Oh, hello! Hey, tell me honestly. Do these pants make my ass look too big? Or wait, maybe not big enough? Is it time for a little butt cheek augmentation? Or maybe a little liposuction to take away these love handles, at least; and perhaps while I’m at it, a nice tummy tuck. That can’t hurt to even it all out! But wait, why should I stop there? Since I’m a bit too lazy to work on these pecs, perhaps some implants might be in order along with a nice minor neck lift. Of course, I’ll have to do something about this male-pattern baldness, right? What’s that? An eyebrow lift? No, I don’t know if I want to look all alert all the time. Rather, I think I’m going to finish off with a plethora of Botox injections that tighten up these wrinkles. You know Botox, that chemical neurotoxin that temporarily paralyzes your nerves for the illusion of youthfulness? Marshall McLuhan once said that the last thing a fish would ever notice in its habitat is the water. Likewise, the most obvious and powerful realities of our human culture seem to also be the most unrecognized. It is only when we take pause, often at the risk of social alienation, to question the foundational principles and ideas to which our lives are oriented does a dark truth about our supposed ‘normality’ become more clear. Today, we live in an ocean with enormous waves of status obsession, materialism, vanity, ego and consumerism. Our very lives have become defined not by our productive thoughts, social contributions and good will, but by a superficial, delusional set of associations where the very fabric of our society now radiates with cheap romanticisms connected to vain competition, conspicuous consumption and neurotic addictions often related to physical beauty, status and superficial wealth. In effect, [it is] social conformity masquerading as individualism with the virtues of balance, intelligence, peace, public health and true creativity left to rot on the sidelines. The cultural water we inhabit today runs deep with heavy pollution. It starts in our formative years, where to be smart and achieving is to be a nerd, a dweeb or a geek with social praise instead relegated to those of accepted appearance, wealth and mindless brawn, reinforcing the idea that to think, know and challenge is to be ridiculed, while to uphold the status quo, conform to the ideals imposed by society is to be rewarded. At what point does that multi-billionaire with the 5 mansions go from being a peak icon of culturally accepted success to an example of a severe mental disorder amounting to compulsive addiction, in fact, where the billionaire is revealed as nothing more than a social abomination in disguise by their decision to hoard such excessive levels of problem-solving wealth for no other utility than mere ego status. But then again, we can’t be too hard on them, right? For what they’re doing is simply what they’ve been taught. Just as the religions you believe or the gaming strategies you use for survival are groomed and cultivated by the environmental condition of your existence, so are the many other waves of influence in this ocean of memes that comprise the zeitgeist of the time. So maybe we should start to question what it is we are actually trying to accomplish rather than complain and look at the social normalities of progress and success as they exist. I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to suspect that the new commercial lifestyle that has been touted by economists and historians as some marvel of human/social development is actually a hidden form of retardation: an unseen manifest-value distortion that is making us sick, antisocial, increasingly vain, ecologically indifferent and perhaps more and more malleable for the controlling factions of our society itself. Maybe, just maybe, our modern cultural strives for so-called ‘success’ itself are in fact not symptoms of social progress at all, but symptoms of a culture in decline. From the creator of the Zeitgeist film trilogy comes the worse reality show of all time the real one GMP Films presents Culture In Decline With your guide: Peter Joseph www.CultureInDecline.com A new disease has struck America, rapidly moving across the world: a disease largely unknown in earlier periods and almost entirely unnoticed by those who carry it, a disease spread not by a physical virus or genetic predisposition but through cultural memes, ideas, ideas which are in fact infecting minds, growing and mutating in various strains, inhibiting the mental well-being of many. It’s called C.V.D., Consumption-Vanity Disorder. It’s a plague of modern society which not only pollutes the minds and values of those infected, it is also turning our world into a cesspool of mini-malls and self-image disorders, wasteful materialism and belligerent social transgressions. The following message is paid for by the C.V.D. Research Institute. So, I’ve been working with these girls for a few years now. What many don’t know about CVD is that many sub-strains or mutations have occurred. These women here suffer from H.G.S. or Hot Girl Syndrome. So, I see we have a few new faces here. Would anyone like to introduce themselves? I moved to Los Angeles a couple of years ago, and I… I started noticing weird changes happening to my body like my skirts started getting shorter and shorter, and… I started spending more and more on cosmetics and heels and cheap jewelery, and then the Botox injections started, and… I just couldn’t stop. My lips got more and more pouty, and by the second or third buttock augmentation, I was looping DVD reruns of America’s