The Foolishness of a Consumer Society

Foolishness

Do custom-embroidered powder room towels actually make your life better?

If you think so, and if you’re not of the very few who care about towels as an art form, you’re getting your kicks from other people being impressed by you. You’re buying the approval of others… and you’re all being foolish together.

Quality food makes your life better. A reliable car makes your life better. Good medicine makes your life better. Olive spoons do not.

Sadly, much of the Western world, and America especially, has become addicted to status symbols. This has been going on for generations now. When I was a boy people joked about “keeping up with the Joneses,” but the joke was funny only because it was true.

This is an addiction. Yes, it is a cultured addiction – you can barely escape the promotion of it in the modern world – but it’s an addiction nonetheless.

How This Happened

This is what I’ve been told by men considerably older than myself:

World War I was a major turning point for American business. A large number of businessmen got rich at that time, selling all sorts of war materials to the Allies: uniforms, shovels, saddles, guns, ammunition, even horses.

Many people will not remember this, but the US didn’t enter the war until 1917; it had begun in 1914. But American businessmen were enjoying record sales the whole time.

After the war ended in late 1918, things began winding down (winding down a war takes time). They didn’t return to normal quickly, because of a horrendous flu epidemic in 1918 through 1920, which killed millions and not just the very young or old. Still, the plague eventually wound down, leaving businessmen to cope with seriously declining numbers.

It was at that point, my older friends informed me, that big business decided they had to do something about this and get people to buy more stuff than they’d been buying previously: to squeeze more consumption from the same people. And they embarked upon this course with vigor.

Perhaps no public statement on this subject was clearer than one from Paul Mazur, a senior partner at Lehman Brothers, writing in the Harvard Business Review in 1927:

We must shift America from a needs, to a desires culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old had been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality in America. Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.

As is evident from the America of our time, this worked. A huge percentage of things people buy will be sold for pennies on the dollar at their eventual estate sales. They are bought in the hope of imparting some kind of self-esteem, status, or envy, not because they actually improve life.

Now, while I’m picking on things like embroidered towels and olive spoons, we must also acknowledge that a very few people will care about such things for art’s sake… and that’s fine… it is not foolish. But let’s also be honest and admit that such people are few and far between.

Scientific Manipulation

In fairness to American and Western populations, we should add that this change was accomplished with scientific manipulation, which was arising at just this time. One of the major drivers of this was a man named Edward Bernays, who was the nephew of Sigmund Freud. He made a lot of money teaching giant corporations to manipulate the public. Here are two quotes from him:

If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without them knowing it.

Physical loneliness is a real terror to the gregarious animal, and that association with the herd causes a feeling of security. In man this fear of loneliness creates a desire for identification with the herd in matters of opinion.

There was a concentrated effort to manipulate the minds of millions, to frighten them and to herd them on behalf of the political and financial classes. This was problem enough in the days when people received their news from newspapers, but it was supercharged by television.

So…

Those of us of the West have lived all our lives inside a web of manufactured discontent. We are told to elect political candidates because their opponent is horrible and because things are bad. We are told that we must buy new houses or vacations or a hundred other things, because other people have them and we’ll look bad in comparison. Or that the boy or girl we’re interested in won’t agree to marry us unless we look a certain way, buy a certain ring, or drive a certain type of car. And so on, in hundreds of variations.

All of this is based on the assumption that we are in a deficit position – that the advertised product will somehow fill our deficit.

The fake world – as shown on TV and Facebook – features an endless struggle for empty acquisition and status symbols.

It is foolish to slave away in the service of giant corporations. If we wish to be sensible, we should labor for things that actually make our lives better. And if something is manipulatively advertised, we shouldn’t buy it.

Live for you, not for them.

* * * * *

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  • I just finished reading The Breaking Dawn and found it to be one of the most thought-provoking, amazing books I have ever read… It will be hard to read another book now that I’ve read this book… I want everyone to read it.
  • Such a tour de force, so many ideas. And I am amazed at the courage to write such a book, that challenges so many people’s conceptions.
  • There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.
  • Holy moly! I was familiar with most of the themes presented in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts you presented at the end of this one.

