Friday, 6 June 2014

You're a Fool

I couldn't get a single rise out of anyone this week, by being controversial. Hey ho.

I wasn't even going to bother this morning, and then a friend posted two videos on FB about two different things. And yet exactly the same thing. If you can spare the time to watch these you'll be glad you did.

You probably know that marketing is such a fine art that it pretty much brainwashes the consumer. Most people get caught at some point no matter how aware they are. All of us. So let's get that over with. Nobody is immune.

That said, some people are more easily fooled than others. And some people simply fool themselves. Without any help from marketers whatsoever.

I guarantee that right now, you think that you want or even need a long list of things that actually, you don't.

Now, how can that be? Surely, a person at least on close inspection, can make a decision like that?

There are actually very few things that we choose that are "free choice". We are conditioned by everything we've ever known. It begins at birth. The foods we are offered as babies are quite often the foods we enjoy right through our lives. There are exceptions to this rule, obviously but it's very common to find people who did not have a certain type of food offered at a young age, to never "acquire" a taste for it. Fish is a common example of this, but the one I come across frequently is kidney. Being British I was given steak & kidney pie before I can remember. When I talk about it to North American friends who were not introduced to this as children they usually pull a face. The very idea of it is distasteful. Sometimes they refuse to try it, sometimes the braver ones try it, but aren't keen. Only a tiny minority enjoy it.

There is nothing wrong with this situation. If you are determined to be an adventurous foodie, if you wish to overcome distaste, you can make the effort, but it's not a big deal, so generally we don't bother. We eat something else. It's only food.

Sometimes though, the thing that was familiar or unfamiliar early in life does matter later on.

An example that was pointed out to me recently was how we feel about nudity. I grew up in a time and place when small children ran naked on beaches. I also grew up in a house where it was just two women so I never bothered with PJs, and I never got into the habit of covering myself up getting out of bed, or even leaving my room. I went to an all girl school and we had communal changing rooms and showers. I have almost no inhibitions whatsoever. When I had my first child and the nurse offered me a hospital gown because people were going in and out of the room, I declined it. I gave birth fully naked and didn't care. Seemed natural. I have to remember to be modest, for the sake of more sensitive onlookers.

On the other hand, the friend I was discussing this with was taught from an early age to be ashamed of her body. Not only was she expected to wear nightclothes, even these had to be covered with a gown - one layer wasn't enough. Any experience of having to be even partially undressed as she grew up was traumatic, and to this day she is not comfortable even going braless under a thick top, because she feels naked. This lady is not a coward by any means. She's not a needy or weak person, she's a strong and feisty person, and she would very much LIKE to have less inhibitions, but she just can't throw them off. It's too hard.

So you can imagine the effect that all that pink marketing nonsense in the 2nd video is having on little girls. It's coming at them from all sides, day in, day out. Add peer pressure to that, and women's attitudes and personalities are essentially being created by modern western culture. It's the same for boys of course. And therefore it's as if the patriarchy is trying to fight back on two fronts, except it seems to be largely driven by money. Or maybe it always was.

The problem is, it's hard to get away from it because the societal pressure is constant and just becomes normal. It's hard to remember that you managed to live without a smartphone, just fine, for most of your life, when so many aspects of your life are attached to it.

I had a funny experience. My elderly Android finally refused to work at all a few months back, and I didn't replace it. It wasn't a conscious decision not to, it was a combination of not having the time to go phone shopping and finding that actually, I didn't miss it. I hadn't really got "into" it, in the way many do. It more often than not annoyed me, and although there have been a couple of times when it has been inconvenient not having the ability to send a text message, I am now wondering if I will bother replacing it. Not having a phone on my person has some problems, certainly, in a world where that has become the norm. But I already pick and choose the parts of the modern world that I embrace, and I have come to realise increasingly that there is a freedom in eschewing the less important parts.

And at this current phase in my life, I hardly ever see advertisements. I have ad blockers that keeps them off my "online" experience. I don't have a TV service, so there's none coming at me there. I don't own a radio. I don't buy newspapers or magazines, and when I venture out into the world, frequently it's only to a small town nearby where poster advertising is virtually non-existent. There are no buses, or bus shelters. There are maybe three large billboards along the highway, and they usually advertise charities or radio stations for some reason.

