Bourgeois individualism is everywhere in its contaminating influence. Its stench in the rotten verbal foliage presented as public discourse. Nevertheless, vast swathes of well-meaning consumers will flood into shopping centres across the land to purchase commodities to stand-in for substantial gestures of selfless affection. This is prompted by Valentine's Day. It can also be prompted by Christmas and other festivities. It is unavoidable in today's world. There is little hope of escaping the rat race of the market in a society built around that rather pernicious little invention.
Out of the cards we may choose to buy the 'Thank You' card is by far the lowest of the low. The 'Thank You' card deprives us of our capacity for altruism and allow us to act as selfishly as possible, freeing us from writing letters of gratitude. It is about negative equality, the falsely level playing field where each participant must not lose anything without their consent and, if so deserving, must be compensated for any selfless action. No one should get something for nothing, likewise no one should give something for nothing. It is what lies behind the slow-motion destruction of the Welfare State: each of us must fend for ourselves in the marketplace, free to fail if we cannot succeed. The presumption that the efforts we exercise will produce reward for ourselves converges with the means to skip such efforts to the reward.
Instantaneous gratification is the promise of the marketplace - so long as you can afford the price! The ensnarement of individuals with the preoccupation with the insignificant things of life carries with itself hefty doses of ideology. In other words, the atomisation of life under neoliberal conditions is not just bodily, it is engendered by the performances we engage in with one another. We live and breathe and enact the precepts of a market society even in our most intimate relations it would seem. The exchange of cards, one card for the occasion, and a compensatory 'Thank You' card, really regulates a basic relation between people. Instead of a phone call, or a letter, or email if you like, expressing gratitude - or none, if needs be - we pay for a piece of card which does it for us. The advantage of this is that it allows you to avoid the awkwardness of feigning gratitude where none is due. Yet new limitations follow every advance made.