I've been watching some 'one flew over the cuckoo's nest', great flick and its on a channel that has commercial breaks in the movie. I was struck by the juxtaposition of the advertising symbolism, the sales heuristics and the plot of the movie. If you've seen the movie or read Kesey's book the part that strikes me about the asylum is of course the power relationship and the fact that the real asylum is on the outside. They keep saying 'they're not ready' to leave the hospital and the truth is nobody is ever ready to leave the hospital. None of us are ready we're all just floating through this universe trying to survive. The nurse wielding power and loving that she is overlord of these poor patients. Ratchett(rat shit) seeks this power, she gets off on it. She is a metaphor for the power everywhere, authority without legitimacy, she is ruler 'just cause' and her word is final. Outside of their world is our crazy world where things are no different. Tradition, faith, nationalism, etc. the blind leading the blind. Our world is one big insane asylum where the good guys always lose and the our prophets are killed in front of us as we cheer. Foucault and R.D. Baird talk about insanity being a social construct. The point is if you define insanity, we are really defining sanity in opposition to what we define as "insane" which is another way of saying "abnormal". It helps us to retain normalcy (a made up word, created during our depression, to "modulate distress" a powerful sales heuristic) to point out a group of "others" that are not "normal". I remember my cousin who had a large chunk of his leg burnt off in a car accident that killed his father and caused his sister to have to amputate her leg below the knee. Just in case he ever forgets that his Father is gone forever, god(I do not believe but I make mention, cause god is one sick son of a bitch to do this to anyone, let alone a child, so if by chance there is a god, he/she deserves to be chastised for what he/she did to this individual[and not just my cousin, but every child in that burn ward and every child in that hospital]) left a large burn scar on his calf that he needed to have grafts on in order to keep enough skin and muscle to avoid amputation. In summer camp I was told by my Grandmother that a boy was picking on my cousin by making fun of his scar. When my cousin informed him that that's not cool because his dad died in the accident that caused that burn, the teasing turned toward the fact his father was dead. What others thought around me when this story was relayed was how cruel the boy was and how his parents must be something like escaped nazis. What I said was this was nothing new all the people judging this boy did the same thing every day. They identified someone else as the outsider and possibly aurally decried said individual as an outsider. By doing so they artificially defined themselves as in the group that is not involed with the outsider. This individual created an "us" and "them" quickly and easily in sweeping motions. Although the us and them was completely illusory and poorly distinguished he tricked himself in to thinking that he belonged by ostracizing the kid with the scar. By defining him as the outsider he defined in opposition to that, making him if not an insider at the very least not an outsider.
The commercials though are like the power that Ratchett seeks. They sell products, but what they're really selling is emotions or even states of mind. The late night commercials are so overt in this it is incredible, if one were an extra- terrestrial observer one would conclude that 99% of our population were mentally retarded. Doing whatever we are told, staring at the flashing lights, and never using reason. A commercial for a penis enlarger showing a woman explaining how the medication works. You are buying confidence, you are buying sexual prowess, and you are paying for love in the end. I like Mazlowe's hierarchy, very poignant, and so easy to exploit now that its out there. So many genies out of so many bottles, we as consumers are always one step behind. Now another commercial telling me that I can talk to beautiful women who are tanning poolside over a telephone. She will be impressed and interested in everything I say, and sexually aroused at the sound of my voice. I am a stallion, an Adonis...oh it was all a dream...worse it was all a lie and now I've got buyers remorse. Five bucks down the drain half an hour of work, and that's because I'm lucky, that would be a full hour of work for most people, you know the ones on minimum wage that run just about fucking everything. But the only people on the phone conference were guys, and the penis enlarger was a sugar pill! Not to fear there is an aerosol can full of 5 cents of actual garbage culled from various sources. Well now its a body spray and its 8 bucks and unless you hose yourself down in the plastic scent of consumerism women will not fuck you. Did people want body spray 6 years ago? No, but they held a few focus groups and they realized (just as our alien observer would rightfully conclude) holy shit this place is filled with stupid people that do whatever you tell them to do. They believe you every time you make them a promise. Another commercial for a weight loss drug actually stating verbatim "we couldn't say it on tv if it wasn't true" the sheer audacity of this statement made me laugh out loud at first. I realized though that they are making this statement, because they're playing(as any salesperson will tell you) the 'law of averages'. If they show the commercial to 2 million people roughly 1.999 million of them are dumb enough to believe it, see? So it works perfectly, the law of averages. Now this chubby lady is saying she was even fatter before she had a plastic ring placed around the top of her stomach, it can be adjusted for tightness. It lost her weight, it made me think about getting some kind of surgery to open up my stomach so I could be the bane of all you can eat food deals everywhere, but I digress I was rambling about something wasn't I? Oh yah, the jist of ALL these fucking commercials is what mazlowe was talking about. People may not believe they are unattractive, obese, or posses diminutive genitalia. This is why you have to tell them that they lack any of many positive characteristics. Then make it apparent that if they can just purchase your product they can alleviate, if only temporarily, their disability.
