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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Century of the Self

Go to school, get good grades, go to college, get good grades, get a job that pays well.  While you're following this (flawed) plan, buy ridiculous amounts of stuff you don't need, but that you want.  Follow the herd, the trend, the style - starting about age 5.  Your parents will see to it that you are following the latest trends in toys / clothes / books.  Make sure you consume many things, as you've been taught that it is consumption that drives the economy.  You're doing your part, right?

If you live on Park Ave. in Manhattan, buy a huge Land Rover or a Hummer for the rustic 'feel'.  If you live in the 'hood, buy throwback jerseys because you saw Sean Combs and Shaquille O'Neal wearing them at the Video Music Awards. Everyone else is watching Reality TV?  You should too.  Buying a home? - I hope so, it's your duty as an American.  Everyone knows renting is for suckers.   iPhone 4 not good enough? Get the 4S.  Get the latest brands, the latest styles, the things that make you feel wealthy, powerful, rich, famous - you deserve it and you feel better.  Most of all, get up at the crack of dawn and make sure to spend your money on Black Friday!

This 'brave new world' society is ours.  How did it get that way?  How did we go from a libertarian, independent, self reliant and hyper literate society to a bunch of consuming drones?  Why do people follow the crowd?  This nearly four hour BBC documentary looks into the fascinating world of the nascent behavioral psychology movement of the early 1900's, and follows it to the end of the century.  I have always wondered how George Orwell's 1984, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World,  Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and H.G. Wells' The Time Machine were able to correctly and chillingly predict the future.  It turns out the "switch" was much closer in their rear view mirrors than it is in ours.  Regardless of the aforementioned authors disparate political beliefs, they were able to see how the people were becoming sheeple, and they wrote novels reflecting this massive and destructive trend.

Edward Bernays is the focus of the first episode, which shows the move from a society that spent and consumed according to need only, and moved to one that was convinced it should have the things that it wants.  How do you alter the minds of millions?  Bernays can show you how, sometimes with exceedingly destructive results.  Bernays had a direct influence on the move to make smoking acceptable for women, as well as influence on the Nazi propaganda machine.

Quick note:  The more I read and research, the more parallels I see between the works of Gatto, Garrett, Sutton, Iserbyt, Griffin and Rothbard.  I can see now how the educational aspect of America had to be attacked first by the Power Elite - starting in the 1840's.  None of these shifts could have been done with an educated, headstrong and independent populace.  It also lends credence to Charles Mackay's Extraordinary Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.

For a 1938 essay on this phenomenon, see Garet Garrett's "The Revolution Was".

 

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