The only Eternal Is Advertising

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Every day I wake up, how well I do it depends on the day. Sometimes it’s a slow process. The search for my consciousness can be as painful and frustrating as the quest for the last clean pair of socks in the house. I leave the house, only realizing several hours later that, not alone have I failed to properly pack my consciousness, but the socks are leaving a bit to be desired as well.

But like nearly everybody in my benighted part of the world, my morning ritual will most likely involve the flicking of some sort of switch. possibly even several switches, if you’re lucky enough to afford more than one.

Directly I flick one of these switches, an army of hucksters explodes into the space around me, screaming, imploring, guilt tripping me, even offering some obscure erotic excitement, if only I’ll buy some of their shit. Sign up for this policy, you stupid bastard, sorry, valued potential customer, because you could be dead, or better still, terminally ill by half past seven.

Listen to the last groans of this poor, starving child. If you don’t give us your money right now, it could fatally compromise the salary bonus of the highly paid do goodnik whose job it is to think up new ways of guilt tripping you, you fat, self-satisfied bastard. Buy this lump of dead pig. It’s got slightly less salt and water in it than any other lump of dead pig you’re likely to come across in the relentless quest to fill that emptiness you call a soul, but which we call a money maker, and so on and so on.

Advertising has become the only true constant of our Universe. Sexual mores have gone to pot, the afterlife is at best a crap shoot, culture has become a sewer pipe designed to shift as many units as cheaply and inhumanly as possible, but advertising is eternal.

Advertising will be here long after you’re gone. It will ride the non-existent ether long after the species is gone, travelling on waves to the farthest reaches of the Universe. According to some advertising, the planet won’t even be here if you don’t pay for x, y or z immediately, but it’s a safe bet that long after Dear old Mother Earth has been barbecued (apocalypse barbecue kits a mere snip at 9.95. Get them now!) by some sort of asteroid, plague or gamma ray burst, advertising will endure, its disembodied voices wafting gently into eternity.

Buy our new heroin coated lozenge, it will proclaim to the denizens of the Andromeda Galaxy. It won’t cure your cold but who cares? What about that new toothpaste? Any claims it makes to save your teeth may be dubious, but just look at the whiteness of the teeth on that model parading round the bathroom in her underwear. How can you not want that? Have you not at least noticed that she’s wearing almost no clothes?

It is fascinating to imagine some kind of, I don’t know, ten headed tree struggling to make sense of this stuff millions of years from now.

And advertising is smart. At least, it is designed by people who are smarter than you. It isn’t smart enough yet to realize that I have no money, and that consequently, there’s no point talking to me, but can that day be far away?

Is it possible to think forward to that day, both blessed and scary, when I am finally cut out of the great advertising loop? When I have nothing left but silence and all that stuff I’ve been avoiding thinking about all these years?

Corporations across the globe, in an ideal, corporate universe, will one day reach the point where they don’t spend any money at all on anything except advertising. Indeed, many of them are headed in that direction already.

Customer service? People? Producing things that people actually want, rather than the hyper-merchandised dreck it is convenient for us to give you? These are concepts from the dinosaur economy. They’re the dying ideas of ancient losers.

Smell the virtual coffee (a steal at 7.95 a shot). Global consumerism is headed towards the beautiful event horizon where the most powerful company in the Universe actually doesn’t do anything. It will neither create goods nor generate ideas. It will have no shape, no physical reality, not even a virtual one. All it will do is make money, and possibly not even real money, merely figures tossed between computers.

We’ve been close to this already. Enron was almost exactly the beast I’ve just described. It failed, presumably because of certain flaws in the model. But no doubt the accountants and number rapists have been hard at work ever since. Capitalism isn’t about creating things, it’s about the endless honing and refinement of the bottom line. It is about that voice whispering insistently in your ear as you trundle into whatever awaits you in eternity, reminding you that that gold plated coffin is far less likely to decay quickly than those Brand X wooden jobbies.

I sometimes wonder what would happen if it all just stopped. What if, for some reason, advertising just ended? If someone created a computer superbug that just killed it all?

Would it be like what would happen if the Earth stopped moving, and we all went flying, along with our iPhones and zit creams and test fooling Volkswagens, off into empty space?

It’s the central idea in a novel I’ve been pondering for some time. Where would we be left after such an apocalypse? A marketing jerk once told me that 95% of all the purchasing decisions taken in a household are made by women.

Think of that. What if there’s some misunderstood nerd working in the bowels of a lab in Kentucky or Turkmenistan, who is just about to perfect a new drug which eliminates that vague sense of unhappiness women feel about pretty much everything nearly all of the time. Why, it would be the end of everything, wouldn’t it? The economy we’ve learned we can’t do anything about would come shuddering to a befuddled halt.

