Nature not Good Enough?
One sees in shops here sometimes grown flowers in bunches which have been dyed. Usually has been added a Day-Glo radioactive-type blaze of pink or purple, or green or yellow. One occasionally sees also semi-precious stones for sale which also somehow have been tinted likewise into outlandish colours which are almost luminous. Sometimes these are sold in jewellery; necklaces, bracelets.
And I guess many of us have experienced an upgrade or a refurbishment, or as they are termed makeovers, which have destroyed altogether what we once felt was a charming and pleasant, even an unpretentious original. I have seen beautiful solid wood panelling and furniture junked and replaced by melamine or wood veneer faced chipboard sheeting or desks.
There are two issues here; and both are united by a question of taste.
The first issue is; why might we want to ‘improve on’ nature by dyeing gemstones and flowers in this way? The second issue is: why should we want to replace items serviceable and pleasant in themselves, with items cosmetically and superficially ‘new’ but made using inferior materials of a shabby quality?
Investigation of these issues goes to the heart of the way we live now, and to our fetish for ‘keeping up to date’ and so turning around one’s décor and goods, buildings and appliances, regularly as a matter of course.
Of course, it is a commonplace to say that in all of previous history before the consumer boom of the late 20th century into the present, there has been for most people, other than for kings and potentates and the like, no way for them to have privilege and means and power to be able to happily turnover regularly series of material items the like of which we surround ourselves with like candies.
This fetish is for us even yet deeply tied in with the Western world’s 19 century idea of ‘progress’, an idea which many, maybe most, people today, and via lip-service, will be likely to deprecate as ‘having had its day’; but yet by their actions and aspirations many, if not most, people remain convinced (convicted) of and expectant of ‘progress’ to deliver for them yet; and tied in with this gross misalignment of thought and deeds with actuality, is the all-pervasive and spouting-this-propaganda-ethos and business model of consumerism.
Consumerism needs these ideas of ‘progress’ and ‘improvement’ and of ‘aspiration’ and ‘expectation’ – for them to continue to thrive in the commoners minds of its consumer publics, so that the goods and services which it proliferates to a ludicrous and wholly overproduced, wastrel, extent; and which comprise its ‘bread and butter’ and so has become its tenet; consumerism needs these things and attitudes and so consumerism does everything it can to encourage and promote them and their continuance in our minds.
But let’s not keep to ‘consumerism’ in the abstract; but bring it into the palpable world and say bluntly that Company Boards, Company Managers, and eager Executives, along with the men (and sometimes women) in government whose job they believe is to stimulate and foster ‘the economy’; all these persons are single-eyed and focussed upon propounding these expedient and contrived consumerist ethics so as to keep ordinary people, who are their marketplaces, convinced of the necessity of buying and consuming in a never ending accelerating jamboree of shopping.
In this light dyed flowers and gemstones, the pulling down of perfectly serviceable buildings and a trashing of very useful goods in their untold millions day after day; are all a part of this consumerist engineered and propounded ethos of ‘constant novelty’ and of ‘constant ‘renewal’ of material goods and of services. For instance, the clothing fashion industry likewise is on the same long express train heading no-one knows where or for how long is the journey; but yet anyone with some prescience carries a reasonable foreboding along with the more discerning passengers; that the destination will not be as planned and hoped for but yet over the ravine and smash into the canyon below.
Accompanying this ‘bandwagon’ consumerist train to nowhere is its effect of vitiating the ordinary person’s personal taste, and also consumerism is perverting artistic taste too. Not only is the quality of goods which are being sold in mass numbers necessarily so of much poorer value, worth and quality than they had been before the eras of consumerism; consumerist goods have to be necessarily so, in order for the marketplace to provide en mass so much to so many people. And not only this but these shoddy goods are also often generally less durable, less attractive, bulkier and less useful than those durable items which have been and continue to be junked by us unnecessarily in their millions so as to make way for the next tranche of gewgaws and knickknacks in our homes. Consumerist taste thus becomes almost wholly a matter of fashion, of what goods and services are ‘in’ and of what goods and services are ‘out’. Consumerist taste thus becomes a social following and no longer bears any standard independent in much higher degree of the times and the pressures of contemporary events.
Thus we as consumers – and our goods and services – and our minds – are constantly being kept moving – not in any natural progression stimulated by and inspired by any consideration, or self-reflection or by good conversation with discerning acquaintance, but like a big store’s escalator carries its shoppers without effort on their parts and almost unnoticed by them – and as satirised by the makers of Zombie movies. Our thoughts are moved and managed by these escalators of the guys and women who sit in boardrooms and at executive meetings planning carefully and deliberately how to mange and direct our minds.
