Saturday, May 18, 2013
A couple of Sundays ago I finally got around to visiting a local crafts show that takes place around here twice a year. I'm not what I would consider to be a real craftsperson by any stretch of the imagination but anyone who's looked at phantysythat these past few years will be well aware I do occasionally fall into the habit of putting things together that weren't there before. This is one of those things. I went to the craft show, didn't see any little silk beaded boxes, and thought I'd make another. Naturally, the first thing I did was to forget totally how long it took me to make the first one. I think it was a week. The new one took four days so I guess that's an improvement.
It turns out that just about any time I decide to work on something there will always be an element that must be purchased before I can get on with the project. This time I needed some embroidery thread and had to look online for a local place that sells this now quaint item. What struck me then (as it has before) when I looked through the listings is just how many people use Yelp to complain about businesses. Most of us will either not notice or not be bothered by a salesperson who isn't completely attuned to our needs during a transaction. Some people, though, will take umbrage at anything they consider a slight or an insult to their self image. These people will rush home to their computers or smart devices and immediately sign in to Yelp to write a furious complaint. Years later that record of temporary grievance remains even after most everyone involved is long gone. I'm reminded of those people who give one star reviews of books they've purchased from Amazon because a page was bent. Cretins.
All this reminded me of a television program made for the BBC by Adam Curtis in 2002 called The Century of the Self. Sigmund Freud may have invented the Self, full of unspoken dreams and desires, in 1900, but it was his American nephew, Edward Bernays, who packaged it and put it on to the market. Suddenly, everyone wanted one. And, of course, no one wanted one that was quite the same as anyone else's. Bernays's great genius was to first sell Uncle Siggy's ideas of the unruly subconscious to the American public and to American business. You no longer had to offer people what they needed; by linking your brand with their deeper hopes and fears, you could persuade them to buy what they dreamt of. Equipped with our subconscious wish-lists, we could go shopping for the life we had seen portrayed in the advertisements.
In Bernays's future, you didn't buy a new car because the old one had burnt out; you bought a more modern one to increase your Self-esteem, or a more low slung one to enhance your sense of your sex-appeal. You didn't choose a pair of running shoes for comfort or practicality; you did so because somewhere deep inside you, you felt they might liberate you to 'Just Do It'. And you didn't vote for a political party out of duty, or because you believed it had the best policies to advance the common good; you did so because of a secret feeling that it offered you the most likely opportunity to promote and express your Self. 'Our people,' said Herbert Hoover, 'have been transformed into constantly moving happiness machines.' Century of the Self is a truly great series that happily is available to watch free online if you've never seen it.
In case you don't have time right now to watch a four part, four hour documentary, I'll attach a short film that pretty much gets the point across:
Shave it from 3DAR on Vimeo.
By the way, I had to order the embroidery thread online. Thank goodness for the benefits of the internet.