Go Torture the Other Guy
Such behavior has been around, of course, since our prehistoric ancestors competed to be the hunting buddy of the alpha caveman; but the phrase "trading up" has a particularly crass ring to it, as if human beings were nothing more than commodities to be acquired. Are your economy-car friends cramping your style? Just trade up for trendy sports-car friends and you'll have no more problems.
And just in case anyone doesn't understand what kinds of problems happen to those who are not part of the in-group, there's a credit card commercial that helpfully illustrates it for us. Maybe you've seen this one—a young man goes up to an airport counter to buy a ticket and says he's traveling on business. He looks and sounds a bit unsure of himself, and his credit card has a cute picture of kittens on it. The airline employee behind the counter promptly glances toward a group of security officers, who converge on the unfortunate young man and take him away. Another traveler then confidently presents the advertiser's business credit card and gets his ticket at once.
The message conveyed by that ad is all too clear: If there's anything about you that might make others think you don't belong to the dominant class, you're quite likely to get harassed and perhaps even tortured. And how should a responsible citizen deal with this state of affairs? That's easy—just make sure to buy the right products and services so that it's some other guy who gets tortured, of course.
Ugh. Just… ugh. This is the world we live in today, folks.
There's one bright spot, though: we have just three and a half months left before George Bush's moving van pulls up in front of the White House.