I often lament that I can’t remember a single line of Shakespeare accurately, or more than a snippet of any poem (“…acrobat, hunchbacked with senseless muscles”), or any of my favorite proverbs from the Old Testament, but I can remember the words and melodies to hundreds of advertising jingles and TV themes. This, I suspect, is largely an American phenomenon, perhaps largely of my specific generation, who came up during the golden age of television advertising.
Whatever the case, it starts young, this inculcation with commercial messages. I can sing you the great Ballantine beer jingle that used to run day after day on Yankees radio broadcasts. I can describe a beautiful Fresca commercial, sing the theme song for Veep, so lemon light (Vee-eeeep never spoils… your appetite), a soft drink like Sprite or Seven Up, now long extinct. When my mother used to take me to the supermarket, when I was barely more than a toddler, she’d send me off looking for some product. I’d race off down the aisle, singing the jingle, recognizing the product at once among the many on the shelf, grabbing it and running back to throw it into the cart.
“People used to be amazed. Sometimes they asked me if you were a midget,” my mother used to tell me.
“Yeah, ‘somebody get that midget a cigar’, a guy in a store once said of you,” said my father.
I suspect many American children could do the same act. The ads ran continuously on TV. They were designed to be catchy and memorable, and they always showed the product in close up for the last few seconds. We were raised literally soaking in it.
What does that mean, “soaking in it”? Every American of a certain age will know the reference. There was an ad with the tag line “you’re soaking in it” that a google search (23,600,000 results in 0.47 seconds) finds for us in the blink of an eye. Apparently the ad ran, in many variations, and with the same actress as the colorful Madge, for literally decades. Wisecracking beautician Madge is giving a woman a pedicure, soaking her hand in a solution to soften it. Madge recommends Palmolive dishwashing liquid to the woman, to keep her hands soft. The woman asks if it really works and Madge informs her, to the comical shock of the woman getting the manicure, that she’s soaking in it now. The woman starts to jerk her hand out of the liquid, but Madge pats it back into place, another wisecrack on her lips. A classic thirty second spot, here you go, from 1967 —> clickez, mes enfants.
We can’t see it because we are soaking in it.
Now we live in an age when our consumer data, our buying habits down to the things we once thought about buying but didn’t wind up buying, are harvested directly by the companies that market to us. That data is apparently more valuable to corporations than anything else about us. Ain’t that some shit? Corporations, by the way, are just “persons” like every other human you meet. You know, they have rights, and feelings too. The Supreme Court says so, they came to the legally binding opinion that these business entities, created under certain enumerated sections of American law, have a life and rights of personhood as sacred as those of any unborn child in Mississippi.
Yesterday, after literally years of struggle with an extremely customer-hostile ISP with a monopoly in my neighborhood, getting poor internet service and even worse customer service, I learned, from two angels in the Philippines who work for another global corporation, how to use my phone as a modem, for free, and never again have to talk to the hapless reps who work for the inhuman ISP run by smiling multi-millionaire psychopath Tom Rutledge. DONE! A miracle, truly — and about $600 a year back in my pocket.
We have the technology, in our pockets, to create miracles. In less than a second we can have information that would have taken a long time to dig up just ten or fifteen years ago. We have access to an amazing array of things, just by saying a couple of words to our smart phones. We have a lot to be grateful for, even as powerful “persons” recklessly plunge us toward the death of all life on this planet, even as other psychopathic types wield outsized, merciless influence in human affairs, but there is a lot of work to do. Including becoming aware of what we are soaking in, that is the first step, surely.
A lot of work to be done, if the grandchildren are to avoid a dystopian future of famine and cannibalism on a ravaged earth destroyed, in our lifetimes. Scientists are now emphasizing that we have only twelve years to the point of no return, as far as global climate catastrophe. Twelve years and counting down, with every incentive to preserve our beautiful planet, only industrialized human greed standing against us.
Corporate culture changes how we look at the things around us, what we value, how we treat each other. We are soaking in it, friends.
I’m that played-out, grown-up acrobat,
hunchbacked with senseless muscles,
who knows that advice is a lie,
that sooner or later there’s falling.
(piece of a great poem by Yuvegny Yevtushenko)
link to whole poem (whatever you do, do not click on expressionless robot reading the poem aloud– WTF?)