In a move that slipped under the radar of even the most shrewd economic analysts, yesterday’s launch of the new 6-blade ‘Synthesix’ razor by UK-based company Wilkinson Sword inadvertently led to the overnight collapse of global capitalism, it has been widely reported.
Bemused and shame-faced economists, including formerly smug author of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, Nassim N. Taleb, were struggling to come up with a cogent explanation for this unprecedented phenomenon. One notable exception was Steven D. Levitt, co-author of the influential Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, who suggested in an interview earlier today that the introduction of the ‘Synthesix’ to an already, in small parts, sceptical consumer market had resulted in what he termed a ‘global bullshit epiphany’, in which people finally in one moment that Levitt likened to ‘a kind of Enlightenment’ understood the cynical mechanisms through which they had been enslaved for so many years. Levitt commented:
“If you consider the field of consumer electronics, for example, there is clearly a significant technological leap from a black and white TV to a colour TV, or from a cassette player to a CD player, or even from a CD player to an iPod. But increasingly, attempts to sell newer forms of technology to the public, based perhaps on size, weight or curvature, have been founded on rather more nebulous technological pay-offs. I had anticipated that the much-hyped launch of 3-D television would bring about something like the ‘bullshit epiphany’ we are witnessing today, but I was somewhat premature in that judgment, as many people have in fact gone out and spent considerable sums of money in order to watch television programmes in a three dimensional format. It turned out that people needed an even more bullshit product to be presented to them in order to bring about this epiphany.”
Although Levitt’s ‘bullshit epiphany’ thesis has not been widely disseminated, it appears that in a cruder form it has been lurking for a while now. Indeed, Proctor and Gamble, who, through their brand, Gillette, have largely pioneered the move to add increasing numbers of blades to what was already a highly satisfactory product, released a statement earlier today condemning Wilkinson Sword for their hubris and naiveté:
“We realised with the launch of our 5-blade Fusion razor back in 2006, in which we not only added two more blades than our 3-blade Mach3 razor, but also a single sixth blade on the rear for precision trimming, that we may have pushed the public’s capacity to swallow our bullshit to its very limits. However, through a highly skilful and expensive advertising campaign featuring some of the world’s top sporting figures, we managed to persuade an economically significant percentage of the more aspirational male population that this was a worthwhile investment. Indeed, it turned out to be so successful that we then released the Fusion Power, which was battery-powered and emitted micro-pulses to increase razor glide. And I guess we should also mention the Fusion Power Phantom with the darker colour scheme, and the more recent Fusion ProGlide and Fusion ProGlide Power series with re-engineered blades. But be that as it may, we have always been highly respectful of the public and we never even considered adding a straight sixth blade to any of our products. Instead we have focused our attentions on other products to which we could profitably – and ethically – add a number of additional bullshit features, such as fabric softener and dog food. We feel that Wilkinson Sword would have done well to have heeded the increasing public literacy over bullshit products (although given the phenomenal success of Apple in updating their products with bullshit features on a bi-annual basis, we retain a degree of sympathy). Through their impulsivity, naiveté and hubristic desire for increased market share, the world as we know it is no more and we are all out of a job.”
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the overnight collapse of the increasingly hegemonic global capitalist system has been how peacefully it has happened. Reports have come in from all over the globe of people, most of whom are newly unemployed, walking the streets with inane smiles on their faces and occasionally bursting into fits of giggles. Yet this behaviour has come as no surprise to Jonathan Zeitlin, professor of sociology, public affairs, political science and history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison:
“In many ways what we are seeing on the streets today is reminiscent of the behaviours of those who experimented with hallucinogenic drugs as part of the counter-cultural revolution of the 60s. Under the influence of these psychoactive substances, people came to understand the absurdity of everything their lives had stood for up to that point and this epiphany induced hysterical laughter in the majority of people (along with a few unfortunate suicides). I think that what we are seeing on the streets today is a similar collective enlightenment, albeit one mediated by the launch of a shaving product rather than the ingestion of a hallucinogenic substance. In many ways, this makes this neo-enlightenment both more authentic and, perhaps, more sustainable.”
In support of Zeitlin’s position, former futures trader Paul Fox commented:
“Like many people I have spoken to in the streets today, the ‘Synthesix’ advert hit me with the force of a revelation, a miracle even. I feel ashamed to admit it now, but I have been updating my TV, laptop, car, and, of course, my shaving products, on an almost yearly basis for a long time now. When I look back, it is difficult not to collapse in hysterical, side-splitting laughter at the new features which seduced me into making the purchases, and then of course show them off to my friends. But at the time, it all seemed so real, so new.”
A spokesperson for the soon-to-be-liquidated company behind the ‘Synthesix’ razor, Wilkinson Sword said:
“While this was clearly not the kind of outcome we had anticipated or hoped for following the launch of the ‘Synthesix’ razor, we would like to think that we will be remembered fondly in the post-capitalist society that we have in no small way been responsible for creating.”
There are some reports that pockets of resistance remain in China, as many of the newly aspirational citizens of the People’s Republic do not seem to find the ‘Synthesix’ range in any way amusing or preposterous and have in fact been showing off their new purchases in public locations, such as gymnasium changing rooms. The full implications of China’s resistance are as yet unclear.