View From The Side: Get Over… Advertising


Yoda says ‘do or do not, there is no try’. Of course, like many, I’ve always been ingratiated to the green munchkin for more than just lingo and anti-dark-side credentials – might be his unlikely ability to punch way above his weight that appeals – but you have to admit, that phrase could be a perfect summation of how we should now handle our 21st century situation. 

OK, suitably opaque intro aside, what am I going on about? Well, there’s many an issue and aspect to the way we do things now that definitely warrant action; that being the case we might just as well start with something obvious. How about we push back against the dark side that is advertising? 

‘What’, you say, ‘forests burning, plastic in the oceans, corrupt politicians, resource wars and you want to rail against adverts’? Yes, it seems innocuous but why do you think there’s a depletion of our forests, floating islands of plastic gunk choking marine life and power trippers enriching themselves at the expense of populations home and abroad? It’s our economic system that is the great and gargantuan open mouth chewing the arse of the planet and driving these negatives – a system that must always grow. It’s only going to do that if you keep on buying the junk it peddles. Advertising is the coercion needed for you to do so. It’s not the only problem but it is indeed a very large driver of this careening, crashing train we’re bouncing on. Get it? Exchanges need to multiply. The current pseudo-religious ruling order creates money as debt that must be repaid with interest, which is why the economy needs to grow or it will fall over. Therefore you must work to line your shelves with as much stuff you don’t need as possible. You must adhere to the doctrine – after all, only truly believers will be saved. 

Of course, it may have been forgotten by all and sundry but it’s never been a secret that our good old planet more than happily provides everything required to live on its wet, green and dry skin  – you would have noticed if certain privileged old men hadn’t been working tirelessly down the ages to parcel it off, sell it to each other and invent baroque legal and financial systems licensing them to play their natty little (end)game any way they see fit. They’d have you believe that theirs is the only sensible solution for this particular small planet. 

Yet the advertising era, our current bright and shiny fantasy perpetually pummelling all reason and sanity, only began around 1920, specifically to push upon you things you don’t actually need and extend the game to cover (and flog) more ground. Mind you, having nearly a hundred years of experience does make the advertising industry very good at what they do; their covert skills and mastery of manipulation are common currency in government, journalism and all between.  They’ve perfected the art of distracting you from the reality that you truly don’t need what they’re foisting on you – more often than not through emotional manipulation. By the way, look how frizzy your hair is, don’t you need product for that? 

Anyway, don’t try and pretend that your place, my place, every place hasn’t become clogged with stuff. You’ve got it on every shelf, there are books buried for years, tacky little knick-knacks stuck to the front of your fridge and lining the top shelves and high spots of your front room and bedroom, unaccountable accessories not even glanced at since they piqued your flitting interest during one of your random ramblings along some sodden high street or another. There’s a wardrobe full of barely worn clothes, a pile of shoes for which the occasion never arrives – or has long since passed, there’s all the gear for which you’ve no idea what sports fad or health kick your loaded them in for; stretchy things, steps, balls, weights. In fact, you have so much paraphernalia clogging your walls, cupboards, shelves and halls that you’re even considering renting a little room in one of those big yellow industrial looking buildings out there on the edge of town. They’re even building houses by the side of the motorway on the remains of all that junk that got peddled, meddled and then jettisoned. You have become swamped. And owned. You have so much dam stuff that you don’t even know what to do with it all. Yet you continue to accumulate. You are a choreographed dance to someone else’s brilliantly catchy tune. When you hear it you’ll work, buy, accumulate, use, dispose (or stash) time and again. Time to stop, catch your breath and walk away from it. Er, just do it. 

Recognise that money is the only true judge of value in this paradigm. Everything else, handy little things like people, planet and future are only good as far as they can be monetized this very day for that very return. The problem is systemic and the problem is you and me. At this point we might be tempted to just harp on about how the industrial society upon which we depend has its adolescent failings; its open mouth insatiableness, its blindness and aptitude in backing itself into corners, but let’s not get hung up or god forbid, stuck up. Let’s just put down a few of the toys and check ourselves before the biosphere saturates in a thousand year junk and plastic sauce. 

Might seems pretty obvious that we need all this stuff to plug a gap or fill a need that’s simply ignored in most of us. Maybe it’s a connection gone awry or a desire misfired but there’s no denying the fizzy satisfaction materialism can bring – even if it always goes flat after a time. Right now, you’re lovin’ it. But might it be possible that all the shiny stuff blinds us to the real possibilities? Just what is it that we need?

Actually, strike that, there’s no bloody time for introspection now. The time to languish in our possibilities is a little bit of luxury we can’t afford when we should be looking at solutions. The party has gone on too long, the bill has come due; imagine what would happen if your mum came home to find you’ve trashed the place whilst she’d been away for the weekend; well, the consequences of our industrial feeding frenzy are likely to do more than just send us to our scruffy little box room. We’re set to be consigned to a world where every other cupboard is bereft, every cup of water tainted, every corner stained with our excretions – and those that will have to live in it most likely won’t even have been invited to the party in the first place. They won’t be happy, you know. 

And so, for now, ends this simplistic foray into debasing one of the toxic topsy turvey trades of our time. There’s a bunch of people out there already clued in to the name of the game and they’ve already backed out; more will join ‘em in short order – manipulation eventually becomes obvious to all but the wilful.  In the meantime maybe we can stop queueing up every time someone ships the latest gizmo, take no loans, buy or get second hand stuff for free, pretend we can do with less and allow that reality to catch along as it always usually does. 

In the new world that’s arriving a sentence at a time, you’ll have to get used to the idea of less anyway, its coming no matter how much you think you all the trinkets we have now are ‘worth it’ because this sphere we’re on is finite dontcha know? What’s more, we can all work on making our new way something worth buying into. We won’t be lining pockets for the mindless anymore – that should make you happy, and swish all your manipulated forebodings about the future swiftly down the drain. After all, as we’ve already seen, and as Yoda so wisely councils, “The fear of loss is a path to the Dark Side”.

Live within your means. ​ 


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