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.