The obvious tools in their bags for doing this mind manipulation are advertising, hype, discounting, ‘giving free gifts’, hire purchase arrangements; no-interest deals; bundles; seasonal sales; bulk buys; after-sales offers and services; pay later deals; etc; but yet all of this fabulous armoury of persuasion for you to buy is superseded by and subordinate in their minds, in their plans, and in their accounting, to their bottom lines of bringing in cash in ever-greater quantities; of expanding the Company ever a bit more day by day year by year; increasing their personal and the company’s domain of power and influence, their range of items provided, the number and size of their offices and factories and centres across the world, ever-better brokered tax deals with governments; ever smarter trade deals with governments; and so on.
These guys and their companies are engaged in empire-building – to an indefinite extension – the sky’s their limit – and to embracing the power and kudos which success in empire-building brings to them as people – success in the eyes of those of us who remain captive and enamoured of, entangled within their webs and clutches. And so these guys seeking after empires just like their consumer flocks are also on a train going who-knows-where – none of them know where – but the expectation and aspiration is always the same and is always precluded to be more product, more services, more money etc and ever the next innovation, trend, manipulation of and distortion of taste.
But of course, in the material world engines like this consumerist badboy require fuel and use up energy, and fuel and energy are finite resources; thus there will indubitably come a time when the train they are on has to halt or will break down; or even smashes; a time when there is no more fuel and no more track and no more worn-out engine; nor parts or replacements to be had. The bottom line for us all is that everybody aspiring to live like a billionaire may well be the ruin and destruction of what might easily have been and yet be instead; modest stable adequate living conditions for us all.
And this continual feeding of the flames of the engine’s boiler is another means by which the runaway train of consumerism is kept at full tilt; but it entails an approach to its consumers which aims (falsely and lyingly) to pamper and cosset we consumers’ misguided senses of being individuals and so of us being each one unique.
How often do we hear come-ons like ‘tailored especially for you’ or ‘with you in mind’ and so much low-grade flattery and lies attempting to ‘butter-up’ the person, the consumer, by telling her/him s/he is so special and so important; when the main aim of the seller and advertiser is to sell as much of a standard item of uniform stock as possible to a great mass of persons who are indistinguishable individually by the indifferent lack of attention in the sellers’
The actual product or service once sold to and received by a consumer is commonly without any particular individuation as a product or service or in its terms and conditions of sale. I hope the cynical irony set around these sellers and traders and their promise the earth methods is not lost on you reading this?
In our liberal-democratic societies there is a direct clash when the fixed need for mass production of standard goods and services so as to provide for us teeming multitudes, goes wholly contrary to our ‘liberal myths’ of ‘individuality’ and ‘personal freedom’. Individuality and personal freedom for all! Goods and services are instead ‘wrapped-up’ and marketed as ‘tailored to the individual purchaser’ – because you’re worth it – but it’s a mass market product delivered nonetheless; unless you have billions of $ or £ in which case you are able to command bespoke items for real. As they say – money talks – and then everything is for sale.
The studied cultivation of and the deceit essentially involved in procuring mass market customers are not recognised as being unlawful or unethical by government advertising standards boards and their like, who are paid to regulate advertising. These tropes and wheezes are recognised instead as being all in the spirit of marketing and so would be buyers are recited that old legal dictum ‘caveat emptor’; and thus consumers are considered to be merely ‘fair game’.
Likewise the terms of employment for most people in the ‘liberal democracies’ are onerous. One is ‘sold’ for 8 or so hours per day to one’s employer so as to do his/her will during that time. Literally one’s time is not one’s own. The ‘freedom of choice’ cherished and propagated as a cardinal liberal value in our societies is in fact a pretty hollow trinket when employment and its conditions, which occupies up to half one’s waking lifetime, are taken into account when looked at in regard to most working persons’ lives.
Like the media and news magazines, the marketing system by their contents and approaches are not offering a case of what you see is what you get, or offering to tell it to people like it is. Both media and marketing, each has its angles and its needs to fulfil – quotas of customers and of listeners/readers/viewers; the beating off of the competition; the serving of its political masters; the keeping the people sweet and well-disposed – or else making them ill-disposed in regard to certain ‘stock’ shibboleths and constructed ‘enemies’.
Once the angle has been baited and has then hooked the consumers of these media and marketplace products, often, unless the competition doing it better, these anglers will ditch you leaving their product/service/news in your hands and your money safely with their banks; and let you sink or swim as regards after-sales, warrantees, or consequences. With goods this is especially the case with frequently replaced/bought smaller items like batteries, and razors, toiletries and clothes and so on – if the produces of them can get away with dumping you without penalties kicking in for them further down the road and after some fashion.
Just as most of us then are ‘wage slaves’ working to provide and manufacture the goods and services which we are also badgered and convinced into consuming; and just as we as being consumers are being offered mass-market products via marketing methods which proclaim ‘mutton dressed up as lamb’; and just as our individuality though seductively appealed to in the come-ons before sale; and just as there is all this going on, there is yet also the fact of a cynical mocking of us by these industries and their pursuits because they know truly what are our actual standings with them, the providers of goods/services; and they know also the proper tawdry quality of the actual goods/services they make available and with which we inevitably end up.