next top model and extreme makeover 24/7, dating one hot football star douchebag after the other and the next thing I knew I was on the cover of Vogue. – Ooooh! It’s OK honey. I was on the cover of Vogue too. With your support we can abolish H.G.S. in our lifetime. If you would like to help these victims, please donate all Gucci, Louis Vuitton & Prada products to your local landfill. If we go back to the early twentieth century, we find a critical crossroad for industry, where the rapid technological advancement was beginning to challenge the most basic foundations of traditional economics and hence, social operation. You see, at the core of our socioeconomic system is ‘Labor’ and ‘Demand’. Without product demand, of course, there is no need for production or employment; and without employment, the working public draws no income or purchasing power to buy the goods that keep the economy going. Early in the 1900s, a powerful expansion of productivity through machine application and mechanization, brought about something [that] industry really hadn’t seen before: a goods surplus. A 1927 article in ‘Nation’s Business’ conducting an interview with then-labor secretary James Davis, stated: “It may be that the world’s needs ultimately will be produced by three days’ work a week.” Years later, engineer R. Buckminster Fuller described the phenomenon as being able to accomplish ‘more with less’, in that the energy, manpower and resources needed to accomplish particular goals was actually decreasing while the accomplishments themselves were accelerating. In other words, industry was becoming more technically efficient. However, pre-twentieth century America and Western society in general maintained an ethic of being frugal, overall. There was a conservative ethos where goods were obtained for their utility, a culture of needs, not excessive wants, and most people really didn’t see the need to increase their consumption simply because they could. So, the ruling industrialists and social planners had a choice at this point. Either the system was to be adapted to this new ‘more with less’ productivity which could mean a rise in leisure time, a shortening of the work week and an adjustment of pay scales and good values to reflect this new-found abundance as need be; or, something more dramatic had to happen: the very underlying values and affections of the culture would need to be altered, where the very idea of consuming became a utility in and of itself to consume for the sake of consuming in order to maintain the status quo. Well, needless to say, given the very nature of capitalist philosophy the latter… What’s that? Oh, right! Well, needless to say, given the very nature of capitalist philosophy, the latter idea was deemed to be the only rational option. The current ruling ethic of ever-increasing profit and gain by industry could not be compromised, so the alternative idea of working toward an abundance to meet human needs, enabling perhaps a level of personal freedom never before seen, maybe even flourishing a new period of enlightenment for human existence was rapidly cock-blocked by the interests of the ownership class; and the world you see around you, full of ever-increasing bullshit, vanity, materialism, waste, debt-locked wage slaves, conflict and impulsive, mindless consumption has been the result. The holiday shopping season got off to a violent start: a temporary Walmart worker was trampled to death by shoppers eager for post-Thanksgiving bargains. A mad dash into a Walmart store knocked shoppers to the ground near Grand Rapids, Michigan at 5 in the morning. Despite several people falling to the ground, shoppers charged ahead. Calm the [email protected]#$ down! Push one of my peeps and I will stab one of you [email protected]#$%*! Another incident here, a 28-year-old pregnant woman was knocked to the ground by that same crowd. Witnesses here at he scene say that woman actually suffered a miscarriage. In Southern California, shots rang out inside a crowded toy store. They say that a woman sprayed fellow shoppers. This actually happened with pepper spray. Meanwhile, those who knew [Jdimytai] Damour called his death ‘senseless’. They act like animals, just to buy something for 5 dollars, save 5 dollars. They actually murdered this guy. – How long have you been out here? – I’ve been out here…3 days. – In your own words what brings you here? – TVs. – My kid wants the uh… What they want is an iPad, I believe, Samsung? But what happens was that they don’t sell them at half price. – That’s too bad. – A lot of pushing and shoving happens in the stores. I remember seeing some stuff like that on the news. Have you ever had that experience before? – Not on Black Friday, at music concerts; but I know how it goes, so I’m prepared. – So you are ready to push people back? – Pretty much. – What do you think about this kind of impulsive sort of consumerism that gets really forceful sometimes? – I don’t know. I feel like it’s going to be a lot of stress for everybody. Meet Eddie Bernays. He is considered the Father of Modern Advertising, most famous for turning the largely-abhorred word ‘Propaganda’ into the fluffy, warm euphemism ‘Public Relations’. Bernays haphazardly took popular ideas from Freudian psychoanalysis and began to apply them to advertising campaigns. The idea was simple: Link and exploit the very primitive, social urges common to most humans, such as sexuality and status, to a product. – It’s so much longer than last year! – It is, nearly four inches longer in some models. Ohhhhh! Goods were to become