iTunes & 19th Century Nihilism

I'm pretty sure that iTunes might be one of the singular most indicative examples of the American will-to-own that I can think of. We all (that is, we all iTunes users) understand why. The days of hearing songs on the radio and simply enjoying them are long gone. Now, we have to know the title and artist's name before we even think about sitting back to soak in the music. If I like it, I want to own it. And if I don't like it, then just hurry on to the next song so I can find something to buy!

I suppose I'm not really addicted to iTunes. In fact, I believe that I have one of the smaller music collections of most people (my age) that I know. What I am writing about here is really more the perception of a forming mentality than an actual case study of addictive behavior. But, left unchecked, I have seen what it can become (viz. having so much music that you'll never have time enough to listen to it all, downloading illegally to appease your fixation with acquiring mp3's, etc.)

That being said (and my reputation being temporarily defended), the tendencies that such a mentality of obsessive acquisition engenders are just as bad as being actually addicted to downloading music. In fact, I would think, the mentality of 'will-to-own' might be even worse, since it is more open-ended and prone to various and, perhaps worse, manifest expressions. If we allow our character to be defined by what we can get our hands on, concupiscence won't allow us to stop at downloading music. Simply looking at the wanton acts of selfishness that occur daily throughout the world. People want more, and they are willing to go to great lengths to secure it.

Perhaps most destructive, though, about this consumeristic mindset is the proclivity to begin viewing invaluable items as purchasable. In other words, having the ability to buy whatever you want—even before you know what it is—makes one feel as though they are entitled to anything, and that anything has a price. This, of course, sounds cliché. But think about it: what does putting a "price" on something invaluable indicate? It is more than simply making attainable by human means something that lies outside the bounds of singular acquisition. It is, in actuality, presuming that we are speaking of a commodity manufacturable by human efforts, and contained within the scope of human production. We can buy pencils, cars, houses, even land (which is cultivated and prepared by human efforts). What we cannot buy are people, truth, beauty and goodness. There is, I would argue, a distinct separation between the two sets, and one that, even in America today, we haven't found a way to bridge.

The alarming thing about the 'will-to-own,' though, is that it realizes no bounds. It is, in many ways, a concrete and Westernized expression of the Nietzschean Wille zur Macht. Just go into Barnes & Nobles to find out how popular this nihilistic thinker is: nearly half the "Philosophy" shelf is dedicated to him. Then ask yourself if there is some connection between Übermensch and Überkäufer. I think there is and—in the spirit of Nietzsche—I think we are on the cusp of its simultaneous realization and demise.