As a result, these experiences have shaped how I approach other “customer service representatives,” a clinical term to classify all those who are the gatekeepers to our commodities.

The other day, to upkeep my bad lung clogging habit, I recognized a man from another tobacco store. This was my chance to say ‘hey!” I asked him his name, and he asked for mine, and now we exchange the news and our commentary every time I step into one of his shops. This more familiar encounter makes my vice glow. A dormant congeniality is activated, and without ulterior motive. Dividuation is a lesser issue now.

Component to a rhizomous existence, a plane of consistency, forming multiplicities, are the very nodes that connect to our own personal rhizomes. This is our relation to the world, to engage with the stimuli that surround us. Deleuze dubs this environment as a milieu. As Uexküll notes in his study of the tick, and Deleuze incorporated in his philosophy, in order for stimulus to have an impact, it needs to be noticed by the subject. Our milieus are the result of our observations and our input into them. Rather than be motivated by enhancing insulated lives, we need to have an ulterior motive of relations: such “relations to form or compound extensive relations or to enable an intensive power, sociabilities and communities.”[1]

Poverty of our relations can be this skimming of an elemental part of our daily lives. Societal codes, or even just the experience of dealing with multiple strangers in a day can inhibit our relations with various keepers of commodities. Maybe it’s because we are forced to give our money over that causes us to feel somewhat distrustful. In this obligatory milieu, we can consider our habits, and devise lines of flight by interacting with these goods-and-services-keepers. This yields some perks that lessen or bypass some of the capitalist expectations. Friendly banter with a bartender gets a shot passed to you under the table, the barista will ring in a small drip for that latte, the tobacco store will sell you the pack, but throw in free papers and filters. This is not to try and garner free shit, but a symbol of camaraderie. Consider, “the simple animal has a simple environment; the multiform animal has an environment just as richly articulated as it is”[2]

Here is a to and fro to our milieu, a re and pro. This is to make our experiences ceaseless versions of us, to construct a common plan of immanence that is inclusive of beings.[3] Creators make a move by dotting that canvas or whatever medium. Creators in everyday living make a move with others to continuously launch an inexhaustive variation of ourselves to exercise the capacity to become more complex persons in experiencing milieus. The trick is, creation is not a divine ability, it is in all of our abilities. In terms of our daily lives, by maintaining the contact at the level of money transaction, there is obedience to the transcendent capitalist flows. Rather, to be inexhaustible is to include other bodies, minds and individuals, and develop unique, diverse multiciplicities. To create is to make an action, unpredictable, is to willingly open up to be affected and to affect, to expand the capacities for relations. This is key as in our currency habits; we are left unaware of the dormant qualities unless we release them through re-engaged encounters.

Milieus are not maintainable surroundings, but are modulated through our concern and action towards. Let’s take the idea of guardian angels for a second. We’ve all had those random events when life really blows, and we are at our wit’s end. Then out of generosity and resourcefulness, or sheer luck, some stranger alleviates the situation. Our gratitude is likely to be genuine, but also borne out of relief. But now consider how to be that guardian angel, that miracle instigator, for someone else.

This is sometimes what the customer service team does for us. Someone needs to make a move to make someone’s day. While service is an expectation, there is value in a reciprocal relationship. This is regulated through a tipping system, but there can be intangible exchanges in which can liven up someone’s position or a general circumstance. Something unexpected beyond the customary manners of please’s and thank you’s, but a genuine engagement of persons. In this busy buzzing service climate, there are multitudes of becomings to connect with. It is an idealistic, sweet notion, but this makes sense to me, and this is what I consider while reading Deleuze. In my hospitality experiences, I would come to know the various chefs, baristas, housekeepers, bussers, etc. in any  environment. My tone of voice, my attention towards them, my appreciation for their work, and my expectation of work is all involved in my potential interaction with them. A mentor taught me, always ask for their names.

In attempts to open up a rhizomatic existence, there are affectual capacities in being sensitive, while contributing to our milieus. If anything is to be achieved, my thought is to pay attention to subtle possibilities in every opportunity of relations.

-Bria


[1] Deleuze, Gilles. “Spinoza and Us” Spinoza, Practical Philosophy. Trans. Robert Hurley. (San Francisco: City Light Books, 1988)). P.126

[2] Uexküll, Jakob von, A Foray Into the Worlds of Animals and Humans: With a Theory of Meaning. Trans. Joseph D. (O’Neil Minneapolis: University of Minnosota Press 1940) P. 5o

[3] Deleuze, P. 122

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One Response to “Empirical consumerism”

  1. Reblogged this on Akutsk and commented:
    Music as an incorporeal species…. How to re-invent social practices, or: how to become analogue literates?

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