Friday, November 23, 2012

Real Patriots Don't DO 'Black Fridays'!

"Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves therefore are its only safe depositories. AND TO RENDER THEM SAFE, THEIR MINDS MUST BE IMPROVED."
 - Thomas Jefferson, 'Notes on Virginia'.

I am certain that in the last two days  I've tossed (into the recycle dumpster) at least two -thirds of all the newspapers received. Why? ALL 'Black Friday' (i.e. Shopaholic) adverts! Kohl's announces 100 items on special! Walmart has special opening day Thanksgiving!  and so on and so forth! How about the workers? Don't they count?

Case in point was one of the Walmart "associates" planning to strike today, Mr. Greg Fletcher (featured on the ending segment of 'UP With Chris Hayes' on MSNBC last Sunday) who aknowledged to Chris Hayes and his panel that he along with his wife (also an associate) would be unable to spend Thanksgiving together with their kids. He was confirmed to work the 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. shift and she had to work from 3 p.m. to midnight. This is not right, and no one worker... should be hostage to the capitalist-driven consumerist frenzy so well documented by Benjamin Barber, author of : 'CONSUMED: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults and Swallow Citizens Whole'- which ought to be required reading for everyone.

Of course, another book that needs to be read by all those citizens who wish to remain citizens (as opposed to mere grubby "consumers" ....i.e. out to "consume") is Douglas Rushkoff's COERCION, that details the psycho-dynamic basis for how most of us become puppets at the end of the strings manipulated by the Overclass marketeers and their associated Puppeteers. The latter are often ensconced in Washington think tanks and their pundit blabber often fills the air waves - or newspaper columns- warning Americans that they have an obligation to hold up their end of the economy by spending! (Since 70% of GDP is claimed to be traced to consumer activity- purchasing).  Never mind "consumers" are emulating herds of cattle, running each other down in the aisles of most big box stores today! )

But to me, real patriots will not allow themselves to be driven into such frenetic consumption, like zombies or brainless puppets. If they are real patriots , and citizens, they will sit home today - and pick up a good book from their library shelves - OR, look for one of the thousands of available FREE online and immerse their brain cells in something enlightening and constructive, improving their minds as Thomas Jefferson once beckoned us in his  “Notes on Virginia”  .

Jefferson's basis for making his comment was a recurring worry that at some future time citizens might become lax, and sluggish of mind, thereby losing the mental acuity and awareness that assures REAL freedom of their nation, as opposed to that embraced by the red, white and blue paper patriots who espouse endless war and a gargantuan military. If he could have peered 200 or so years into the future, however, he'd have seen that this sluggishness of mind has become an attribute of most of us. Our thinking, our judgments, or capacity for intense thoughts have become diluted by too much mental 'candy' and eye candy, as well as the endless desire to consume (which is why the Overclass now dismisses us as "consumers").

And what, pray tell,  is the "consumer"? He or she is basically a sheep, a mindless sheep. Erik Larson ("The Naked Consumer”  , p. 167) first highlighted the mutation, noting how consumer monitors in stores regularly referred to consumers as "grazing like cattle"(ibid.). Meanwhile, a September, 2011 article about brand names in The Wall Street Journal casually ruminated about "branding" consumers from the earliest ages. That is, insinuating deep product preferences into their brains, preferably from age two or earlier.(Why does little 3-year old Johnny Joe prefer a Big Mac to your own burgers? Easy! He's been branded! Especially if 'toys' are part of the eating deal!)

Are most people aware they are being relentlessly tracked and studied like prey- or better- "grazing cattle"? Hardly. Should we be aware? Probably. Why? Because by having awareness - and displaying it - we become more than the passive, stupid 'consuming cattle' they want us to be. Larson again (p. 181):

"No one ever notices. Ever. Consumers shop like in a trancelike state like 'idly grazing animals"

How can this happen? Central to Rushkoff's thesis is a process called "the Gruen Transfer". Without its initiation and consolidation within a fertile brain, arguably no American would become a marketer's zombie puppet. Alas, most of our citizenry, unread as they are (and with too short attention spans induced by over obsession with social ties on Facebook, etc.) aren't aware of how the Gruen Transfer takes over their mind in any situation. To read Rushkoff's book, therefore, is at once like reading the most horrific of Dennis Wheatley's "Devil" novels, while being brutally exposed to how our society really runs.

