“Advertising serves not so much to advertise products as to promote consumption as a way of life” –Media, Materialism, and Human Happiness.
What a better Christmas gift for sad times we live in nowadays, than a good enlightened reading of Christopher Lasch who’s writing touched the sensitive social pathology of our narcissistic culture (Western culture, for the matter), even if the book dates back to 1978. The book is still very current for a worsening/decaying society that lives by the stick of fear, paranoia, ill-rage and narcissistic demoralizing hatred toward subliminal objects as mere target.
Notice that I’m not advertising this book; rather, it is more a personal reading I’ve done in the past and now I want to share it with some of you who are interested in the psychology of US’s consumerism and fetish for guns. The social critic Christopher Lasch diagnosed narcissism as the signal social disorder of the existing American culture. He gives us a reasonable perspective to understand why the country worships guns and why it is as self-absorbed as a nation dislodged from the true reality of people’s lives whether in the past or present.
The cult of fame, the worship of marketing and immediate gratification, refusal of moral social codes and the creeds of politics were decaying signs of a society regressing toward the playground: the infant stage.
Here, there is no need for Freud’s psychoanalytic insights of the Culture of Narcissism. It is already out there and there have been so many shootings so far that I lost count; from Columbine, Colorado to California and recently, Newtown, Connecticut. Today we learned more and more about the killer’s morbid taste in music and their “lonely-wolf” appetite for violent video games. As Lanza’s addiction, sociopathic behavior and thrills for morbid videos licensed him to murder teachers and children. His explosive narcissistic-rage and hatred towards mom motivated him to transfer and do pain where it hurts the most, to kill the innocence he never had.
On the other hand, peoples’ personal egotism, self-immediate-gratification prevails over life’s simplicities for personal comfort and survival, and the balance between spirituality and materiality has become opaque in the public arena, only to surge into peoples’ lives when pain, attrition and suffering arise in an unpredictable horrific way. The reading of “The Culture Of Narcissism” makes you aware of what it is like living in a society where the Greek logo=marketing and consumption of commodities takes over people’s addictions and emptiness, thus falling prey to product’s gullibility.
We know that the very design of big corporations (and small business) is to make profit by way of feeding peoples’ inner desires, creating more needs based on anxieties and emptiness by appealing to their individual addictions (aren’t we all addicted to something?). That is why marketing commodities of all kinds fulfill the inner void illustrated explicitly (and sometimes in funny ads) on our TV commercials.
Thus, business in general, as exemplified recently in Time Magazine, a gossiped corp-business-media, advocated Barack Obama 2012 person of the year for the fourth time (wonder why?) I’m sure, Mr. Obama is a good man, a caring father and husband and perhaps, for some others, he isn’t such a good president. So marketing needs to build him as an icon-figure and raise him above a natural mortal being, to a supra-mortal entity. The media has done this portrayal since 2008. In fact, this is a false narcissistic divinization of a man for the sake of marketing-profits and political gain. Indeed, this is the way we construct and foster our heroes and heroines, the living and fallen ones which are culturally made, mostly for the sake of money and some other times to provide dignity for the sacrifices.
Obviously, for any smart reader, this is nothing more than a compulsive fetishization raw marketing-cult paid to Obama’s public-political-image to a pure hedonistic product of consumerism because it sells well. Here, Mr. Obama is just another cultural-product, a commodity of cultural-discourse to satisfy the collective lotophaguses of the population as any other product for sale. Lasch evokes this idea in the following way:
“Society reinforces these [narcissistic] patterns [of behavior in the family] not only through “indulgent education” and general pervasiveness but through advertising, demand creation, and the mass culture of hedonism. At first glance, a society based on mass consumption appears to encourage self-indulgence in its most blatant forms. Strictly considered, however, modern advertising seeks to promote not so much self-indulgence as self-doubt. It seeks to create needs, not to fulfill them; to generate new anxieties instead of allaying old ones. . .Yet the propaganda of commodities simultaneously makes [contemporary man] acutely unhappy with his lot. By fostering grandiose aspirations, it also fosters self-denigration and self-contempt.” (pp. 180-181).
I strongly believe that this egotistic narcissism and unhappiness of our culture is the direct result of the combination of consumerism, immediate-self-gratification and selfish individualism advocated by our corporate business elites and the politicians. The end result of the game is pure profits, power and sometimes ends in a gruesome killing of innocent lives!!
“The Culture Of Narcissism” is a powerful and accurate portrayal of an ailing society heading toward future totalitarianism (because that is where we are going as we see social moral decaying) as more urgent needed regulations are being imposed on the population especially in view of the recent emerging guns consumerism and mass killing thanks to corrupted/poising ill-used of our first and second amendment. These issues, among others, are in the hands of the corporation’s greed and political power seekers…. “More power, more money, more money more power”, according to the slogan of the riches Italian family of Medici (13th Century) who even owned Italy’s Catholic papacy.
I would highly recommend this book for every person that is interested in comprehending himself, society and the manipulation of symbolic public persona for pure profits. It will surely provide the reader with an educational experience and stunning psychoanalytic reading!
Merry Christmas, friends (or shall I said, “Happy Holiday?”) (:=
Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1978), pp. 180-181
Update: Making a living off the pain of others: “A TV Voice Rang True in Clamor of Shooting” (NYT)
- Is There an Epidemic of Narcissism Today? (addisabram.wordpress.com)
- Are Media Creating a Generation of Narcissists? (psychologytoday.com)
- Why Americans cannot discipline their children (english.pravda.ru)
- Is Your Child Becoming Like Their Narcissistic Parent? (christinehammondcounseling.wordpress.com)