I was hot-stepping downtown the other day, headphones pumping, feeling good after a little gym workout. And this stopped me dead in my tracks.
Colour faded from my face. Everything got a bit blurry. I stood on the sidewalk staring at this storefront window trying to process what I was seeing. People walked by me, walked by this, going about their day, apparently unaware that they were passing by a harbinger of the apocalypse, the devil's handiwork dressed as a hash-tag.
Telling someone to stand for something and defend your convictions by buying a brand is the epitome of not giving a shit about anything. It's the marketing equivalent of ambulance chasing, televangelism, or calling your buddy's girl as soon as they break up. You care about one thing and one thing only. Nothing else matters. After the oil runs out and the oceans rise and we kill one another in a panic to survive, future historians will use this to explain what went wrong.
Have you not taken enough? We already associate beauty, social standing and personal fulfillment with the material things and abstract names you baste us with.
Television, movies, fashion magazines. Ads on every street corner, newspaper, webpage, reminding us that there are ways to be prettier, slimmer, happier. Just flip the page, recognize this brand, change yourself. Every year, women go under the knife to alter their bodies and many suffer from serious eating disorders.
Billions of dollars spent on marketing directly to children. Companies consulting child psychologists to find the optimal colours, sounds, and other stimuli to most effectively deliver their commercial message to the developing minds of our youth. While both parents go to work to be able to pay for the products we now believe we need, approximately one million children in North America are now diagnosed and medicated for social anxiety.
Men are told their heads are too bald and their penises too limp. It is suggested that I might have new name-brand conditions like "Low T" (low testosterone) and "ED" (erectile dysfunction). These newly discovered illnesses are often advertised during newly discovered holidays: Propetia Boxing Day Bonanza, Viagra Black Friday Fiesta.
Over the years we've given everything to you. Our fragile egos. Our definition of happiness. Our measures of self-worth.
Still, it's not enough. Flashing sexy lights and playing off of our insecurities gets the job done, but is old news. There must be more. The beast must be fed. So you begin to dabble with the abstract.
One of a kind. Be different. Be yourself. Now subconsciously associate this important concept of identity and individuality with a brand of shitty soda pop. The same shitty brand of soda pop that millions of others will buy this year.
Oh yes, it seems nothing is sacred.
Product placement in our art. Our most uplifting music being used to sell cars. Little banners scrolling across our screens. Native advertisement insidiously hiding brand strategy as news. Thoughtful commentary on the state of advertisement in our society brought to you by Subway's new Chicken and Avocado sub. Subway, Eat Fresh™
There is nowhere to hide. You've begun to co-opt pieces of our culture and place yourself beside them like a smiling friend photo-bombing that special moment. See, I'm here beside something you love, something that you grew up with, that made this place your home.
The Montreal Forum was professional hockey's most famous arena, becoming a cultural icon for hockey and the people of Montreal. There was an aura around the place, it oozed history, and added to the character and identity of the city. In the time since leaving the Forum, the team's new facility has been named the Molson Centre (beer) and the Bell Centre (telecom).
San Francisco's Candlestick Park is a historic stadium that served the community for almost five decades. It was a classic ballpark that become synonymous with sports in the Bay area. Candlestick is now getting old and they have to move, yet instead of retaining the famous non-commercial name the team is moving to the new Levi's Stadium. For a couple of million dollars that the owners do not need, something that helped define a city has been replaced by a brand of jeans that only your dad wears. Poof, just like that. A piece of culture that took decades to build is gone. Future fond memories now to be subliminally sprinkled with consumption. The identity of an entire town becoming that much more disposable.
And now you want this?
Our values. Our morals. The belief systems that define us as individuals. You wish to tie even those most vital of human elements to something we can buy? Is even that for sale?
Stand for something. Defend your convictions.
Yes, I will. I will do just that.
I will ignore your ads until they show some conscience. I will change the channel until I see something of value. I will boycott your product until you demonstrate social responsibility.
If your song is manufactured fluff, I will not buy it. If your movie is cheap and thoughtless, I will not watch it. If you speak with greed as a motivation, I will ridicule you. If your actions lead to the degradation of our culture or personal peace, I will fight you until you are no more.
This article originally appeared on HeadSpace