|Posted by Mark Cantrell on October 24, 2014 at 2:05 PM|
Say my piece and eat it
By Mark Cantrell
Sorry to disappoint, but social comment and political polemic is part of the brand (excuse me while I spit out the bad taste that word leaves in my mouth), so if you're looking to just tune out to some 'mind muzak' you might want to slip away before the mouth starts to foam.
I'm given to understand that passing comment about world affairs is generally not the done thing; never talk football, politics or religion down the pub, as the old adage goes; in other words, shut your damn mouth and don't have anything to say that might send ripples through the soporific mainstream.
Okay, so people want to just switch off and relax; life is pretty demanding these days and we all need to unwind. I get that. There are times when I want to do the same, and I've got the stories for it too. But here's the thing, as a journalist who writes about some gritty and contentious issues, I'm not in a position – or even prepared – to switch off, disengage from current affairs, and act like there's no bad shit going on in the world (however much I'd like to, sometimes).
So I'm not generally in the mood to give credence to the incessant demands of marketing, nor its minions in the public relations, advertising, and SEO brigades, to fall in line with its precepts. The sore point is that I can't entirely ignore these things; everything from a local community club upwards to trans-national corporates, political movements, terror groups, and even governments, are called upon to market themselves in some way shape or form.
In its basics, it's a relatively benign activity, but we're talking about a multi-billion pound global industry here: one that's seeped into pretty much every aspect of modern life and living. We're not talking about something restricted to commercial selling, but something that inevitably ventures into political and ideological functions too; it has to, ultimately, to push its ends.
Marketing is essentially nihilistic; it believes in nothing but the brand, not the supposed substance of the brand, and then only as a means to an end. In its ultimate, over-arching function, marketing is totalitarian in the processes it uses to reach into our hearts and minds, to shape our perceptions, mould our thoughts, shift the way we relate to ourselves and each other, and rewrite our souls to something more amenable to the desires of global capitalism, so you'll excuse me if I have issues with it.
The marketing industry, the propaganda stormtroopers for this bitterly unequal, corporate-controlled 'Soviet Union' in which we dwell, would have us believe hell is heaven, war is peace, slavery is freedom, and shit is the sweetest sugar. They are the "engineers of souls" (as Stalin once said writers must become), seeking to pull the dream over our eyes, and mould our perceptions and values, our hopes and aspirations into something more amenable to corporate shareholder value for the people down at the tax haven.
Or, to put it in simpler terms, the marketing folks want to sell you something; more than likely something you neither want nor need, but with the right nudge you can be sent salivating like a Pavlovian dog all the way to the cash register. But they're not just selling you a product or a service. They're flogging a lifestyle, an aspiration, a key to unlock some existential sense of Self and worth; they're coders of trojans seeking to hack in, infect, and hijack the impulses of our humanity.
So of course they don't want you distracted by real world affairs, by the great questions of human existence, by concerns and hopes and dreams that bind us to each other outside the temples of consumerism; they'd rather we were tearing at each other's throats to get ahead in the queue for the next iteration of high-tech gizmo with its latest 'go faster striped' upgrade. Why think, when one can consume?
Given that I'd quite like you to buy my books, I probably ought to follow suit.
As it is, these little missives, the polemical essays and social commentary I feel compelled to write, they doubtless put some people off. Not everybody, mind, but some people are inevitably going to be driven off in a huff; repelled by some of my views, fuming indignant at a political partisanship expressed over this or that grim social concern. Hey, I might even have got lucky and offended a few of them. You never know.
Marketing would have me strive to be everybody's friend, universally agreeable; express no opinion or position on world affairs, great or small, less those of an opposing position take issue; say nothing that might send a potential sale scurrying off into the sunset. Be an entertainer, and only an entertainer; believe in nothing, and stand for nothing but the next sale. Gather to me, my followers – my audience – and be at peace, my friends, step outside the world and leave your woes behind, for I am the opium for your massive existential headaches.
Well, screw that. I'm not here to be everybody's pal; I am not here to hide from the horrors of the world. By the same measure, I am not here to hide it or distract you from it either. I can't change the world, not alone, nor can you, but maybe once in a little while I provoke a little thought, stir someone to ask an impertinent question, add my humble voice and do my tiny little bit for the collective growth of human consciousness.
Sure, I'm happy to entertain – but I also aim to provoke thought, to stir a reaction, to inform when I can, to rouse curiosity, as much as spin a good yarn. It's part of my job, part of that damn brand; an essence of my soul, if you'll permit me to be fancy about it. And as the author of a hard-hitting socio-political thriller in the Orwellian tradition, Citizen Zero, I've got even less excuse to play safe and cop out.
The world is a frightening, dangerous place; we tune out at our peril.
Now, about those books…
5 October 2014
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