- Oppression - Prevailing Conceptions Justice Knowledge


Let us take advertising as an example of social forces that cause oppression through distortion of self-knowledge.  Advertising, a euphemism for propaganda, mutilates our conceptions of reality.  Images presented to youth, at a time of rising self-awareness, present unattainable goals and appearances that create an endless struggle for self-confidence.  A real girl’s purpose is to attract men.  A real man is defined by physical power.  Sexuality is the center of existence.  All of a sudden, a commercial draws a conclusion between a bike helmet and romance; between a brand of shoes and a one-night stand; between a certain snack food and finding the love of your life.

The idea behind advertising is to create a culture to which one desires to belong.  Increasingly, teenagers are categorized according to attitudes towards which products can be catered.  Advertisers link their product with whatever culture this teenager identifies with, and symbolizes it with happiness.  A studious youth is sold state-of-the-art books and study aids that promise to bring them happiness through out-competing their peers academically.  A rebellious youth is offered unique and shunned earrings to fulfill their desires to be non-comformist.  Even an environmentally-conscious youth is targeted for t-shirts that state “yay recycling” – t-shirts that have ironically been made at a factory that pollutes the environment.

Manipulative and self-interested social forces are pervasive.  They maintain ignorance and propagate injustice.  Only through empowerment in knowledge can they be overcome.

2 replies on “Advertising”

This reminded me a bit of the post “Caricatures of Human Nature.” At the beginning of the post above, you mention that advertising targets youth at a time when they are increasingly self-aware. They have the capacity to overtly express consciousness of their inherent nature, and advertisers are acutely aware of this. It is a critical time, when advertisers have great buy-in on the creation of the trellace on which young vines grow.

When advertising convinces one that the essence of their existence is to consume goods, it becomes a perpetual experience of chasing the dragon. Advertisers promise results that can never actually be attained. What happens when a new bike helmet doesn’t result in a new relationship? If it ended here, advertisers might be in trouble. So, an additional prescription is mandated. Advertisers must also promote the “importance” of immediacy and newness. Prodcuts are constantly re-invented and renewed to keep the general populous engaged, as our attention span diminishes to infantile levels. When a product is renewed, it must be consumed immediately. We are constantly bombarded by phrases such as “new and improved,” and “buy now!” As if the product will magically disappear if we wait an extra 24 hours to purchase. In this way, the happiness promised in association with material goods is always slightly out of reach. There is always a carrot dangling in front of our nose. The same mechanisms at play in gambling are found in consumer culture. Play to win. You’re bound to eventually. Advertising takes the otherwise noble capacities of hope and motivation and channels them toward consumption. It is because of hope for happiness and newness that large segments of the population will camp in front of stores in eager anticipation of the arrival of a new product. Motivation takes the form of standing in a line for hours to ensure being the first to buy.

Hope, motivation, dedication, steadfastness, enthusiasm and certitude can all be observed in the stalwart consumer. It is evident that society has the capacity to manifest these qualities. However, if these qualities are to find lasting expression, we must discover the roots of human motivation. If you water the leaves of a plant, it will eventually die, yet, if you water the soil, where to the outer vision no growth is apparent, the plant will thrive, and in time, manifest its latent potential.

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