October 18, 2016

We don't have a security problem, we have a branding problem!

Filed under: branding, pink washing — Benjamin Vulpes @ 6:36 a.m.

Despite living in the boonies near the very end of the train line against which the old-school Clackamites once railed for the inevitable flooding of their precious suburb with the carless poor (trans in local cant), and debarking from my morning train in the hairiest armpit of downtown Portland1, the most active hostility I encounter on a daily basis is the odd baffled grunt from the street folk when I don't stop to carry on a conversation with them on my way from the train to my desk-hole. Therefore, when I stumble across marvelous American artifacts like the following mace dispensers, I practically fall down laughing.

First up, Business Mace. Business Mace is all reds and blacks, colors that make Americans think about strong men, firetrucks and faceless police officersthugs delivering beatdowns to hapless bystanders. Business Mace features a "safety flip and grip trigger", some words a packaging and branding team cooked up to fill empty space on the boxes. It claims to be made in the USA, but I have my doubts.

Business Mace enjoys the dubious monikers of "POLICE MODEL" and "Pepper Gard".

I pine for a world in which people strive for at least the image of erudition and learning. Not one in which misspellings are celebrated as creative branding. Creative branding just rekindles the black fires deep within my soul that can only be quenched by the long and excruciatingly painful death of this culture2.

business mace

Then, we have Sporty Mace:, aka "SPORT MODEL", aka "hot pink".

sporty mace

Business Mace disposed with spelling. Sporty Mace disposes with capitalization. Either a priapic clown or an embalmed witch are going to be running this country next year, and all I have is a case of fermented corn syrup.

Sporty Mace is indistinguishable from Business Mace (patience, patience), except that Sporty Mace features the Mace Cares branding, to inform the savvy American consumer that their purchase will somehow end up doing something about cancer NOPE NOPE NOPE OHO AHA So I sat down and actually looked at the Mace Cares program for half a second. They commit to donating $10`000 to: "Casting for Recovery", the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center, and the SMC Safety Foundation. There's also some madness I don't personally care enough to tease apart having to do with Mace Tactical. All very well-intentioned, and I can't imagine that any of them do their jobs, whatever that may be, any better or worse than any other random sample of the charity industry.

But! They claim donations of 10K to the above organizations. Charitably, let's split that across the four, to arrive at 2.5K per org. For the low price of 2.5KUSD, Mace can field a checkout impulse-purchase display set with something for everyone.

Where, however, in their financials I am to find those ten thousand dollars donated to charity?

Back to the display items to regard our final star, "Percy Mace", the "PURSE MODEL", or "Exquisite".

An...exquisite pepper spray?

percy mace

The "Exquisite" can only shoot 5 bursts, and only out to 10 feet.

On one hand, this is for sale at Lowes, to people who spend their lives in cars, offices or homes. On the other hand, rape can happen anywhere?

Precisely the same mechanism sells guns as sells pepper spray: lifestyle advertising. Firearms, in America, are sold to people who hunt and to people who maintain the illusion that they're just the kind of badass to get into the gun safe, load something handheld and dispatch with that nasty home invader. So too are pepper spray dispensers sold: to people who desperately want to believe that they're juicy tail, who like to imagine that they take runs at night through dark parks and don't huff and puff on the walk from the car to the Lowes (and then drive the car to the other end of the strip mall to Dick's instead of walking there and back -- "but what about the shopping cart?" "You've never taken the Home Depot shopping cart into Lowes? Honey, you're not living..."), people who have swallowed the inseguridad myth (paging Mircea Popescu...) wholesale.

Tools that address fear and not the risks for which the fear should be interpreted as a warning signal are symptoms of a deeply ill society. If the world is such a terribly dangerous place, how can any thinking person admit that the thing to be done is buy products? Buying a weapon does not make you safer, it gives your attacker a lever they lacked to begin with. Personal defense is not purchased at the supermarket, it's a few possibly obvious possibly not dudes or chicks with various amounts of firepower and hand-to-hand combat experience and a set of smarts as to what dumb situations to avoid. None of which is applicable to the suburban lifestyle.

If (ha ha ha ha) blessed/cursed with more children, and further blessed/cursed with females, you can be damn sure they're getting fuck-you-up martial arts training (currently leaning towards Krav Maga, but open to suggestions. Capoeira's straight out.) from a young age. Along with ballroom dance, latin, piano, singing, multivariate calculus, formal logic, organic chemistry, the standard elementary-school regimen; no different from the boys. Then wilderness training, and skiing, riding bikes really fast through the mud and a whole host of fleshly mortifications, because the only cure for statally-induced fear is the hard-won knowledge that one can actually handle oneself and whatever the dipshits that vote find painful and so avoid at all costs is actually pretty mild compared to crushing an elbow or falling off a cliff or you know any of those painful things kids endured once upon a time.

Plus, it's just plain funny to watch kids fall over. Especially if they're yours.

  1. The Greyhound station is truly the armpit of Portland, although people who work in Big Pink (aka the US Bancorp Tower, one of the taller buildings in downtown due to a) the absurd costs of building up on ground that liquefies during earthquakes and b) the imperative that American bankers labor under to build monuments to their corporations on a bi-centennial schedule. The bank buildings from the early 1900s in Portland are beautiful, featuring gorgeously cut local stone, gorgeous lobbies, rotating entryway doors with amazingly detailed bronze shielding that wraps around them after hours, marble floors, ceiling detail work commissioned by someone who'd at least heard ofthe glory of Europe...) will claim that distinction for Right 2 Dream Too, and people who bike the Springwater will claim the dubious honor for the encampments along their commute. What sets the Greyhound station (and by dint of proximity, Union Station as well) head and shoulders above the competition is that the people who arrive in Portland by bus are those who lack the personal capital to arrive on a plane or train, and lack the social capital to get a ride into town or a place to stay once they arrive. This is compounded by the Bud Clark Commons directly across the street, which for all that it only has some hundred-and-thirty low-income units certainly has a lot going on around it at all hours.

    The net effect is that the armpit of town where I keep my dingy little office is riddled with what I described to a saintly grandmother I was guiding around the armpit to the nearby Post Office last week as "hostility". To paraphrase my mother, paraphrasing Judith Martin, "Manners are only sometimes about making people feel comfortable. Sometimes they are about talking trash without the trash cottoning on."


  2. Blowjobs help too. []