The Seduction

It is not madness; it is seduction. We are being seduced by the primacy of the now. We are like toddlers running through the candy store. I want it all and I want it NOW! What the hell is that about? Really? I suspect it is a combination of several factors.

Migrant Mother PicOne factor has to be that modern western culture is an offspring of widespread hunger -- both literal and spiritual. You cannot get more primal and now-focused than hunger. The parents that reared most baby-boomers were themselves raised during the Great Depression and came to maturation during a war economy. Similarly, in Europe, the widespread wartime and post-war hunger also marked an entire generation. To what extent are we buying more than we need in order to “feed” the shadow hunger passed on to us by our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents? At the same time, ancient spiritual traditions that once fed our spiritual hungers have died out and only consumerism has stepped in to replace them. Are we buying “stuff” in an effort to alleviate a spiritual hunger that goes unfilled in our collective lives?

We are also inheritors of post-war economic policies that insisted that the surest way to build national economic security was to consume and spend. A nation looking for a good price is very different from one looking for a good job.

. Which brings us to the last factor I plan to discuss – Marketing.

“Marketing is . . . is the process of moving people closer to making a decision to purchase, use, follow, refer, upload, download, obey, reject, conform, become complacent to another person's, society's or organization's value. Simply, if it doesn't facilitate a ‘sale’ then it's not marketing.”

Source: Wikipedia

Everywhere we look, someone is trying to sell us something. They’ll use sex; they’ll use Paris Hilton; they’ll use humor; they’ll use special effects; and, Goddess knows, they’ll use repetition. Sports stadia are now named “Enron Field,” until Enron dissolves in corporate disgrace and a new “sponsor” must be found. You can reliably get to a movie ten minutes late and miss nothing but the same commercials that you would see on TV. Sit in an airport waiting-lounge and you’re assaulted by “news” and ads broadcast on ubiquitous TV screens. And, speaking of TV, even PBS stations now air 60-second spots on behalf of corporate contributors. Spam ads for Viagra fill our e-mail boxes. Some of my favorite web sites are becoming almost unreadable with all the Google ads, banners, and advertising eye candy. Advertisers are looking at ways to send ads to your cell phone. To think that a generation or two ago, all we had to complain about were billboards!

Marketing also exploits our shadows. How often has an ad made you feel inferior? Not sexy enough, not thin enough, not rich enough, not having nearly as much fun as those shiny, happy people in the ad? And the solution is so obvious! Just buy this pill, this beer, this off-road SUV, this cigarette and it will all be better -- immediately!

Marketing, in its varied forms, is designed to create hunger -- to make you want something you’d never even heard of before. More and more of our economy is based on creating a hunger, then making money by fulfilling it. Hunger is immediate; hunger cannot wait. We no longer dream of acquiring, we hunger for it. We salivate for the apple before we taste it. We crave the car before we touch it. We can almost taste the clothing before we wear it.

Hunger is what creates the seduction of immediate gratification. And it is the primary reason why we purchase debt. Buy it today; sleep on it tonight. Today only! One day sale! Gotta have it! Must own it! Now, now, now!

We have become a nation of addicts. And the drug is consumerism. And credit card companies are the biggest pushers on the block. We think we are purchasing a blouse when in fact we are buying debt. We think we are buying a DVD player when we are purchasing debt. Every time we make a purchase, if we use a credit card, the item purchased is debt, debt, debt, etc.

How can we get off this drug? What are concrete strategies to eliminate debt and to keep us out of debt in the first place? And finally, what are the spiritual dimensions of debt, especially in how it relates to our western money psychology? We will cover these issues and more in part 2 of this article.

©2006 Katrina Messenger and Hecate

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