“Give people a common enemy, and you will give them a common identity. Deprive them of an enemy and you will deprive them of the crutch by which they know who they are.” – James Alison
The internet is going wild. Everyone’s mad because a rich guy said, point blank, how he got rich.
Ouch. Outrage is definitely fair here. It’s a pretty messed up way to make money. It’s a pretty messed up principle for a company. It’s messed up that it works, and it’s certainly not okay to express in these words.
What is more messed up, however, is seeing people respond in such a hypocritical way.
The conversation we should be having looks like this:
“Wow, a successful business owner used exclusivity as his business model. Not even covertly. It was obvious. And it worked. We bought it. People in our culture and society seriously bought clothes sold on this principle. That’s sad. Let’s direct our business elsewhere, and reconsider our consumerism.
Also, bullying sucks. Let’s not do that.”
Instead, the conversation we are having looks like this:
“This one single bad human being is perpetuating bullying, stereotypes, and shame. The only logical thing to do is to bully, stereotype and shame him. Obviously, he is the sole reason for the superficiality of young consumers, and bullying in our schools. Our society will be nicer to overweight people we if yell at him and call him ugly, right?”
Abercrombie & Fitch business model, 1; Society, 0.
I’ve seen this hypocrisy before. It scares me. Tweets wishing sexual assault upon rape sympathizers and their families. Harassment against minorities in the wake of a terrorist attack. Hell, in World War II, Canada fought for the freedom of Europe’s people…while we locked up our own Japanese population in internment camps.
Awesome track record, humanity. Awesome.
It’s a pretty straight-forward formula: As soon as we are able to pronounce our moral superiority to someone, we are able to label them as “other,” we are able to fear them, we think we can do whatever we want in retaliation.
Congratulations, your target is no longer human.
It’s messed up. It’s totally messed up. When we let the worst of what we see and hear set the standard for our own behaviour, autonomy, and responsibility to each other, we lose. When we refuse to learn from the unsettling things we see, and point fingers instead, we lose.
Here’s what wins:
Rape culture wins when we wish rape upon anyone.
Terror wins when we terrorize our own neighbors for their ethnicity.
And bullying wins when we pick on someone for being a bully.
Isn’t that just kinda mean? Especially to be posting on the internet? By responding in this way, we are making this issue so much more superficial than it really is.
Mike Jeffries has become a mascot of the “cool kid-uncool kid” segregation that we hated so much in high school. The problem is, he isn’t a mascot. He’s a person. A person who has made a lot of money because the “cool kid-uncool kid” thing exists, and it works.
By picking on him alone, we are only confirming that we are a superficial society which loves to pick “who’s in” and “who’s out.”
And let’s be honest: If you didn’t already know that Abercrombie & Fitch used this business model, you clearly haven’t seen one recently. Or maybe you just went to a different high school than me. Either way, Mike Jeffries saying this (while insensitive) is not what makes his business model real, nor what makes it wrong.
The fact that people buy into it, the fact that this kind of segregation exists, that is what makes it wrong.
Let’s raise the bar, everyone. Grace, love and boycott.