I suppose the Captains of Industry would have no choice, would they? Forget Osama Bin Laden, here’s a real and credible existential threat to all of the stuff that really matters. They’ll just have to pool together and kill the guy, won’t they? How dare he presume to make consumerism no longer viable.

And it’ll be all his fault, him and his stupid desire to make things better.

Forget it, Let’s Just Do the Drug Olympics

Olympic paint

During some recent TV debate which framed one of those ever so camp media panics about drugs in sport, I heard a fascinating assertion by someone whom I think was a chick lit writer (not that there’s anything wrong with that, Fnarr fnarr).

She slightly livened up what until then had been a terribly tired ‘discussion’ by suggesting that, as entirely passive viewers of sport, people who watch the Olympics on telly have a right to know that athletes are not cheating.

Really? Can such a thing truly be defined as a right? Should legislators heave off their lightly tanned summer rumps and start defining a whole new series of rights for the bottom politic?

Isn’t it a bit like saying that we have the right not to be lied to by politicians? Maybe such a right does indeed exist in some theoretical parallel universe, but it is something of non-existent practical value.

All inhabitants of the globe enjoy theoretical rights. We have a right to life, until someone with a gun or guided missile chooses to take it away. We have a right to breathe, until the atmosphere becomes unbreathable. We have a right to water, until a government decides it can make outrageous fortunes by selling these rights to private profiteers.

But do we really have a right to certainty that those infeasible human specimens limbering up on the track aren’t squirting naughty liquids into themselves to shave off some vital millisecond? It seems, and believe me I regret the pun even as I reach for it, like a bit of a leap.

Doping in athletics is now apparently so ubiquitous that, surely, wondering about it has become part of the very fun of the Olympics. Let’s face it: it’s a conversation starter. We are lectured constantly about how mass media is destroying our ability to talk to each other. We should be very wary about getting rid of something that positively encourages the lost art.

No sooner has some athlete completed the 800 metres in a time that would stretch the capabilities of an outraged cheetah than someone – be it on a bar stool or an extra thick sofa – is compelled to sit back, scratch something reflectively and wonder: “is he /she on drugs?”

Other, well worn couch potatoes, with or without drinks or tacos in hand, feel compelled to offer their own two cents. A meaningful human reaction ensues. We all get closer together, or as close as our increasingly gelatinous bodies will allow.

You could argue that cheating athletes are heroes, selflessly risking their lives so that the rest of us can get closer together without moving our ever expanding butts, but that is perhaps stretching things a little.

The fact is that we love a little intrigue with our vicarious human exertion. We love to wile away our increasingly immobile evenings with good old conspriracy theories: “sure look at your woman, real people don’t have arses like that.”

There is something about the morbid curiosity of it all that the bottom politic finds irresistible. It’s a bit like poor old Michael Jackson’s life story: you shuddered but couldn’t help wondering how it would all end.

Part of me even agrees with the Irish comedian Tommy Tiernan, who argued that, rather than persist with seemingly futile efforts to ban doping in sport, the authorities should just come right out and stage a full scale drug Olympics, a global conflict between rival pharmacologies.

The Olympics could than go back to what it was always supposed to be: a bollock naked (or nearly so) conflict between nationalities; one of the few socially acceptable mediums for the expression of global enmity and hatred.

Has China really overtaken the US when it comes to having the best drugs? For God’s sake, who wouldn’t want to find that out?

There’s the added attraction that, as Tommy Tiernan points out, he can’t wait to see someone run the 100 metres in less than a second. Neither can I. Neither can you. It’ll be something extra special to boggle at for a second or two before scratching yourself and trying to decide if you want more nuts or pork scratchings.

Aside from the rather strange idea of ascribing new rights to the passive consumers of second hand struggle, the other main argument for stamping out doping has to do with the idea of being fair to those athletes who don’t cheat, assuming of course that any of these actually still exist.

Really? Shouldn’t you take a moment to think about just who it is you’re trying to be fair to? Aside from those very isolated examples who save somebody’s puppy and end up winning the Nobel Peace Prize, most athletes are utter assholes. Indeed, the very nature of their chosen profession cannot but make them so.

Have you ever heard one of them being interviewed? They are among the most self-absorbed twits on the planet. Most are entirely incapable of uttering a sentence that doesn’t have the words ‘I’ or ‘me’ in it. Their entire lives are devoted to ruthless focus upon themselves at the expense of every other human consideration. Your average athlete would probably run straight past a tree full of burning children that risk losing out on a precious ‘peebee.’

Didn’t there used to be some idea one time about rights carrying responsibilities? Should you really be fair to people who have no interest in being fair to anyone else?