But the bandwagon must keep rolling because our participation is what is required to keep the profits rolling in for the people and companies who dupe us in these manners; thus we are building up further their fortunes and empires at our expense, and by our work for them; in short – we have become their ‘canon-fodder’ – their ‘pet rabbits’; and whilst we are under the illusions they like to foster in us, we are transfixed ‘in their headlights’ and cannot see a way beyond or out of their paths.
And thus novelty and new products, upgrades, ‘better’ and ‘different’ things are all largely hype and propaganda; smokes and mirrors; piss and wind; and in fact very few of them are actual radical new directions; even though each of them from the most banal to the most cunningly concealed sleight is labelled in the ads that present them as ‘game changers’ – just as every movie and every book published is now guaranteed utterly to ‘change your life’.
By these hollow claims they hook us in until the scales are lifted from our eyes about a certain product or service we bought; so that we see that it is ‘not what it is cracked up to be’ by any means; and whereupon its providers are already several steps ahead of us, and always at the ready with marketing (racketeering) the next ‘Big Thing’ and the newest ‘game changer’ so as to sucker us, suck us in, yet again with these.
Whilst we are fed the aspirations and the expectations the hype and the glamour ubiquitously propagated in our societies by the consumerist model of commerce; and whilst we are happy to fall into line behind such peddled pipe dreams; all of which are of great of greatest convenience to their purveyors’ own welfares and wealth; and whilst we do not awaken, shake ourselves, and reject these futures planned and orchestrated for us by these entrepreneurial guys and their empires; and whilst we are unable, unwilling, to accept different aspirations and expectations being ones which can be delivered according to their promise; until these things occur we are their puppets and they will make us dance for them all day at their will.
Thus the shopping/recreation cultural hype; the cult of the celebrity TV entrepreneur; the fabricated glamours around sports and sportsmen and (very much less so yet) women; the whole adoration of money, of the rich and of the antics the rich get up to and get away with – which a poorer person would be jailed for and/ ostracised from society for. Our unlucky avid consumption of these provided soporifics. Our being offered as our mentors, our role models, our aspirational guides, the likes of the Dysons and the Saatchis, the Murdochs and the Brookes’; the rude arrogant Sugars and the smiling damned villain Cowells – are they any more or less than supreme egoists cultivating a megalomaniac presumption?
Don’t get me wrong – there’s no envy, no sour grapes in me – only outraged anger at the way the people are the marionettes of these types, and thus are gaily jolted on strings according to their biddings; to their self-interests; to their calculated and inculcated cunnings and manipulations. They would say and many of their fans would nod their heads in an agreement of assent; that they are ‘giving the people what they want’. Just like Henry Ford offered a ‘car in any colour you like as long as it’s black’. They hold the sole reins on what is provided as our fodder and nosebags– and they lack any aesthetic discretion and fineness of judgement to be heard as any true arbiters of taste – and so it is we get dished up to us from them pie and mash with thin sour liquor but on the menu they provide to us it is labelled as being turtle soup and venison.
I have written elsewhere about this LCD culture; wherein the Lowest Common Denominator is considered – by these self–proclaimed, self-worshipping, knowers of the people’s will – to be the best thing to offer us as the surest money-spinner for them every time – thus there is precious little attempt by them to raise the game in people’s tastes – on the contrary – the game is to drag into the fold the most coarse and least considerate of people and on the way whilst doing so they do not care that they coarsen and make inconsiderate those who come to them by chance by the way. Thus eventually there is nothing, no depravity or ugliness offered and displayed, sold or made or marketed, which might be considered beyond the pale – if the market can bear it, it is a racing certainty to be made and sold – and so it is that guys like Trump and Farage and Johnson are able to become political celebrities – a new category of offense – and thereby they become would-be governors of the ridiculously hyped and misnamed ‘free world’
No we don’t have Gulags and Pogroms; Poll Pots and Papa Docs; Kim Sung Ils and Mugabes; the world is full of them isn’t it? – but our tyrants and the tyrannies they lord it over are ‘softly-softly’ ones – what George Orwell called half-humorously, half- satirically, a use of ‘the iron fist in the velvet glove’.
Ours is a less blatant form of coercion, of enslavement; but for all that all the more insidious – William Blake wrote of it in his times, and during its days of inception and rise to dominance, as it fitting us up with ‘mind-forged-manacles’. And what better enslavement is there from the point of view of our keepers than one which to the typically enslaved person is invisible because unobserved by them: and what more hateful and desperate case for such unobserving slaves than such an enslavement and not knowing it?
Just a short coda to finish with: You readers may not go with me on this – but what I am going to finish off with is the most important thing in the universe – without any exception or any exaggeration. Here it is:
Jesus called them [his disciples] to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many
I say; Amen; Amen.
The original article is located at our anomalist design blog: http://blog.anomalistdesign.com/nature-not-good-enough/?preview=true