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This new and improved life

By Jeremy Ballenger - posted Tuesday, 22 November 2005

I’m normally pretty attentive to my surroundings, but until recently I had completely overlooked something. There’s a race going on - a reasonably important race, if the pundits are to be believed: the race to improve my life.

Being just a little proud of my moderately extensive travels over the years, I can recognise street urchins when they jump up into my face, racing to keep up with me, and vying for my attention to sample their wares. But they’ve evolved. Boy, have they come a long way.

They’re not little kids anymore, looking destitute and leaving you thinking that if you don’t buy something or let them shine your shoes, they’ll get thrown a beating when they get home for not bringing enough money through the door.


The new street urchins are corporate, peddle “lifestyle”, and are having a sale. The cry from the street stall (in this case substitute bus shelter or train carriage) is that your life needs improving, and their products are just the tonic you didn’t know you needed.

You can’t escape. In an Asian market or walking Central American streets, when hassled to buy something, you can turn it off, so to speak, or avoid it in some way. The advertising spend of the contemporary corporate urchin extends their reach to nearly every aspect of your life.

Everywhere you go, within earshot or line of sight, someone is trying to improve your life.

Some examples might best illustrate how far they are prepared to go - this one from the London Underground, in nearly every tube carriage I’ve travelled in over the past month:

Spend less on an IKEA kitchen and you can spend more time with your family.

That got me thinking about how they could help me mend things at home because of my continuing recalcitrance in going to work each day. So I checked out their catalogue:


When familiarity breeds contempt, new textiles put love back in the air.

Yep, sheets are going to save your marriage. Of course they will. They’re cheap (like the kitchen) so you aren’t at work as much and can spend more quality time at home. Which is where this next little chestnut, straight from the catalogue - and linked to a kitchen again, by the way - comes into its own:

The whole point of having children is to actually enjoy their company. Sharing space with your children shouldn’t make you resentful.

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About the Author

Jeremy Ballenger is a Melbourne-based researcher and writer. His website is here.

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