Get it at Amazon ($18.95) or on Kindle: ($5.99)

TheBreakingDawn

* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com

Why Americans Get Suckered Every Time

So, Trump has gone against what he swore he’d do and bombed the hell out of a Syrian air base, to thunderous applause on seemingly every side. His enemies now love him… he’s being called Presidential… and once again, millions of Americans have been suckered into a knee-jerk response. Bear in mind that this statement holds up, even if what Trump claims is 100 percent true.
Also bear in mind that I don’t dislike Americans;

AmericansSuckered

April 8, 2017

So, Trump has gone against what he swore he’d do and bombed the hell out of a Syrian air base, to thunderous applause on seemingly every side. His enemies now love him… he’s being called Presidential… and once again, millions of Americans have been suckered into a knee-jerk response.

Bear in mind that this statement holds up, even if what Trump claims is 100 percent true.

Also bear in mind that I don’t dislike Americans; in general, I think highly of them. It’s just that they have a particular way of being turned into suckers… a way that works more or less every time…. even when the underlying facts are made up of whole cloth.

I think it’s important to understand why this is so.

They Couldn’t Possibly Know

Three days ago the entire US intelligence complex couldn’t be sure whether one of their own bombs destroyed a building in Mosul. (I think they’re still claiming uncertainty.) This was more than a week after the event, and they just couldn’t tell.

So, how can they be completely certain about someone else’s bombs, in a far more complex situation, in three days?

The answer to that questions, as any reasonable person would conclude, is that they can’t.

Even if Assad did exactly what they say, they couldn’t really know in that short a space of time. If they couldn’t know after ten days in Mosul, they couldn’t after three days in Syria. (Not to mention that Assad would have been shooting himself in the leg to use chemical weapons.)

So here’s our first clue in how Americans get suckered: The facts don’t matter. They didn’t matter when Bush said Hussein was building nuclear weapons and they didn’t matter when LBJ said our boys were being attacked in international waters at the Gulf of Tonkin. They simply don’t play in these exchanges.

Why The Facts Don’t Matter

This is the big question, and fortunately the answer to it is simple: Americans like to feel righteous. And that’s not actually such a bad thing. At its base, it’s is a rather good characteristic. The problem lies in how it’s applied. And in the case of modern Americans, it’s applied badly, casting the US military as the agent of sanctification.

Americans remain a religious people, whether or not they attend religious ceremonies. In fact, politics has replaced church for most Americans. And so, whether right or left politically, they forge their opinions in a quest for righteousness.

That’s why the American political divide is so sharp: The other side doesn’t just disagree, they are fighting against righteousness itself.

Sealing The Deal

The suckering process we’re seeing now, and have seen many times before, is sealed by this: Americans find righteousness in union with the US military.

Trump didn’t bomb the hell out of some Syrians, you see, he bombed the hell out of some  sinners. Believing this in their gut, millions of Americans find righteousness by clinging to the agents of righteousness – the institutions that kill the sinners. (There’s a reason thousands of people used to show up for hangings.)

So, Americans didn’t just support their President, they performed a sacrament. And they feel righteous as a result. This is every bit as potent to these people, and generally a good deal more so, than performing an actual church sacrament.

Smedley Butler And All That

This is also why these people so seldom ever change their opinions after the fact; even when it becomes clear that the original incident was fabricated… that the people who were bombed weren’t really sinners after all.

Smedly Butler warned about this, of course, as did Dwight Eisenhower, among many others. But that doesn’t matter, you see. How many Americans ever talk about those warnings?

And again, the reason is simple: If Butler and Eisenhower were right, then their sacraments were false, and their feelings of righteousness will melt away.

As anyone who reads my columns knows, I’m no enemy of spirituality. But applying it to earthly institutions is a perverted spirituality, and I do oppose that.

So, it turns out that a union of church and state really is a bad idea… and all the more so when it’s a spiritual union claiming to impart righteousness.

This “sucker deal” is usurping the spirituality of basically decent people, and many millions of them. We need to face that.

* * * * *

A book that generates comments like these, from actual readers, might be worth your time:

  • I just finished reading The Breaking Dawn and found it to be one of the most thought-provoking, amazing books I have ever read… It will be hard to read another book now that I’ve read this book… I want everyone to read it.

  • Such a tour de force, so many ideas. And I am amazed at the courage to write such a book, that challenges so many people’s conceptions.

  • There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.

  • Holy moly! I was familiar with most of the themes presented in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts you presented at the end of this one.

Get it at Amazon ($18.95) or on Kindle: ($5.99)

TheBreakingDawn

* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com