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Keys to the Point of No Return

– A personal response essay by Lisa Brock

Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben told him, “With great power comes great responsibility.” This impactful statement has been quoted since Spider Man; it has been a mantra for many people, but unfortunately holds little for the world today. In a world where responsibility revolves around serving yourself, the more accurate spin on speculations of the result of power is better summed up in one of Lord Acton’s political declarations: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” In the beginning, God gave us power over everything, dominion over all the earth—immense power, and look what has become of the world. One particularly devastating form of power is the power of media over human identity. From a snow-ball effect originating around the invention of mirrors, self-image dissatisfaction has punched a gaping hole in people’s characters. Since the birth of product advertisement, marketers have been concocting ways to manipulate us for capital gain. They try to tell us that their products will make us better—but it’s their perception of “better” that is driving our world to the inferno. What kind of a future is pop culture entertainment and advertising media hacking out for us right now? Can there even be a future for a humanity that strives to be so shallow? (Sultana Usafali). The result of lies is more lies, and ultimately reality is the bowling ball that knocks deceptions over like pins. Those who were clinging to the pins and making them the center of their world go down too. Lies and liars are swept away. In my opinion, media effects on self-image today are the result of a long-tended, carefully perfected brainwashing ploy that in the end will doom the world.

Everything happens for a reason. Not a spooky, futuristic, prophetic reason, but a reason that is rooted in the past—cause and effect. Nothing is left to chance in the world, and advertisers don’t leave your business up to chance either. They have got the reeling process down to a science, and like all great scientists, they piggyback on generations worth of previous work. Advertisers long ago began honing the technique of molding the way we think to fit around whatever they are trying to sell us. Today, market researchers study and survey us, but the real work has already been done for them. They are simply perpetuating success by playing along with our established habits. Human actions can be divided among practical actions and indulgent actions. We are either working or playing, doing something for remuneration or relaxation. In earlier times, many people lived simple lives; they spent time with their families, they only worked enough to support their livelihood. A long time ago when money was scarce but relationships were more important, advertisers knew that people rarely spent money just for the heck of it. They worked to make their products seem practical. Any type of persuasion requires mind tricks, ways to make the receiving party see the way you want them to see and act the way you want them to act. Advertisers want you to see a product as desirable, and they want you to go out and spend your money on it. Advertisers told people that the product would make their lives easier. The citizens worked hard back then, and advertisers exploited the stifled desire for a break that hard-working people harbored. Advertisers worked to grow or implant a need so that they could fulfil it. They coaxed into prominence the need for a break, and they sold products like mops with long handles and new cleaning products and “safer” child care accessories like cribs and soothers. They listed reasons why their product was better than the competition, and as the money rolled in they were able to perpetuate advertising. Human actions can be divided into reasonable and emotional. Practical and indulgent. Back then, advertisers drew people in with claims because people were practical and reasonable. But, perhaps around the time kids had to start going to school and work wasn’t the most important thing anymore, a little seed of useless indulgence was planted in the people of tomorrow. School was a social environment, and how other people saw you became a crucial aspect of your life. People have always been trying to catch their peers attention with their outward appearance, but now there was a wider-spread opportunity. It was important to be “cool” if you wanted to be accepted among your peers, and if you weren’t cool, you were outcast and that made you feel miserable. So now advertisers saw that the people of tomorrow had a burning need to fit in. They magnified that need, that fear of being an outcast, and started cashing in on it by being the big self-esteem heroes of the day. And the wheel of self-esteem issues surrounding the media, the one that turns us toward our final destination, began to slowly turn.

