Wednesday, April 27, 2016

If I Were God

Do you ever play the game "if I were God?" Sometimes, Doug and I look at each other and say "if I were God..." and we finish up the sentence with something that makes perfect sense at the time. Like getting rid of sugar or industrial seed oils. The first thing I would do, however, if I really was God would be get rid of advertising. As far as I can see advertising serves no purpose except to peddle goods and services to people who need neither but believe that their life will be enhanced by having both. 

Humans, supposedly the smartest animal on the planet, are rapidly destroying our oceans, forests, food systems, water, even air. We are literally killing ourselves in our pursuit of stuff. Stuff that we tire of remarkably quickly and just as quickly need to replace with the next new thing. 


I consider myself extraordinarily fortunate in not caring a whole lot about stuff. While I do like having a pair of rock shoes, a sea kayak, a rope and climbing rack, one of each is enough. I can't climb with four pairs of rock shoes on my feet, or paddle three kayaks at a time so why not simply have one? The less stuff I have the freer I feel. Any time I accumulate more stuff I begin to feel bogged down. Not only must I use this stuff, but I have to store it, maintain it, move it around the planet with me. It all becomes such a time, energy and money consuming process - I'm worn out simply thinking about it. 

It used to be that advertising was something that we passively consumed. We saw bill-boards, advertisements in magazines, heard them on the radio. With the advent of television, advertising became much more compelling as we humans are such visual creatures. But, there was always a divide. They - the corporate world - were trying to get us to buy something which they had to sell. Even the most naive consumer could recognize advertising for what it was. Then came product placement, celebrity endorsement, sponsorship, and the line between the advertisers and us became a little less distinct. Finally, in what sometimes seems to me the end of the rational world, came social media. And suddenly everyone is an advertiser, or, in current lingo a "content creator."


If you believe as I do that the accumulation of stuff puts you on a treadmill from which there is no escape the consumer become advertiser is simply another twist on the Stockholm Syndrome except that we have become our own captors. In a Machiavellian twist that must be the wet dream of the corporate world we are selling stuff, for which we have no real need and which will bring us no lasting joy, to ourselves. Walt Kelly summed it up on Earth Day 1970 "We have met the enemy and he is us."

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