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Posts Tagged ‘advertising’

green goddessWisdom sometimes comes from the most unlikely places. I had a neighbour – a man of little education, and long retired when I met him, a man of simple tastes, fond of his garden, not well off, but perfectly content in the bosom of his family. I forget how our conversation got on to the topic of consumerism, but he said his motto was that if you needed something, and you’d the money, then you should get it, but if you merely wanted a thing, then you shouldn’t get it, even if you’d the money.

Like it or loathe it, consumerism has changed the face of the western world, and it’s changed us. Prior to 1900, it was believed people were motivated by logical responses to available data: give them the relevant information and they’d make a rational choice based upon personal need. But the work of psychoanalysts like Freud,  showed how we in fact respond to things in ways that are far from logical, that we are also driven by unconscious desires of a purely emotional and entirely irrational nature.

The advertising of goods used to focus on practical issues like how reliable the goods were, or what they did that was bigger/better/faster than all the other similar stuff out there. But it was found you could sell more goods if you could also sell the myth that a thing would make a person feel better about themselves in ways beyond the mere function of the thing itself. From then on manufactured goods were no longer practical necessities, they became lifestyle choices. We bought things because we desired them, because we wanted a piece of the mythical lifestyle that came with owning that product. It also meant that if our desires could be sated in this way, we were less likely to satisfy them in other ways, ways that might be socially or politically undesirable – things like taking to the streets in protest for example?

All of this sounds bizarre now, but a look back at the history of psychoanalysis and its links with advertising shows how our unconscious urges have been analysed, categorised and manipulated in order to maximise the sale of goods. Psychoanalysis has many critics, but we are all the living proof of how its theories have been put to devastatingly practical use, including, some might say, the control of large populations – you simply feed us a diet of “stuff”, and weave around it a fantasy of desire, and we become docile, endlessly chasing the myth of the ideal reality, instead of focussing on reality itself.

The history of the western world up to the middle of the twentieth century is one of upheaval and public revolt. But if we look at those same democracies in the early part of the twenty first century, democracies now steeped in a tradition of consumerism, our history is one of apathy. The mob no longer cares what’s going on in halls of power, so long as the postman turns up on time with our stuff from Amazon. Short of a postal strike, I can’t imagine us getting really upset about anything.

Is that necessarily a bad thing? I don’t know. I wouldn’t like to see another pan-European war, but neither am I happy with the thought of a population so lost to the myth of stuff they’ve  no longer the will to change society if they feel it needs changing, nor even the vision to see what needs changing in the first place.

So next time you’re in town, and you see some “thing” and you think to yourself if only I had that thing I’d feel a lot better about myself, remind yourself it won’t make more than five minutes difference to the way you feel at all. Feeling better about yourself comes from somewhere else, and there, I’m afraid, we’re on our own. So try to cut back a little more to the centre of yourself, try to clear the line between necessity and desire, and ask yourself: apart from all this stuff that I apparently want, who the hell am I, and what do I really, really need most in my life right now?

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because you writeAll bloggers like to get “liked” and we can’t help wondering what it is about the “liker” that caused them to “like” us. So, we click the links and see what those “likers” are up to. It’s part of the fun of blogging and I’m sure you’ve made many stimulating contacts this way – souls treading a similar path, and others who are not. But an increasing number of likers seem to be missing the point, mainly because they don’t read our blogs before “liking” them. I know this because I once posted a blank page by accident, and five people liked it within seconds. If we then follow these curious links back to their owners we discover a new breed of bloggers whose blogs have only one category, its raison d’etre being to share with us the secret of how we can all make a lucrative and easy living “online” – just by clicking a few links – and presumably by randomly liking other people’s blogs to attract “business”. You just have to send some money first. These poor souls are not bloggers of course, they are the victims of Multi-Layered-Marketing scams, whose promised millions in earnings, and retirements to the sun depend on getting others to sign up. So the victims sell out their friends and relations first, then wonder who else to target with their vacuous nonsense.

Anyone who has read my work will know how ironic I find this kind of thing. I am not a materialist. I work for a living, write for pleasure and view our consumer society with a troubled heart. So if you’ve not already fallen victim, listen to your uncle Michael – because clearly someone’s got to say this to you. There’s no such thing as easy money, and you can’t make a lucrative living by basically doing nothing.

In the pre-internet era we’d see adverts assuring us that we could do just that – “ring this number for details”. Nowadays it would be a premium hotline and the only person making money would be the one with the cynical “dog-eat dog” wit who’d set it all up. The jobs – if they existed at all – involved putting things in envelopes by the gazillion and mailing them off to people who didn’t want them – or some other bottom of the foodchain task related to marketing other dodgy, dog-eat-dog schemes.

Nowadays most of this nefarious stuff has moved online. Spamblasters try to filter it out, but it’s a relentlessly ingenious scourge that keeps finding new ways of breaking through. So dear professional “liker”, you’ll forgive me if I smile and urge you to pull out before the awful truth dawns. I’d also like to put my tongue in my cheek here and share with you the real secret to worldly success:

1) Get up in the morning. Do as well as you can at school. Go to college if you’re able, then university. Get yourself a graduate level job, preferably doing something you enjoy, because it’s less painful that way. You’ll work at least eight hours a day, possibly longer. Show the bosses you’re willing and dynamic. Smile. Maintain a positive attitude at all times, even those times you think the place sucks. Make no enemies, even those people you believe to be incompetent. Always say yes to opportunities for extra training and when a better paid job comes along, take it – same rules apply. Do all this and you’ll rise over time to a level that suits your own ambition or ability.

Or:

2) Get up in the morning, do as well as you can at school. If that doesn’t lead to college, don’t worry – we’re not all blessed with academic ability, so skip that bit and get an ordinary kind of job any way and anywhere you can – preferably something you think you’ll like doing. You’ll work at least eight hours a day, possibly longer. Show the boss(es) you’re willing and dynamic. Maintain a positive attitude at all times – even when you think the place sucks. Make no enemies,  even those people you believe to be incompetent.  Always say yes to opportunities for extra training. When a better paid job comes along, take it – same rules apply. It’ll take longer than option one – no disguising that – but you can still rise over time to a level that suits your own ambition or ability.

Or:

3) Get up in the morning etc. At some point get an idea for a service or a product or a need, and start your own business. You’ll need a bank loan. Hard route this – and you’ll certainly be working more than eight hours a day while you build it up. There’ll be sleepless nights too, and periods of self doubt, and maybe the bank will pull the plug on the whole thing, but with a bit of luck and lot of grit you’ll win through and maybe even find yourself an employer of people following routes one and two. Of the three this route has the greatest potential to transform you into a self made millionaire, but it won’t be overnight and there’ll be times you wished you chosen routes one or two.

What? Don’t fancy any of these? Want your easy money now? Then go ahead, start “liking” us bloggers – and see how far it gets you.

Of course in all of this we’re talking about “worldly” success.

Real success in life is something else.

And I’m still working on it.

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