After I finished reading Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy (by Martin Lindstrom) it really got me thinking about how we are being manipulated by advertisers and corporations, and in combination with Don’t Eat This Book: Fast Food and the Supersizing of America (by Morgan Spurlock, he of Supersize Me fame) it has given me a double whammy of food for thought – pun intended. It’s not just the consumerism that bugs me – it’s the impact it has on the planet and on our mental and physical health.
This is a huge topic, and far too much to go into here. I feel the need to rant, but I’ll try and confine myself to a mini-rant and leave it to you to take it and run with it if you feel the urge.
Martin Lindstrom describes how, as you walk past a fast food joint, that fantastic aroma of frying bacon or burgers or fries that tickles your nostrils isn’t what they’re cooking – it’s a synthetic aroma dispensed specifically with the goal of luring you in. No wonder the food never tastes as good as it smells (not that I would know – I have many weaknesses, but fast food is not among them, my last visit to a McDonalds being circa 1983). How blatantly phoney.
Then there’s the food itself. So much “food” is barely worthy of the name, being highly processed, denatured, and almost nutrient-free. And I’m not just talking about fast food here. A lot of food in supermarkets, even some food in health food stores, is just not good for you, containing nasties like trans fats and high fructose corn syrup that can lead to diabetes, heart disease, ADHD etc. A lot of it isn’t good for the environment either. Want to do some research to find out how healthy your food is? Be careful – check who sponsored those scientists. They may not be as impartial as you think.
Moving on from food to consumer goods, there are adverts specifically designed to engender fear – fear of being left out, left behind, left on the shelf, fear of being unattractive, uncool, or – heaven forbid – old. Or fear of germs, fear of not being a good parent, fear of what the neighbours might think. But buy their product, and banish the fear! Except, of course, that it is a very temporary fix at best. The thing I am really fearful of is that Martin Lindstrom sees fear-based advertising as the way of the future. As if we don’t have enough real issues to worry ourselves about.
Advertisers have enormous budgets and cutting-edge neuroscience behind them, but even so, surely we are smart enough to see through their attempts to manipulate us – or are we? So many of us get suckered into buying stuff we don’t need, and it is the planet that pays the real price. I sometimes picture “consumers” as little Pacman munchy monsters, munching away at the Earth until there is nothing left beneath our feet.
Films like Food Inc, and the book Fast Food Nation are a good start, but I suspect they largely preach to the converted. How can we spread the message that happiness is more likely to come from good relationships and a meaningful life than from a new washing powder or an extra-large portion of fries? How can we get more people to wise up, before “consumers” (horrible word) end up consuming us all to death in a misguided search for happiness in the shopping malls and online stores of the world?
Today was a pleasant day out on the big blue, with a useful forty nauties (nautical miles) under my hull by bedtime. I am listening to Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon, and indulging my infatuation with the fictional but irresistibly attractive Jamie Fraser. I just wish they would stop sipping at single malt whisky all the time. I wouldn’t want any here, but I wouldn’t mind teleporting myself to a Scottish fireside and having a wee dram of the good stuff.
The wheel on my main iPod has stopped working. I can still fast forward through books by pressing the “forward” button, but I can’t scroll through lists or adjust the volume by running my finger around the wheel. Bummer.
For some reason I kept looking out for a sailboat today. I don’t know why. In all my time at sea, the only sailboats I have ever seen were Aurora, the support yacht for the Atlantic Rowing Race, and the JUNK Raft on the Pacific. I have never, in over 400 days, accidentally happened across a sailboat. I think it is just my mind playing tricks on me. It is bored of seeing nothing but sea, sky, and storm petrels so has decided to start making stuff up.
Quote for today: Only when the last tree has died and the last river been polluted and the last fish been caught will we realise we can’t eat money. Cree Indian saying
Photo: that unlikely encounter with the JUNK Raft and Dr Marcus Eriksen (now of the 5Gyres Institute – see: http://5gyres.org/)
Sponsored Miles: Today’s thanks go to: Curtis Zingg, Shannon Fogg, James Borleis and Doug Grandt.