Today, everything is costing more and more. Money is the centre of the world, and so is working. Practicality is now the path to indulgence. We work to make money so we can be rich and have a yacht and a mansion and a league of servants at our disposal. We work so that when we retire we can glob trot and go to Vegas every weekend and Europe every Christmas. We work so that we can play. Instead of the straightforward, pleasurable indulgence of the simple life, we seek selfish, spur-of-the-moment indulgences that don’t last and we have to keep taking and taking to stay full. The world is centred most assuredly on the party mentality and capitalism. Swiss Chalet, a popular restaurant chain can be taken for example: Their slogan used to be, “Family happens at Swiss Chalet.” Now, it’s, “Swiss Chalet – always so good for so little.” That’s why businesses advertise, so they can make money by promising to save consumers money. And of course, they have to work to make their advertising effective, and that’s where the brainwashing comes in. The media conditioned us to need and want and buy what they are selling, be it in advertising or simply entertainment. Today, three of every four commercials are about “bettering” us through dieting and dressing like the bee’s knees and buying glitzy cars and big houses. People in the past tended to live in a practical, reasonable way that focused on making ends meet, and so most ads were focused on no-nonsense (no matter how much nonsense there actually was) claims. Today, though, in an indulgent, emotional world, advertisers work to reach to that dominant part of us through appeals. Some commercials are made up of reels that have absolutely nothing to do with the product ( John Paul II English 10-1 Weblesson 10), but still are effective because they shackle our hearts with cute puppies and chilling music. Marketers have to make sure that we continue to “need” them. They aren’t just selling products, they are selling a mentality, a way of life, for which we pay with our humanity. They use beautiful people in their ads, slender, whitewashed women and sexy manly-men holding pop bottles or dressing in the latest styles. In our state of insecurity, we want to have more in common with the beautiful people. Maybe if we use the products that they are seen with on TV, others will think of those models when they see us drinking Coke or wearing Aeropostale. In doing so, we are discrediting our own beauty, conceding that we are not good or pretty enough. We have entered the bog of always needing to be like those models, endless cycle of “gotta have more”. The advertising media has conditioned us to dislike ourselves so that they can come to the rescue. This is a devil’s game, promising much but delivering cheap little. A game where the objective is to get us to think that we are getting what will make us happier when really we are propelling our demise. No one can live like this and still be completely human. We see ads on TV telling us to be skinnier, taller, prettier; more muscular, more rugged, handsomer. The media are trying to tell us that they have the key to our happiness. They know that nowadays there is little chance of winning over our fanciful society with practicality, and so indulgence takes over the airways. The first speaker of the first video in Weblesson 10 says, “The world has taught me that my body is who I am, that my appearance is who I am.” If the media wants to better “you” they first have to establish who “you” are. Since they can’t sell intelligence and love, they sell clothes and jewellery, and these are physical consumptions. Unless they keep you consuming, they will have no business, and the world which is balanced so precariously on money would tip and fall into the abyss. As the world is lifted up on the pillars of money stacks that get higher, sitting so perilously up there, this downfall is inevitable. Until then marketers are trying to drag as many people down with them so they can indulge themselves for as long as possible; this is the devil’s game. Unreasonable, impractical. It’s all about frivolous pleasures that don’t last, instead of working toward character ameliorations that will help you through rough times. Human actions can be divided in two ways—ways that satisfy the body, and ways that satisfy the soul. Practical and indulgent. Reasonable and emotional. Since we are working from the outside out to improve ourselves, we are not filling ourselves with stabilizing qualities that will keep us grounded. We are like empty eggshells, composed of brittle exterior and empty air on the inside. It won’t take much to break us down. Do people eat eggshells? Do they eat only the icing on a cake? It’s all about balance, and since we are as balanced as a dog riding a unicycle for the first time…fiery downfall is foreordained. In my opinion, the current method of advertising media is driving us to the end of the world.

