I’m still bothered by the way Mike Winter of Saris-Regis described the people who will live in the new housing being built at the old Ambassador College site in Pasadena. He called them consumers. Not residents, but consumers. (Here’s the link to the original LA Times story.)
Benjamin R. Barber has a few words to say about that in today’s LA Times — a nice op-ed piece entitled Overselling Capitalism.
“In order to turn reluctant consumers with few unsatisfied core needs into permanent shoppers, producers must dumb down consumers, shape their wants, take over their life worlds, encourage impulse buying, cultivate shopoholism and invent new needs.”
Barber notes that the consumer culture has an affect on community development.
“Compare any traditional town square with a modern suburban mall. In the square, you’ll find a school, town hall, library, general store, park, movie house, church, art gallery and homes–a true neighborhood exhibiting our human diversity as beings who do more than simply consume. But our new town malls are all shopping, all the time.”
The “mallification” of Pasadena’s Old Town happened over a decade ago. It’s heavy on retail and restaurants. One multi-screen movie theater closed and was bulldozed to make way for Tiffany’s, one is left.
Are there ways to have fun in Old Town without consuming? You can always check your e-mail at the Apple Store. There’s eye-and-soul candy at the Mendenhall Sobieski Gallery (for-profit) and the wonderful Armory Center for the Arts (non-profit). The Folk Tree is close by. If you don’t mind a bit of walking, there’s the Norton Simon Museum on West Colorado (very handy for those consumers who will live at Ambassador West!). On the first Friday of the month, admission to the museum is free from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.
I have done my share of retail therapy. Nothing cures the blues like a new pair of shoes, right? Wrong. Today’s new piece of clothing becomes tomorrow’s laundry. Laundry exists in two primary incarnations: 1) dirty and needing to be washed; 2) clean and needing to be folded.
These days, instead of retail therapy, I like to take a walk. But not to Old Town Pasadena. The temptation is too great.
PS–Another reason to avoid Old Pasadena? There’s going to be construction at the Northwest corner of Fair Oaks and Green Street–a mixed-use development (via Eater LA lamenting the closure of the restaurant La Huasteca). Eater LA has a deathwatch on all of Old Pasadena!