Life Spirituality Life Lessons
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction!
You sharpen the human appetite to the point where it can split atoms with its desire; you build egos the size of cathedrals; fiber-optically connect the world to every eager impulse; grease even the dullest dreams with these dollar-green, gold-plated fantasies, until every human becomes an aspiring emperor, becomes his own God…*
The world lives a new religion. The trinity is Consumption (use / spend), Capitalism (private property / money / market) and Enlightenment (Rationalism / Empiricism / Industrialism). E-commerce are contemporary cathedrals, virtual places of worship, common meeting spaces for the most heterogeneous specimens grouped into classes, types and categories. The liturgy is the message of the earthly paradise here and now, without delay. Devotion: advertising.
How is it that we end up parishioners of the immanent? For at least two reasons. The first is that for 200 years it has been easier for modern society to produce than to sell. Technological development made possible — and still makes possible — the manufacture of a large number of products and services. The problem is to sell them because the market is saturated. The second is our free will that empowers us, antithetical to what John Milton (Al Pacino) said in Devil’s Advocate, to look and touch and taste and swallow.
Likewise, the viaticum of psychology appears, a very powerful ally that helps the consumer stop being interested in the material values of things and focus on the immaterial. The product then passes from object to symbol.
This symbolism is a set of beliefs, norms of behavior and ceremonies that are typical of a certain human group and with which man recognizes a relationship with the divinity (a god or several gods). This new religion offers us new lay sacraments: technique, wealth, happiness, well-being, love. These are the milestones to meet in life, every day. To do this you have to work from sunrise to sunset with no other goal than to achieve them. The problem is that the race becomes individualistic and selfish. Thus, we lose confidence in the big institutions and in ourselves, constituting an infinity of monads that limit themselves to coexisting. Reason screams at us the irrationality of that ‘being lived’ (not being alive), and the childish sensitivity that tells us that something is wrong is fading. The dynamics of modern society then fragments everything abandoning common notions that once served to unite men. We are the condors that live among turkeys and don’t know we can fly.
What is the unifying element of the endless groups of this fragmented society that, otherwise, would end up confronting and altering the established order? Consumption is the cement that unites the different members of a society whose elements have little or nothing in common. With the help of psychology, advertising knows how to exploit this crisis by offering man a new vision of the world attached to the product packaging. With this symbolic approach, advertising not only helps to overcome the problems derived from mass production, but it ends up becoming a new ideology, a new way of understanding life.
It is surprising that in a century that claims to be the culmination of enlightened rationalism, the imaginary, the religious, reappear. The cause of this return must be found, according to some authors, in the dissatisfaction that consumption leaves in people. Despite scientific and technological progress, despite having reasoned and reasonable explanations of nature, they remain unsatisfied.
Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll
To fill that void, nothing better than a slogan, a product-symbol, a mime, a self-indulgence, spend, spend and spend. Although the aspiral is downward we are not interested and we sing like the stainless Rolling Stones:
I can’t get no satisfaction
I can’t get no satisfaction
’Cause I try and I try and I try and I try
I can’t get no, I can’t get no…
When mental progress put man at the center, and scientific and technological progress took away its mystery from the world, disenchanted it, making it predictable, controllable and manipulable, then myth and religion became seemingly unnecessary, and at the same time their absence produced a nostalgia that had to be filled in some way. Or rather, it was necessary to give shape to the new emerging values, to create a structure of new transcendental myths and religion. In this context, advertising has played a major role. (José Luis León, 2001)
Among advertising professionals there is no itch for purity, but rather for efficiency, and if to achieve it they have to borrow elements, then they take them, because their objective, do not lose sight of it, is to better persuade to sell more. The rented artifacts are materialism, hedonism, lust…
• The use of the image: If the development of the advertising discourse is analyzed, it will be observed that it has evolved from an editorial message to another (more) visual. It goes to the image, because it communicates more quickly and because it is easier to understand and because it avoids the spectator’s inattention better.
• The promise of paradise: the goal is the salvation of man. It aspires to take it out of the everyday world and transport it to another world in which, thanks to the essential help of the promoted products, there are no small miseries and painful obligations of daily life.
• The obsession with cleanliness: At present, the notion of guilt — of sin — has been transferred from a spiritual realm to another material, from the soul to the body, but not to the body as a whole, as religion did, but to a part of the body: sweat, dandruff, grease, cavities, bad breath … and even the natural body odor itself. Modern advertising is not interested in interior dirt but exterior.
• Dramatization: staging with anachronisms.
• The archetype: Dramatization is the staging of a sacred or everyday act and the subject who acts in this scene is an archetype. And both one and the other have been subjected to a debugging process. If the accessory elements have been eliminated on the stage and only the pertinent elements remain in order to achieve rapid and effective communication.
• Festivities recycling: When the consumer society is definitively implanted in Western countries, then advertising replaces religious festivals with others of a consumer nature. Christmas, despite its obvious religious character, has become an exaltation of consumption.
Free will. It’s like butterfly wings
What is brand image if not the attribution of a personality, a spirit, a soul to an object / brand? What do consumers do with products / brands if not grant them immaterial, not to say supernatural, values? Modern man behaves with products / brands like primitive man with objects that he considered sacred: he gives them attributes that are more imaginary than true, more supposed than real. Advertising is an omnivorous speech that goes to other speeches, loots them, uses them and, consequently, trivializes them.
Man believes that, thanks to the technological revolution, he can dominate nature, and this belief gives rise to the modern idea of progress. As Küng affirms, ‘faith in progress became the number 2 value after the achievement of happiness in this world’ (Hans Küng, 2004)
The reason forces to remodel the consideration of God with the consequent enthronement of the individual thinking and, secondly, progress makes possible the construction of paradise on earth so that the end of man is no longer to seek happiness in the other world but in this. It passes, therefore, from a theocentric and teleological system to another human and earthly. God is replaced by man, and Heaven by earth. There is a total change: from asceticism one passes to mundane enjoyment and from sacrifice to achieve eternity to hedonism, because there is no other world than this.
In front of the man who walks through the valley of tears in search of the Celestial Kingdom appears the individual who cares for the earth because he understands that it is the best of all possible worlds.
And where can you go from there? As we’re scrambling from one deal to the next, who’s got his eye on the planet? As the air thickens, the water sours, even bees’ honey takes on the metallic taste of radioactivity … and it just keeps coming, faster and faster. There’s no chance to think, to prepare; it’s buy futures, sell futures … when there is no future. We got a runaway train, boy. We got a billion Eddie Barzoons all jogging into the future. Every one of them is getting ready to fistfuck God’s ex-planet, lick their fingers clean, as they reach out toward their pristine, cybernetic keyboards to tote up their fucking billable hours. And then it hits home! *
* John Milton (Al Pacino) Devil’s Advocate.
^ This article quotes literally and in its entirety Advertising and religion: Similarities and differences between advertising discourse and Catholic discourse. Trípodos, number 18, Barcelona, 2006. Rey, Juan.