less relevant in their utility and more of a symbol representing one’s identity or individualism, effectively turning mere wants into emotional needs. Bernays was a response to a growing call by industrial leaders to reprogram society and create a new consumer culture. Charles Kettering, Director of General Motors in 1929, wrote of the need to ‘keep the consumer dissatisfied’. Wall Street banker Paul Mazur said: “We must shift America from a needs to a desires culture. People must be trained to desire. To want new things even before the old have been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality in America.” And it worked! Technological innovation in radio and television helped further this end by a saturation campaign throughout American society which quickly spread across the world. Advertising no longer was about describing the function of a good and its inherent integrity. It was now about social manipulation, creating inferiority, shame, guilt, and false problems that could only be resolved by submission to purchase. Over an 80-year lifespan, we watch 15½ years of television on average, 15½ years of having our brains liquefied and sodomized, zombified, and then glorifying products and nonsense; and that screws with us, because advertisements are Assholes! They’re assholes. Imagine if an advertisement were just a regular guy walking up to you on the street, just going: Hey!, hey you!, Hey, hey! If you wore these jeans, then the hot girls will really do you. I mean like hot girls, not that ugly broad you call a girlfriend. And by the way, could you mention to her that she needs to lose a little weight and do something about her hair? And she could do it, too! If she would just use this diet pills and this hair gel. And by the way, both of you guys should probably be smoking these cigarettes and drinking this beer. Then you’d be really cool. Although your teeth are looking a little yellow but we can fix that if you would just use this tooth whitening shit! And then the hot girls would really do you. And by the way, are you happy with your penis size? If you are, that’s cool, a lot of guys are happy with the… ‘fun size’! Is that what you call that? ‘Fun size’? A lot of girls like that. I mean, I’ve ain’t met any, but I bet there are some. But if you change your mind, all you’d have to do is take a couple of these babies and soon you will have to call up guys to help you carry your junk around like a train on a wedding dress! But how are you’re going to call your junk carriers with that crappy phone you got there? You should be using this phone with the swipey-bullshit technology that makes other people feel like they are better than you just by owning this phone, and they are. They are better than you. Oh my god, all this stuff you need and don’t have is making me anxious. Is it making you anxious? Is it? Is it? Is it? Are you anxious now? Are you? Are you? Are you? Well then, all you have to do is to take couple of these, and in 2 weeks time you would feel better than anything! Plus, bonus side-effect: These pills also make your ass hair shiny and more manageable with extra bounce. Anyway, I got to go because your girlfriend just decided she looks pretty good in vintage dress, and I gotta turn that around quick before she stops taking the Ambien/Prozac cocktail I gave her, and then she’ll stop shopping continuously in order to fill the void created by self-hatred, created by me. Would you hang out with that guy? You see, at the core of advertising is the exploitation of our deep social nature. It turns the empathic community identification into a weapon of external judgment and relative insecurity. In fact, some years back a multi-year study where Western television was brought into a culture which had never experienced it before was conducted on the island of Fiji. By the end of the observation period, the effect of materialistic values and vanity took a powerful toll. A relevant percentage of young women, for example, who prior had embraced the style of healthy weight and full features became obsessed with being thin. Eating disorders which were virtually unheard of in this culture began to spread and women specifically were transformed; but let’s return to our history lesson. This vanity materialism and obsessive consumption neurosis as powerful as it is, was not quite enough to ensure the stability of the capitalist religion and the ongoing benefit to the ownership-class priests. The engineering of consent through advertising aside, the technological age brought another nasty problem for business: increased product efficiency. Not only was production moving faster than traditional consumption, the actual quality of individual goods were increasing as well, due to scientific advancements in design, making needed repeat purchases increasingly less common. Well, this was no good. Remember, the core driver of labor, profit and consumption hence the core driver of our economy in general, is scarcity and inefficiency. In fact, the enemy of the market economy has always been competency and the better and long-lasting a good is, the worse it is for industry. So, the water broke and planned obsolescence was born. In 1932, industrialist Bernard London propagated a pamphlet entitled ‘Ending the Depression through Planned Obsolescence’ where the idea of universally making poor goods to generate more labor demand and growth seemed logical. Some even wanted to make it mandatory for all industries, legally, where lifecycles were decided not by the natural state of technological ability but by the mere