There’s a brilliant documentary that chronicles the hundred year history of propaganda.
How those in power used psychoanalysis to control the dangerous crowd in a age of mass democracy.
In the first act of the movie, there’s a fascinating story about the first president who embraced propaganda. Hoover, standing at the precipice of our nation’s lowest point, articulated the idea that consumerism would become the central motor of our nation’s livelihood.
As the story goes, after his election, he told a group of advertisers and public relations executives that they had taken over the job of creating desire and transforming people into constantly moving happiness machines.
Machines that would become the key to economic progress.
That story sends chills down my spine. Because it marks a cultural moment of conception. Ground zero for the birth of our society’s overwhelming sense of urgency that we’re perpetually one purchase away from a better life.
And what bothers me the most about it is, I bought into it from day one. I’ve been a constantly moving happiness machine for four decades. I’m just as brainwashed and conditioned and coached up as anyone else.
That gnawing restlessness of consumerism that’s like having an itch but not knowing where to scratch, it’s marrow deep.
They have my number, and they’ve dialed it repeatedly.
Of course, there’s no blame. It’s nobody’s fault. And I don’t harbor a grudge towards the cultural forces that shaped me.
All I can do is own the identity creation process. All I can do is examine the beliefs and ways of being that I am feeding.
And maybe I’ll eventually unlearn enough to get back home.
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What stories are part of the ongoing narrative of your personal myth?
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That Guy with the Nametag
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