I’ve found that just about anything can become universes unto itself. The strange things about these microcosms of reality is that the deeper they go, the more specific and unique the rules become, until they seem like utter absurdities to those on the outside.
A good introduction to these absurdities doesn’t begin with the part you’re not going to understand, but rather starts with the part that relates to you, slowly segueing into what would otherwise appear as a surreality.
Such is the case with the documentary Red Obsession.
It begins with a slow dolly out from a room filled with bottles of wine. It cuts to shots of barrels of wine, hundreds of them. We are used to seeing bottles of wine. Barrels of wine seem like something out of a time that we can’t relate to except through the imaginations of fantasy authors. And so the first few minutes of Red Obsession is a sort of overture of the rest of the movie.
The premise is, and this may or may not be true, wine that comes from the Bordeaux region of France is, in fact, the best wine in the world. I have no metric for evaluating the truth of that, but for the sake of this journey, it’s truth isn’t really relevant. The fact is, in obsessions and microcosms it’s way more about perception than it is about some absolute truth.
The most expensive brand of wine is called Chateau Lafite Rothschild. When I write “expensive” I mean, it’s price has exceeded the value one might receive from actually drinking the wine, except as an expression of pure extravagance, like rolling a cigarette in a $100 bill. As such, wines that reach that price are no longer consumed but are treated like securities, like stocks and bonds. They’re traded based on price, on future-value speculation.
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It’s at this point where Red Obsession really becomes interesting.
In 2010, the United States no longer became a major buyer of wines. They were “priced out of the market” to be replaced by China.
In a country where everyone has been forced to have the same kind of everything, the newly realized freedom of making distinctions between oneself and others is prized. They are very, very brand aware. Brands, the right brands become status symbols. Purses, cars, movie stars, and wine. Having the right brand of these things says to anyone who sees it that that person is different, more culturally aware and capable. They are better.
I don’t understand the Apple Watch. The reason I don’t understand it is because the moment I got an iPhone, I stopped wearing a watch. I didn’t need it anymore. My phone became my watch, my alarm clock, my portable Internet, my music player, and my phone.
Why, then, is Apple making a watch?
Everyone I know has no use for a watch. Some people I know like them, but it stems more from nostalgia or a desire to collect them. Any pragmatic value from watches has left the U.S.
China, on the other hand, very brand conscious. The kind of brand that can be seen more clearly than something that’s hidden in your pocket like a smart phone? Value. High value. Status symbol.
China’s got a huge population. The population is so big that its buying power is changing the way industries look at the world. Movies are being made based on how well they might do in China. Car companies are making models that will sell in China. Apple is making it’s watch.
These things, this shift in awareness and focus from the U.S. and Europe to Asia, and more specifically China represent not only China’s buying power but also its power in general. The whole world is shifting and paying attention to China. And China is paying attention to what the world wants as well as its own future needs. Right now, it isn’t the largest consumer of goods. However, as the Chinese become more and more connected to the world, they will begin to buy.
The volume of China’s purchasing power will change the flow of the global economy. It’s already happening. Red Obsession isn’t the beginning of that change; it’s a mile-marker, another aspect of the shift, the slow realization that China is emerging, that it cannot be ignored, that it is not to be trifled with.
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If the entire universe of experiences can be viewed as a construct of the perceptions of the individual, all obsessions are of equal value, including the total lack of obsession and instead focusing on the whole system.
I enjoy wine. I don’t obsess over it. But some people do and that mentality is explored wonderfully in Red Obsession.