SUGGESTIBILITY

Posted by & filed under fashion, money, Pop Culture, prosperity, standardization.

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We live in a culture in which style has achieved primacy over substance. Although the original conception of democracy meant that social equality was more important than a social elite, and therefore the symbols of an elite were rejected, we now take the contorted alternative view that the symbols and styles of elites should be mass produced and made available to everyone. The American ideal of equality has come to mean that we all have an equal right to possess the same stuff. Of course, mass production implies mass standardization, and thus any genuine uniqueness which was available when production meant handicraft has now been replaced by the ‘sameness’ of what is available to everyone. (In response to this, there are always those few whose need to be noticed causes them to present themselves in a manner so bizarre as to stand out in the crowd. This never lasts long, however, since whatever stands out in the crowd typically becomes the next trend, the next standardized fashion.)

We see the powerful mesmerizing effects of advertising, public relations, and fashion, in the pursuit of the perfect car, the perfect body, the perfect house, the perfect mate. We see it in our participation in certain activities, and our passive adherence to certain beliefs, that make us acceptable to whatever crowd we wish to join. We continue to speak sentimentally of our great respect for ‘rugged individualism’, but large-scale contemporary production, trade, and consumption require centralized authority, massive planning, and a willingness of so-called individuals to become cogs in the economic machine. A community of genuine individuals, held together by love, is thus transformed into an efficient ant hill, held together by money and power.

But contrary to the complaints of many critics of capitalism, the chief responsibility for all of this does not lie with Madison Avenue or the lords of corporate power. The responsibility lies with us, with our own ‘suggestibility’, the astonishing ease with which we abdicate all efforts to think and reason for ourselves, and believe whatever we are told.

Prosperity, both personal and cultural, results from a combination of effort, excellence, intelligence, and good fortune. It is certainly true that luck and serendipity will often play a role, giving some players an inexplicable and unearned advantage. But the other qualities are usually far more important, and they ought to be respected and admired, not envied and despised while we exalt mediocrity.

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Suggestibility

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Fashion show
Fashion show,
originally uploaded by dominikgolenia.

We live in a culture in which style has achieved primacy over substance. Although the original conception of democracy meant that social equality was more important than a social elite, and therefore the symbols of an elite were rejected, we now take the contorted alternative view that the symbols and styles of elites should be mass produced and made available to everyone. The American ideal of equality has come to mean that we all have an equal right to possess the same stuff. Of course, mass production implies mass standardization, and thus any genuine uniqueness which was available when production meant handicraft has now been replaced by the ‘sameness’ of what is available to everyone. (In response to this, there are always those few whose need to be noticed causes them to present themselves in a manner so bizarre as to stand out in the crowd. This never lasts long, however, since whatever stands out in the crowd typically becomes the next trend, the next standardized fashion.)

We see the powerful mesmerizing effects of advertising, public relations, and fashion, in the pursuit of the perfect car, the perfect body, the perfect house, the perfect mate. We see it in our participation in certain activities, and our passive adherence to certain beliefs, that make us acceptable to whatever crowd we wish to join. We continue to speak sentimentally of our great respect for ‘rugged individualism’, but large-scale contemporary production, trade, and consumption require centralized authority, massive planning, and a willingness of so-called individuals to become cogs in the economic machine. A community of genuine individuals, held together by love, is thus transformed into an efficient ant hill, held together by money and power.

But contrary to the complaints of many critics of capitalism, the chief responsibility for all of this does not lie with Madison Avenue or the lords of corporate power. The responsibility lies with us, with our own ‘suggestibility’, the astonishing ease with which we abdicate all efforts to think and reason for ourselves, and believe whatever we are told.

I like what you are saying. I certainly don’t eliminate TV — can’t live disconnected from so much of today’s life. But somehow, we have to maintain an inner place that isn’t so suggestible. Part of it is that our minds are so passive and our bodies’ cravings are so in control.

Anonymous says:

much ‘food for thought’ here, thank you. The power of advertising (and how we are impacted by it) requires courage to contemplate…to refrain from certain activities (e.g., tv viewing) is helpful in certain ways but can also psychologically separate/distance someone from the culture/community…