What part of “you are a shambling capitalist skinbag” do you not understand?

AT the risk of kicking capitalism while it’s down, clearly the time has come for the Big C to reassess its rapaciousness beyond the esoteric realms of the international money markets.

Thanks to the media’s ever-increasing massness (not to mention the increasing affordability of the average item), capitalism’s obsession with always trying to sell everyone everything all the time is reaching unpleasant new dimensions.

Advertisers may not be infiltrating our dreams with messages about Lightspeed brand briefs and discriminating crotches, as per the animated American sitcom Futurama. But it is getting harder and harder to snatch a transaction-free moment, to kick back in the comfort of one’s home without having to repel the blank-eyed advances of the free market’s zombie armies of cold callers.

Let me state from the outset that I am not some communist running puppy with a boner for central control and Mao brand boiler suits. On the contrary, most of the time I think capitalism is just tickety-boo.

I love sprawling shopping centres, with their fluorescent glitz and electric staircases to spendy heaven. I love having to choose between a zillion lychee brands in the supermarket. Sometimes I love the thrill of making a purchase even more than the thrill of actual ownership (the consumer love that dare not speak its name).

If this is affluenza or shopsillitis, then so be it. I will die happily of the disease, surrounded by Chinese-made trinketry. I may not be able to take these shiny beads and melamined baubles with me, but I will be able to fondle them lovingly as I drift off to that big $2 shop in the sky.

Oh, OK. Maybe all this is a tad hyperbolic. The point is, I don’t think capitalism is intrinsically evil or that there’s anything wrong with people getting off on buying and selling stuff.

What I do loathe is the way that — like office sex pests and date rapists — capitalism’s flunkies have stopped taking no for an answer.

There was a time, not so long ago, when “no junk mail” letterbox badges worked. Now such signs seem to provoke an even greater avalanche of pizza pamphlets, anti-abortion propaganda and coupons for discount concrete edge-making.

Recently I confronted a leafleteer flagrantly ignoring my letterbox instructions. She was genuinely surprised at my wrath.

“But this isn’t junk,” she protested. “You really will be able to save up to $10 on your next intimate laser hair-removal treatment.”

Similar unstoppability exists in the undead legions of cold-calling telco reps who always manage to time their deathly doorknocks during showers, sit-down family meals or saucy games of strip Twister.

“Would you like to save money?” they drone, with drooling lips and an insatiable hunger for human flesh (or, at the very least, human bank account details).

Replying in the negative used to see them off, perhaps because, in tough economic times, it sounded positively insane. Now, however, these Night of the Living Deadsters have been programmed to respond with an ironed trouser leg in the door and a sinisterly insistent “why not?”.

As a well-mannered sort of person, I try to be reasonable. I try to remember that these shambling skinbags with their cheap suits andmeaningless clipboards are just meat puppets for the real villains who live in gated mega-mansions far from vulnerable streets like mine.

But the only way to extricate yourself from their relentless assaults is to be a rude bitch, and I really hate having to be a rude bitch in my down time.

I also hate having to be a rude bitch with those bank reps who ring pretending to discuss my account and then try to flog me life insurance. And with airport credit card pimps. And with those zillions of strangers with names such as Yhxevkpswoja Bobinksi6969 who’ve heard about my premature ejaculation problems and insist on sending me endless spam about erection aids.

Capitalism needs to back off not just because it’s wasting our natural resources and invading our privacy but because it’s forcing us to behave badly. And this is something — along with pumps and potions to make penises harder, longer — that the world really doesn’t need any more of.

- originally published in The Australian on 16-10-2008.

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