They sell us what we want and never what we need. Television doesn't even write stories anymore its all half improv-half scripted and called "reality". I wish that Guy DeBord could have witnessed the phenomenon that is "reality television". We have made a spectacle of our spectacle, and now we love the cameras we are all voyeurs and exhibitionists. We want "fame", for some reason all or most of us are willing to go out on a limb so that people you've never met will know who you are.
The beer commercial shows a famous sculpture of a man with his fist on his head, in deep thought. One of the most simple and simultaneously amazing pieces of art. Its nothing more than a thinking monkey, but that's the point. He is just thinking and he can because he is human it is cartesian before Decartes. Well in this commercial the sculpture comes to life and goes to get beer. Now I have seen this sculpture in pictures before it is famous, but how many times have I possibly seen it in my life? 10..20? at the most, well by the time I've seen this commercial for the 30th time, I will associate this famous sculpture with a certain brand of beer. Or how about that beatles song, the led zeppelin song, or the rolling stones song? They are all associated with different models of cars and now when you flip on the radio cadillac or pontiac or whatever the fuck it is just got free time in your brain. Adbusters states it most concisely: "Advertising is imperialism of your brain". Vast sums of money are being tossed around and they are fighting over your mind...well not really...but they're definitely at war for all the stupid people's minds.
This scientologist was explaining why his religion was good he used the same words as a mormon television commercial, and as it turns out the same words as a pharmaceutical commercial. "Have you ever been depressed?" "Have you ever felt sad?" "Have you ever felt alienated?". Well let me tell you something folks: If you haven't felt sad, alienated, or depressed a few times in your life, guess what? It turns out you're an android, go get your voigt-kampff. Religion may be the most dangerous of all, because it does not promise you temporary pleasure, reprieve, release. Religion actually promises eternal happiness, paradise, whatever you wanna call it. This is what I used to think religion was a poison above all others, but it is apparent that the allure of pseudo-science, the use of scientific terms sways individuals as well. Ritalin and SSRI anti-depressants are 2 of the most over prescribed drugs on the market. Ritalin is pushed in to kids at a young age, teachers play a part in picking out the "disruptive" ones. And what a surprise in our patriarchal world the teachers would give it to females more than males, because women who speak when not spoken to are quite undesirable and they'll never make a good housewife. So dope 'em up and sit 'em back in class, It wasn't because you've been talking about some random stupid fucking lesson for an entire week that they were bored, its because they're all ADHD. Every commercial break there is an effort to get you to want some kind of medication. Allergies, sleep, depression, anxiety, weight loss, impotence...
It seems that much like the cruel child we have told ourselves that we cured unhappiness, and believed our lie in order to alleviate some fleeting feeling. We reach for our mood organ, but we entertain no thoughts of self-reflection. "Great happiness begets tragedy" is the Eastern saying. The time we live in..."the present" is no different than it ever has been. One cannot control their emotions, which is why it is unfair for these commercials to manipulate us, tell us to buy things we don't need and can't afford. But we can put our ability as the hard thinking monkey in to use, we can understand that if we feel dark, morose, or depressed it is only one more emotion on the path of life one of millions we will experience and most importantly it will fade in to the next emotion.
The only thing constant is change, Buddhists got that one right, impermanence is everything. It will not help us to pretend we are a mental construct like "normal" or a fleeting emotion like "happy".
Socrates said call no man happy until he is dead, because nobody knows what will happen tomorrow. It is one of the more existential things Socrates said and it is a good reminder that no matter what chemical is ruling your brain at the present moment the grass is not always greener on the other side.