Sunday, August 3, 2008

An application of the conformity theory

Crazy story from David Samuel's New Yorker article on California's marijuana entrepreneurs: "While Blue napped, I wandered around his apartment, and counted nearly a dozen images and carvings of the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha. The proliferation of Ganesha dates back to a well-publicized federal bust in January, 2007, when the D.E.A. seized the medicine and cash of eleven pot dispensaries in Los Angeles. The only major dispensary that wasn’t busted had a Ganesha in its window. Now it is hard to find a karmically inclined ganja dealer in Los Angeles who doesn’t own a herd of lucky figurines."

The rest of the article is fascinating too. What strikes me is that Ganesha statues are the perfect application of the conformity theory. They're so damn cool: there's a catch story behind them, non-conformists hoard them, and they are random enough that if anybody does own a Ganesha statue, they must be cool.

This last point I think is the crucial one here. Certain phenomenon seem to straddle both sides of the conformity theory at once. It's sort of like trucker hats in the early-2000s: they could be cool or they could be stupid, depending on why you were wearing it. Another example might be really bad movies, which are only allowed to be enjoyed in an ironic sense.

But with Ganesha statues, you don't have to make this distinction. Until they are sold at any major retailers, they will remain 100% cool.