I never believed in the power of the Gruen Transfer until once having had occasion to ask an acquaintance in marketing if it could be conceivable an American could be so market-tethered and brainwashed that he or she would need to consult an advert before even taking a dump. Her response? "Of course! Hell, they would definitely wish to know whether the cool thing is to use Charmin or remain a poor douche and putz using some generic 2-ply brand of rough toilet paper! If you have to do your business at least you need to end it special!"


 Still, I had a difficult time swallowing this until coming across an article in The Economist ('Hidden Persauders II', Sept. 24, 2011, p.80), which of course cops its title based on the much earlier work 'The Hidden Persuaders', by Vance Packard. A book I believe every member of Generation X, Y and Z ought to read very carefully, if you can get it on your Kindles! That book, from over fifty years ago, showed the power of the marketing empire even then.

The Economist also references how assorted "market guerillas" prowl the social networks, in order to generate "buzz" that ropes in the needy eyes, and claims gullible brains. One company referenced (ibid.) is "the Girls Intelligence Agency" which employs some 40,000 girls to act as 'guerilla marketers', sowing buzz for assorted products - in return for which services they get free products and "everything they need to organize a slumber party". Of course, the slumber party then delivers the perfect captive audience which features an assortment of all the buzzed products which each guest is invited to try out. Refuse to buy after getting such an invite? That would be uncool!

Back to Rushkoff and the Gruen Transfer. As Rushkoff notes (p. 212):

"(The key) is the moment of confusion. In that moment of confusion- the buyer is subjected to a dissociative hypnotic trance (by the focus of the advert)- the consumer absorbs the image within the image."

Case in point, as cited by The Economist (ibid.).

 "In 1995, only 53% of American men admitted to shopping for themselves. That figure has now risen to 75% with many now buying traditional female products. The marketers created a $27 billion male grooming industry from nothing by bombarding men with images once meant for women .."

Thus, incredibly the new items on the new males' shelves evidently include depilatories, eye liner (!?), special moisturizers for body, face and hands, and "novel fragrances". Items they'd never have remotely purchased in the days the Gruen Transfer was still a primitive marketing ideation, but has since been developed to a state of the art mind-washing tactic so the males "absorb the image within the image", i.e. of them using female products! (Let's hope to hell the marketing monkeys never succeed in getting American males to do pedicures!) Rushkoff goes on:

"That's all coercion really is, after all: convincing a person to lie to himself by any means necessary. The stance of ironic detachment, while great for protecting ourselves for straightforward linear stories and associations, nonetheless makes us vulnerable to more sophisticated forms of influence.."

For sure, the incessant bombardment of ads via 'Black Friday' specials has played no small role in feeding this consumerist frenzy, that's now reached the point that even Thanksgiving is no longer sacred for families. Many millions must now conceive of having to work. (Btw, of course we know medical people, RNs, docs etc,. are on call...this stands to reason! But Walmart associates? Come on!)

Meanwhile, today's Black Friday walkout is being organized by the Organization United for Respect at Wal-Mart (OUR Walmart), a group of Wal-Mart employees formed last year that works closely with the United Food and Commercial Workers union, or UFCW. OUR Walmart, which organized walkouts in October, is pushing for better working conditions, benefits, and an end to alleged retaliation by management.

Today's strike would add yet another chapter to a wave of worker protests across Wal-Mart’s supply chain. It all began in June when a group of immigrant guest workers at a Wal-Mart seafood supplier in Louisiana walked off their jobs. In September, workers at company warehouses in California and Illinois went on strike. The workers in Illinois eventually won back pay. California workers weren’t so lucky—they started striking again last Wednesday. Shortly after those warehouse strikes began, retail workers backed by OUR Walmart started walking out of stores in 12 states.

Wal-Mart is painting the striking employees as a minority that’s unrepresentative of its workforce.  But don't believe it! Even those not directly participating (on account of a real fear of losing a low payscale job they still need) will be sympathizing with their fellows.

Yes, there will be those right wing goons who portray these striking workers as "communists" or even "terrorists" - but consider the sources! Most plausibly either the likes of Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh or certain unnamed FLA "pastors" who also believe prostate cancer is a "spiritual disease" for millions and oh yeah, that Jonah really got gulped by a whale and lived in its belly 3 days.

Bottom line? REAL patriots and true citizens will not be doing a thing consumer-wise, today, other than perhaps to pick up a few needed groceries. But no 'toys', including for adults - such as HDTVs, DVDs, or other 'stuff'. Save your money! Besides - the "fiscal cliff" is approaching and you may need that $$$$ if tax rates go up across the board they really should!

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