22 January 2006

The Wages Of Fear

Don't Be Happy. Worry.

There was a time, not too long ago, when America was fearless. No more. Oh, we watch NASCAR and the NFL and think we kick major ass. But what’s on the screen between the games and the races?

Ads about worrying about your credit score.

Ads about refinancing to get out of credit card debt.

Ads for insurance for burial expenses.

Ads for medications which may prevent illnesses you don’t have.

Ads for life insurance for children.

Ads warning you that common everday life (like driving to work) may lead to life-threatening diseases.

Cholesterol. Erectile Disfunction. More insurance. Identity theft. And on and on and on it goes.

It’s a sad state of affairs when the most uplifing commercials on TV are for cars. Cars sell on style and performance and quality. OK, so half of it is lies, but you don’t’ buy a car out of fear. You buy it to go places and do things. That’s what this country used to be about.

But … Fear Works. We as a country have become so obsessed with our health and hanging on to whatever money the IRS doesn’t take and the greedheads are allowed to steal (So, did _anyone _from Enron end up stomped to death in a gutter? Did any do hard jail time?) that there’s an almost knee-jerk reaction to fear in advertising.

The obsession is diving deeper and deeper into minutia. Picking the “right” dental floss, the “right” bottled water (to “maximize hydration”), the “right” everything. It used to be that having the “right” stuff made you cool; now not havbing it means you made a Mistake. Something that could eventually (in 20 or 30 years) lead to cancer or bankruptcy or baldness, at least.

We have become marginalized. We buy into every bad thing that they say can happen to us. And you know what? If you believe them, it will. You will spend so much time and effort and money warding off all the Evils that could happen that you won’t enjoy a moment of life. Sometimes shit happens. If life was easy, everyone would have one.

And the advertising juggernaut further marginalizes us in other advertisments. Consider some of the ads for banks, for instance. They promote that with their bank you can talk to a person instead of an automated call center.

Bloody hell!

Believe it or not there was a time before ATM’s. Before voice-automated systems. Before out-sourcing of half the lower-echelon banking jobs to the Pacific Rim. In those days, you knew your teller and they knew you. You didn’t have to pay extra. Back before the banking industry contracted they really wanted your business. Even if you only had a small balance.

But now we’re so completely cowed by Big Business that we actually think we’re getting something “special” when we can call the place where we put Our Money and expect to talk to a person. Oh, how wonderful. They must really care.

Don’t for an instant think they give a happy damn about you, or that their offering you “better service” has anything to do with customer satisfaction. It is called “Branding” … they are selling a product. Period. They want you to deposit your money in their bank and that’s all. It’s no different than “Tastes Great, Less Filling.”

If you don’t like the service at your bank - take your money elsewhere. Simple. Screw those pin-striped punks.

These are sick and twisted times we live in, Bubbah. Earthquakes and tidal waves and wild fires and more demented bastards running our government than would fit in a David Lynch movie. And the mass media are feeding off it. Feeding their coffers by feeding our fear.

So when the constant negative reinforcement gets you down, here’s what you do. Fill up the tank of the car with Premium. Drive like a maniac to the store and get a nice big steak and a bottle of something to wash it down with - nothing less than 80 proof - wine doesn’t count. You’ll need potato chips too. Now haul ass home. Grill up that steak and eat it while watching a movie on Pay-Per-View. After dinner, start drinking - not enough to make you sick - just enough to make you mellow. Then light a fire in the fireplace and throw your latest credit card statements into it (in a week or so you can call the bank and ask why you still haven’t gotten a statement from them in the mail … is there some conspiracy to charge you a late fee!?!?).

The next morning wake up, head into the bathroom and take a nice big dump. And when you hear the splash in the bowl from last night’s meal just say: “America, Fuck Yeah.”