ongoing need for labor and increased consumption. In fact, the most notable historical example of this period was the Phoebus light bulb cartel of the 1930s where, in a time where light bulbs were able to last up to about 25,000 hours, the cartel forced each company to restrict light bulb life to a mere 1000 hours to assure repeat purchases; and in time, this eventually became a strategic approach for all industries. If you were to sit down and compare the true efficiency possible today to what we’re actually doing to keep this waste and deprivation machine going, you would puke in your soup at the lost possibilities. The final component to note here relates to the problem of purchasing power itself. A fail-safe was needed to ensure monetary circulation and so-called growth, even if the purchasing parties didn’t have it. Well, welcome to credit expansion. Credit access has been, in reality, the core driver of economic growth in the West for a very long time, and a quick glance at the private and public debt today globally shows that it is not an anomaly for a person or a country to live far beyond its financial means. It is indeed the set fashion. The amount of debt existing globally today far exceeds the entire global money supply itself, and it has been this of borrowing from nowhere that has compensated for the inherent limits of employment and wages. However, as bothersome as all of this may seem with respect to ecological irresponsibility and cultural neurosis, the rabbit hole runs deeper. We often forget that the undercurrent for the last couple thousand years is that some of our species are apparently more deserving than others; and the slavery, exploitation and insured deprivation of one group for the advantage of another was considered some law of nature. During feudalism of the Middle Ages, social divisions were clearly defined with the king and his nobles and barons, etc. holding control of the legion of serfs who were essentially slaves in exchange for basic resources and moderate protection. A common theme during this period was that a genetic or religious superiority of the kings and his constituents gave them the right to dominate. However, as feudalism inched into state monopoly mercantilism, and then in the open-market capitalism, the view of the average peasant laborer, or working class wage slave as they exist today, mutated to where whatever minor protections existed prior, was removed to support a doctrine where if a person is not be able to obtain work in the market economy, their right to life or mere existence is completely without security. Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Thomas Malthus, and other pivotal figures of the dawn of modern capitalism, make it very clear that the system they advocate is not for everyone. It isn’t as though they actually wanted it that way. They weren’t Nazis or anything, but when you consider the scarcity-driven world [in] which they lived, it did seem natural enough. Adam Smith, observing the nature of a social order defined by property relations, stated: “Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.” David Ricardo, building on Smith’s ‘Invisible Hand’ pseudo-Darwinistic view of market survival, extended the notion to where the inevitable poverty and deprivation of the poor was to be a ‘societal law of nature’ like gravity, with Malthus going so far to say that you only do harm to the poor by trying to help them. He stated: “Instead of recommending cleanliness to the poor, we should encourage contrary habits. In our towns, we should make the streets narrower, crowd more people into the houses, and court the return of the plague.” Of course, many hearing such rhetoric today naturally react in apprehension, not understanding the source of such cold perspectives. Again, if we went back to pre-industrial Europe and witnessed the vast imbalance, scarcity, and poverty, perhaps in fact due to population outpacing production capacity, your intuition might draw the conclusion that the carrying capacity of the land simply can’t handle the current population. You might also then come up with some very convenient justifications as to why some are to live and prosper, and some are to die and to be deprived, why some deserve a great deal of wealth and honor, and while others must be condemned to destitution and subsistence. So, it is very easy to see how this ‘classism’ has held strong, even though its counterparts of racism and sexism have slowly subsided in modern culture. Today, all economic schools of thought from Keynesian to Austrian support a ‘will of the market’ theme where your value is measured not by the fact that you exist as a human being, but by the place you hold or don’t hold in the economic machine. Consider this quote by Ricardo: “By gradually contracting the sphere of the ‘poor’ laws, by impressing on the poor the value of independence, by teaching them that they must not look to systematic or a causal charity, but to their own exertions for support, that prudence and forethought are neither unnecessary nor unprofitable virtues, we shall by degrees approach a sounder and more healthful state.” You see the myth of this system is that people get what they work for, as though it’s a level playing field, as though the competitive nature doesn’t inherently breed corruption. – Wrong! – Oh man… Bob, what’s he doing here? – So what kind of bullshit is Peter Joseph Stalin feeding you people this episode? – Listen, man… – Aah listen, people. What Captain Freedom Hater over here doesn’t seem to understand, is that the poor