The point is, I don't KNOW what latest products are being pushed, and consequently I don't want them.

I think that sums up the situation without any further remark, but imagine if that's how everything was. Imagine if we had to make all our own decisions about what we really wanted or needed.

It's never going to happen, so what we have to do instead is be aware that the decisions we make are not really our own. The problem is, how do we know what we really want?

I think the answer is obvious, but not popular. Because I keep running into people who are dissatisfied with their lives but not doing anything to change it. In other words they are doing things they don't enjoy, and don't want to do, because that's easier than not doing it.

If I said to you, every time I punch myself in the eye it hurts, you'd tell me to stop punching myself in the eye. And you'd be right. But that's exactly how so many people live their lives.

I mentioned my lack of TV to somebody last week who said "Yes, it's all rubbish anyway, and I pay $50 a month". But she won't cancel it. She'll carry on paying that, and carry on watching things that aren't very good because it's a habit, a routine.

I was talking to somebody else recently who said she'd love to learn to knit. But she isn't learning. She isn't doing the thing she really wants to do.

What the hell is wrong with people? They complain constantly about things they aren't actually forced to put up with. You've heard it. You've done it.

Right now, I guarantee there is something you genuinely want to do, or want to stop doing, that's really very simple. That is not harmful. That will cost you very little or possibly even save you money. That is not dependent on luck or the will of others. And the only reason you are not making this change is a foolish inertia - there is absolutely no good excuse whatsoever.

And there are many things you are doing from habit, or from influences that ceased to exist long ago. Things you should have outgrown.

May I suggest you stop being a fool and follow your bliss instead?

May I suggest you find freedom by rejecting expectations, and discover your own mind?

May I suggest you stop making excuses, including to yourself, and BE yourself?

If this hits home to anyone, and if it's the kick up the arse you need to actually DO SOMETHING, however small, in a positive direction, then may I also suggest that you try in your own way to influence somebody else.

This is your life. What are you waiting for?


  1. My mother used to say "modesty goes out the window once you've had a child". In some ways that's true; giving birth in a hospital practically requires the attendance of multiple people including doctors, nurses, family members. I learned to cope with it.
    Since then I've felt more comfortable in my skin and I've tried to help my young daughter feel the same. She doesn't mind showering with me on occasion, and allows me to help her put her medicated creams on hard-to-reach places to treat her eczema. She's just as happy playing with model cars and Lego as she is with Barbie dolls. So I hope I'm doing something right.

  2. Another very well-thought blog. I trust you won't think me presumptuous when I say that we're very much alike in our thought processes. We're both very adventurous where food is concerned. That doesn't mean we like all the same things, but we have a desire for variety.

    I tend to believe that people have varying degrees of "susceptibility" to advertising. Perhaps even as children, although I would agree that they are perhaps more "at risk" of programming. Unless it's a product or service I'm interested in, ads go in one ear and out the other. If you asked me anything about one in which I had no interest, I'd probably flunk a pop quiz. I will admit to an affinity in certain limited areas, as I do have a very specific interest in certain technologies. Doesn't mean I'm going to run right out and buy something; I just enjoy seeing the progressions and improvements.

    I suppose as a child, I was "programmed" like most folks are concerning nudity, but that all changed in a heartbeat when we fell in with the local naturist crowd, when we were in our 40s. Although as teens, we frequently enjoyed skinny dipping.

    And as I may have mentioned in the past regarding TV, we don't watch most of it but we DO enjoy cooking shows, live comedy and live music. Also shows like Colbert Report and the Daily Show, only because they have such legitimacy where politics are concerned; something severely lacking at Fox and often, CNN.

    1. Yeah, I think it varies, and it's because levels of awareness vary. People can be very book smart and very unaware. You often find people can talk about a given topic at some length but they've only memorized facts and figures, they don't really understand it. This is why we get sheeple syndrome in the political area, and why talking heads have such impact. Thinking for yourself takes more effort, and clearly many just can't be bothered.

  3. For as much as we are connected in many ways with each other, we are just as disconnected from our selves. When you talk about advertising and other forms of manipulation in appeasing our many 'wants,' it says how much we fail to pay attention to our actual needs. No wonder the place is such a mess. ;) ~ Blessings! :)