So I’d like to respond with an alternate philosophy that I will call “the worst.” The worst stands in direct contrast to Dustin Curtis, and suggests that one is actually more likely to engender a liberated life by getting the very worst of everything whenever possible.
The basic premise of the worst is that both ideas and material possessions should be tools that serve us, rather than things we live in service to. When that relationship with material possessions is inverted, such that we end up living in service to them, the result is consumerism. When that relationship with ideas is inverted, the result is ideology or religion.
I appreciate this cogent, concise framing of consumerism, ideology, and religion.
But internet research isn’t necessarily the same as understanding. No matter how much research they do, a partisan of the best might not ever know as much about motorcycles as the partisan of the worst who takes a series of hare-brained cross-country motorcycle trips on a bike that barely runs, and ends up learning a ton about how to fix their constantly breaking bike along the way.
In a sense, the best gives a nod to this by suggesting that getting the very best of everything will somehow make those things invisible to us. That if we can blindly trust them, we won’t have to think about them. But the worst counters that if we’d like to de-emphasize things that we don’t want to be the focus of our life, we probably shouldn’t start by obsessing over them. That we don’t simplify by getting the very best of everything, we simplify by arranging our lives so that those things don’t matter one way or the other.
These ideas about the best and the worst really resonate with me. Consumerism and materialism are the essential building blocks of American culture, and it takes a lot of effort to resist that in daily life. Entire companies and even entire industries are focused solely on providing data and reviews to determine the best of literally anything you could buy — all in service to material possessions themselves.
I’m certainly guilty of falling victim to partisanship of the best sometimes. As some who uses Apple products and develops software for Apple platforms, I feel like I’m constantly surrounded by this materialist ideology. It can feel overwhelming. Apple’s entire brand is centered on the premise that its products are the best. I suppose most corporations position themselves as such, but Apple’s marketing is top-notch and its brand is so strong that others frequently come off as copy-cats (which is sometimes literally the case) and all of that only serves to reinforce the notion that Apple is the best. Even more, I personally think that’s often true — the iPod was the best music player, the iPhone is the best phone, iOS 6 was the best mobile operating system, Mac OS X (not macOS) was the best desktop operating system, the M1 is the best processor. But, to the tech industry’s credit, some players are vehemently in pursuit of the worst — Facebook and Electron, for example. So, perhaps there is some hope.
When constantly surrounded by the best and embedded in a culture in pursuit of the best, it takes determination to deliberately seek the worst — or to simply not care about the best. If you aren’t careful, as Moxie warns, the best will slowly seep into all aspects of your life and your possessions will start consuming you rather than the other way around. Of course, there is immense privilege in being able to afford the best while deliberately choosing the worst. It is important to avoid fetishizing poverty while rejecting the pervasive consumerism around us.
Looking around my apartment, I’d say the majority of my things are not the best but many are not the worst either. So here’s to pursuing more of the worst — which, given the current state of things, looks like it will be pretty easy to do in 2022.