are fucking stupid! They’re stupid and lazy, and they get what they deserve, all right? And I am so sick of the nanny state coming in and taxing my hard-earned trust fund, so these cretins can go and live it up with their lottery tickets and their malt liquor and… Sorry, Bob. Are you all right? Put him back in his cage. Now, it is at this point you might be asking, what does any of this have to do with consumerism? Well, if you understand the traditional ethos of market capitalism and how it refuses to accept the possibility of taking care of everyone, coupled with the resulting delusion that those who do end up benefiting most must be smarter and more worthy of existence than others, as though it’s some law of nature, the role of consumer culture today takes on a very different purpose. It exists as a powerful means of social control and maintaining the status quo of class division and subjugation. It helps perpetuate a trend that has been around for a long time since the age of ordained kings who were destined to rule over and exploit the weak masses. You see, the individualistic material selfishness glorified today not only perfectly accentuates the classic economic values of Ricardo and Smith, it also reinforces modern neo-liberalism where the view of detached independent narrow self-interest and narcissism is held as deeply sacred, while any attempt at working towards a broad social consideration, working towards a community environment, is heretical. Simultaneously, it compounds class division, since the consumer culture has created an abstract sense of competition and status where to have more than others is equated to success. Suddenly, 1 percent of the population owning 40 percent of the planet’s wealth is even more vindicated along with how one can step over homeless people on the street and assume that they must be that way because of their own lack of initiative, laziness, or in general inferiority. Modern consumer culture, the consumer vanity disease, ensures that the public remain detracted and at war with itself. It ensures that profits from these wasteful and unnecessary purchases, driven by emotional dissatisfaction, will continue to perpetuate and justify the wealthy elite, and it ensures that the poor and miserable of the world will be kept in their place because, guess what? It must be some ‘law of nature’. Final thoughts. Likely the most hijacked and delusional concept in the world today is that of ‘freedom’. In political poetics historically, it went from a general interest to ensure quality of life, remove oppression really, to a marketing gimmick to sell you things you don’t need to ensure the integrity of an inherently elitist corrupt political economy. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t give much of a shit about how many different kinds of toothpaste or deodorant I can choose from in a grocery store, while I’m given simultaneously the farce choice between two politicians clearly of the same breed in an election. I really don’t care much for the freedom of being able to concoct a grande-white-mocha-double-espresso-non-fat-steamed-milk-stirred- unsweetened-caffeine-free-jerk-me-off-slap-my-ass-Latte with extra whip, at Starbucks! You see, the best form of social control is the kind where the illusion of choice actually persists and the consumer vanity obsession rampant across the world now embodies the new form of democracy. Forget about the oligarchical-plutocracy that continues to rule and destroy the world. Just focus on the rich celebrities on the cover of that goods catalog masquerading as a literary magazine. Forget about how financial and monetary gain is a measure of success and how delusional it really is, for the psychological phenomenon of relative deprivation has shown that having more and more luxury often does not make you happy only more neurotic, insecure and anti-social. Forget about the ever-increasing use of anti-depressants and other mental health disorders that have emerged around our material society and do what many do instead: Go shopping! Today, the act of shopping really has become a form of therapy for people, if you’re paying attention, an artificial means to feel better about oneself. And forget about the reality that the greatest lie behind the political system is that there can exist political equality in the wake of perpetual economic inequality. The fact is, the toxic condition that we’ve created around this new materialistic freedom is at the root of a vast waste of not only the earth’s resources but the vast waste of human potential and human integrity itself. The more you own, the more you’re owned; and as an aside, everyone’s beautiful when they smile. [cell phone ringing] Sorry ladies and gentleman, I’m late for my pedicure so, until next time, keep those eyes glued to the worst yet greatest reality show of all time. My name is Peter Joseph, and I like you am an agent and victim of a Culture in Decline. Special thanks to the H.G.S. Girls for donating their humility 🙂 Special thanks to Lee Camp | www.leecamp.net Written & edited by Peter Joseph while eating chicken and waffles Some footage in this production is unlicensed via ‘fair use’ copyright code. … just try and sue us. www.CultureInDecline.com [Therapist] So, given the trials you all experienced in your day-to-day coping with this disease, how has it affected your livelihood? Why don’t we start with you… What are you doing for work? – Porn. – Porn. – Victoria’s Secret model. – Porn. – Louis Vitton model. – Porn. – Guess model. – Porn. – American Apparel model… Okay. Porn.