Friday, 24 August 2012

The Century of Self

It has been a cool, gray, overcast day here. The smell of burning leaves has been in the air from countless piles burning in backyards throughout the neighborhood. While not 'cold' the smell of snow has been in the air also. I was all set for a walk when the smell of snow gave way to rain. A little wet doesn't hurt anyone but at this temperature I will pass from getting myself soaking ass wet. I got 6 kilometers in this morning and that will have to do, I guess, although when I am not walking 10 to 15 klicks a day I feel as if I haven't accomplished anything. Perhaps it will let up in a while and I can get one more walk in for the day.

I have mentioned before that I do not watch television. I know, I know. Everyone says that. I am actually one of them that means it. Since the middle of May my television has been on for no more than 45 minutes. There are hundreds of channels but nothing worth watching and, more to the point, I refuse to assign myself a front row seat to be brainwashed.

If I need a 'fix' there is more than enough that is worthwhile to watch on the Internet. It comes without commercial interruption and the ensuing attempt to hijack my perceived needs and twist my head to someone else's way of thinking.

Someone in blogland had an Edward R. Murrow quote about the dangers of television today. Murrow saw it much more clearly than most.

Have you never thought that television, corporations, and the government were trying to control you and manipulate you? While that may sound paranoid it isn't at all paranoid if they really are out to get you and it appears that they have indeed been out to get us all along. Even when we think we have finally shaken their shackles they have simply changed the game and trapped us all again.

In her wonderful dharma talks Buddhist Nun Ayya Khema often talked about the 'market economy' of the six sense spheres. The first nobel truth is that life is suffering, unsatisfactoriness and in the market economy of the senses we keep trying to change that simple fact with 'more.' If we purchase more, have more, have the right combination of the right "things" then we will be happy. We engage in endless rounds of consumerism, of acquisition, in an attempt to quiet that sense of dukka, of suffering. It never works. There is never enough of things or enough of the right things. The suffering always continues. But, Khema taught, that didn't stop the powers that be from promoting what they know to be our central, driving force. By dangling a new sensation of baubles in front of us with the promise that this deodorant, or that diamond, or these clothes would finally satisfy us, by continually manipulating our six sese spheres, the free market economy is kept alive.

In the acclaimed BBC documentary The Century of the Self we are shown directly how we have been continually manipulated by the media, business, and our government to keep us peaceful and in line and to keep us spending and buying to feed the machine.

This series is amazing and frightening. The manipulation just keeps changing forms. It morphs to take in new data. It is a grand psychological experiment in control being run on us by Wall Street and Madison Avenue and we have, for the most part, been blithely unaware of it but, certainly, a willing participant in it.

I urge you to block out four hours of your life to watch this series and to listen carefully. You will never view your psychiatrist, business or your government the same again.

Part One: The Happiness Machine

"The story of the relationship between Sigmund Freud and his American nephew, Edward Bernays. Bernays invented the public relations profession in the 1920s and was the first person to take Freud's ideas to manipulate the masses. He showed American corporations how they could make people want things they didn't need by systematically linking mass-produced goods to their unconscious desires. "

Part Two: The Engineering of Consent

"Politicians and planners came to believe Freud's underlying premise - that deep within all human beings were dangerous and irrational desires and fears. They were convinced that it was the unleashing of these instincts that had led to the barbarism of Nazi Germany. To stop it ever happening again they set out to find ways to control this hidden enemy within the human mind."

Part Three: There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads: He Must Be Destroyed

"...Out of this came a political movement that sought to create new beings free of the psychological conformity that had been implanted in people's minds by business and politics.
... American corporations soon realised that this new self was not a threat but their greatest opportunity. It was in their interest to encourage people to feel they were unique individuals and then sell them ways to express that individuality. To do this they turned to techniques developed by Freudian psychoanalysts to read the inner desires of the new self."

Part Four: Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering

"... The politicians believed they were creating a new and better form of democracy, one that truly responded to the inner feelings of individual. But what they didn't realise was that the aim of those who had originally created these techniques had not been to liberate the people but to develop a new way of controlling them."

This is truly Must See TV and without the Internet we would never have the chance. See this series while you are still allowed to view this material.

(Originally posted to Multiply October 16, 2008)

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