“Consumerism is a spiritual discipline that, like other spiritual practices, lends itself to a certain practice of community. In identifying with the images and values associated with certain brands, we also identify ourselves with all the other people who make such an identification. Consumerism also allows us to identify with other places and other cultures through our purchases. White kids in Illinois can listen to reggae music and feel themslves in solidarity with the struggles of poor blacks in Jamaica. As Vincet Miller points out, however, such types of “virtual” community tend to reduce community to disembodied acts of consumption. Miller cites the example of Moby’s album Play, which sold ten million copies in 1999. On that album Moby combines samples of African-American spirituals, gospel, and blues with techno-beat dance music. The song “Natural Blues” begins with a sampling from a 1959 recording of Vera Hall singing “Oh, Lordy, trouble so hard.” The sample is chopped and mixed with dance music, and though such samples allow the listener to enter into imaginative sympathy with the struggles of the African-American community in its long hard history, Moby takes the Hall samples out of context and offers them for listener consumption.
Although Vera Hall and the other artiss were not even acknowledged, let alone thanked in Moby’s liner notes on the Play album, every song on that alubm was eventually licensed for use in a commerical–for such companies as Calvin Klein and American Express. Concrete suffering is abstracted from its context and offered as a commodity. No matter how much the listener feels in solidarity with others, virtual solidarity offers no concrete results. As Miller notes, “This abstraction impedes the translation of ethical concerns into action, reducing ethics to sentiment. The virtual becomes a substitute for concrete political solidarity, or to put it another way, a fundamentally different act — consumption — is substituted for political action.”" William Cavanaugh, Being Consumed, pp. 50-51.