Practicality is taking a hike and it’s all about your feelings and being happy. But they aren’t talking about your feelings. They are talking about your body’s feelings. In the future, practicality will be a campfire legend and indulgence will engulf us. Everything will be about money, and since money is becoming scarcer, it will be impossible to uphold that lifestyle without the implementation of a global economy. And we all know what that means: “All people were forced to put a mark on their right hand or forehead….they all had to have this mark, or else they could not buy or sell anything.” (Revelation 13:16-17) Not being able to buy or sell anything in a world where money and indulgence are the most important things, and people are made of paper and plastic, would mean the end of those people. They have built themselves with their money, and since they didn’t build any character while they were at it, once the money and the commodities and products are gone, they have nothing. In the future, once we have been thoroughly turned into plastic dolls, we will have no choice but to accept that triple six, because it will be the only thing tying us to our corrupted livelihood. A body with no spirit is a dead body, and an egg with no yolk is a dead egg. I fear for myself, and my children, and their children, because this depthless world is a doomed world. This empty, cold world. The end is coming; if not in my generation, then the next or the next. Either my children will be sucked into the wheel that has become a vortex spiralling into hell, or they will be outcast, ridiculed and questioned by the beautiful plastic dolls. It will be a struggle for my progeny, but if they build themselves from the inside out, the shallow, superficial attacks cannot hurt them. Spirituality will be a foreign concept, another campfire legend, and the dolls will not have the knowledge to attack where it will really do damage—my children’s hearts and souls. Perhaps in the future, there is more hope for people who try to better their intellectual, compassionate selves, because the world will stop ridiculing us for not being smart or kind. That won’t be the most important thing. The vipers will try to attack my children for not having fancy houses and fast cars, but they will be verbal attacks on deaf ears, ears that are turned away from the calls of earthly temptation. Though there is turmoil and unheeded suffering around them, they will be the strength for the brittle, shallow world, the yolk to their eggshells. So not only will they be safe in a world that doesn’t challenge or attack the qualities of their spirits, they might be hailed as heroes in small ways. In times of trouble those who feel weak turn to the strong, and the strong grow stronger in positions of leadership. Those people who learn to grow in challenging times, those who put in the effort to resolve problems and make things right; those kinds of people thrive in woe. Like hungry lions starved for challenges they eat trouble for breakfast and turn it into strength and life. There is nothing but trouble ahead for the world, and they will be the strongest of all the people. The future is a sketchy thing, but for some people it is set in stone. The media is conditioning us to be weak by corrupting our values, transferring our spiritual ethics onto our physical ethics. At the same time, the fighters of tomorrow, the leaders of tomorrow, the backbones of tomorrow are conditioning themselves to be strong and ready for whatever their time might throw at them. Why is it so easy to fall victim to the ploys of the media? We are ungrateful, unsatisfied with what we have, and the emptiness inside of us keeps us constantly looking for something to fill us up. It’s the difference between eating apples and super-salted deep-fried potato chips—there is a hunger inside of us, but instead of eating what will nourish us and make us stronger, we eat what tastes good, what will fill our stomachs for only a few minutes and then move on to clot our veins and stick like plaque to our ribs. But in the end, a body is only a body, and it doesn’t matter how much money you have in the bank, how many followers you had on Twitter, or how many nickels you gave to the poor. In the end only the spirit lives on, and the legacy of the spirit, and what the strong people have left behind. The weak are forgotten and swept away, but the strong continue to be a light to the ever-darkening world.

Greed and selfish indulgence are sweeping the globe, sweeping goodness and geniality into the gutter and leaving us with the garbage. Though once we could be confident in our place in the world, when life became about more than just being able to pay the bills, became about taking part in a global scheme to join the Liars’ Guild, practicality took a backseat. Reasonableness, spirituality, they are all in the backseat, and indulgence is hurtling down the icy highway taking the riskiest turns and throwing itself over bridges. Soon, the virtues will have had enough, and they will jump out—whether they survive the fall or not depends on what awaits them. But most importantly, we will be left with nothing but the crazy driver, telling us he will take us home but really, he is driving us straight to hell. It’s a dangerous game, the devil’s game. Only the people who stop the car and stuff indulgence into the trunk (because there is nothing wrong with having some fun once in a while) and letting practicality and its friends—wisdom, contentedness, patience, perseverance—dictate the destination will be able to survive the downfall. Your fate depends on what you build yourself out of—eggshells or diamonds, solid and transparent through and through. Once we stop complaining about how we look and start focusing on how we act, our futures might be something to smile about. It is coming for us, quicker than we want to admit. Will we be swallowed whole or set straight? The choice is ours. We can blame the media for serving us this garbage, but we can’t blame them when we eat it and beg for more. Reality and Truth are coming, Liars’ Guild.  

I have foreseen.

ELA101.10

Lisa Brock

February 27, 2013

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