Monday, August 13, 2012

Big Brother and Affluenza

I read George Orwell's 1984 many years ago. I suspect I read it prior to 1984! Teenage Daughter read it recently as part of her Year 12 extended reading in English. I'm pretty sure Husband has also read it. If not, he's been gate-crashing the conversations we've been having about 1984 and the Big Brother reality television series.

Please forgive me if I don't remember all the finer details of Orwell's book. What I do remember is a futuristic society in which citizens were constantly monitored and also brain-washed. It's now many years since Orwell wrote the book; in terms of dates we're well past his futuristic novel. I remember being pleased in 1984 that our society was not like his terrible vision. (I won't get into a discussion over whether we were brain washed in those days about the Eastern Bloc countries.) It was a dark and scary place. Perhaps what made it so scary was the pervasive feeling that "it could happen." Partly for that reason I take exception to the television series using the name Big Brother. The other reason is that I hate to see great literature being butchered. I suspect that most of the people who spend time in the Big Brother house and many of those viewing have never even heard of George Orwell. That's not their fault or a slur on any of them.

I'm lucky to live in a democratic country where I don't suffer the loss of freedom that those in 1984 did. I'd love to write that I'm lucky I don't live in a society where I'm brainwashed but I don't think that's true. I always thought I was media savvy. However, a few years ago I read the wonderfully eye-opening book, Affluenza. The author, Clive Hamilton, discusses how companies, through advertising, try to get inside our heads and influence us. Many techniques are used from those that make us feel as if there is something wrong with us if we don't purchase something to those that make us feel like we'll all be sex gods and goddesses just by using a particular kind of razor. I don't know how true it is but I heard that women didn't even shave their legs and underarms until razor manufacturers created the belief that it was necessary. Now it's mainstream. Not only are they trying to get us to buy what we need, they are trying to create need where it doesn't exist.

My current favourite is a fast food outlet that is offering to do us a favour by selling small change items so we don't have to store our small change. Just think if each person who went into each outlet across Australia and bought one small change item in addition to their meal, how much profit do you think they'd make. They're not doing it for us!

How is all this relevant to what my family is doing? It's much easier to go without, not upgrade, buy secondhand etc if we can recognise that, despite what the ads say, we don't really need it. We don't need to keep up with the Joneses - maybe the Joneses are buying into it all. Footprints precludes it. All those warm fuzzy ads are designed to sell products, nothing more. Buying them won't solve my problems or make me feel better about myself. Buying Meadow Lea won't make me a better mum even though they want to congratulate me. And just because Chris used a Finish tablet in the dishwasher on Masterchef the other night doesn't mean it's the best product; it means that Finish is sponsoring the show.


No comments:

Post a Comment