In the advent of an efficient global network of transportation and ubiquitous communications, we have experienced an unprecedented explosion of abundance and choice. My father remembers, as he was living in Spain under Franco, that little more than one paper and two TV channels were all what was. The offer of products and services was neither more diverse than that.
But for all these possibilities, we often have a very narrow field of choice. Be that we cannot cope with such diversity or that external circumstances dwindle our choices. We often find ourselves like canoeing down a river: rather following the stream, with but little drifts left or right.
Recently I decided to grow a beard and soon came the point when I had to buy a beard trimmer. It is in such cases—when I have to reach out of my usual market scope—that I realise how difficult it is to choose. When you do not even know if such things are still sold in brick-and-mortar shops and naively start navigating the Internet. Which, to start with, means navigating the subset of internet within the bubble of influence of Amazon. It wasn’t without will that I found a local maker—in these days this would extend to mean anywhere within my country. Yet if I wouldn’t have made a point of it, I would have ended buying a product from Panasonic, Samsung or similar makers that populate the most search results.
At last I still slipped in my awareness and ended up buying the thing through an internet shop, although finding a retailer in my neighborhood was two clicks away. I am sorry, dear retailer. I regret it now. I hope you are still there the next time I need something. And I regret the most if any part of my money ended at Amazon. That devouring monstrosity of a company who owns the majority of office space in Seattle.
It is startling how narrow the choice of a car becomes for the average—and not so average—german. Or what choices we realistically have when we want to buy a new smartphone in a market dominated by two or three companies that stand like palm trees in a desert—here the desertification was of the making of those companies though. How difficult is to find local groceries, or better said, how easy has become to find groceries that, despite their short age, have seen more of the world that we will probably see in our lives.
There is a danger in the comfort of not exercising will when we buy products. Slowly but constantly we are giving power to a few individuals, who despite not being elected politicians, they are amassing more factual power by the day. Every product we buy has become a small ballot. And those ballots we still call ballots, are only damning our best people, our politicians we entrust our future, to play a x-iteration of Doom: a dark dungeon plagued with powerful villains and no real chance of success. Hence it should not surprise us when one day not too far, we have to question if democracy, as we know it since Greece invented it long ago, is still workable. Or maybe we have to understand that in Democracy 2.0 every purchase is a ballot.
We are already seeing this coming.