A Brief Criticism of Advertising as a Career

Does anyone honestly expect to achieve any great goals for humanity by such employment? For all of us who have grown up in a capitalized, commercialized society, we hardly know what it’s like to not have all-pervasive marketing schemes bombarding us daily in our media, telling us to buy products that sooner or later become obsolete, that are unnecessary in every way, or that set up another caste system between the haves and have-nots. The mantra to “buy” without thinking is considered a good thing in terms of a win-win situation for consumers and manufacturers – the customer gets something he or she is told to want in subliminal or direct advertising and the manufacturer makes a profit, sometimes at a grotesque rate: siphoning off the incomes of hard-working families and individuals. The ability to anticipate trends or the opportunitities to market great products has nothing to do with “good” advertising, since it is often the advertising that dictates the market, convincing the people (in a proletariat sense) through the powers of persuasion what to buy. We can throw our hands up in despair and call it all lies, but I believe a truly “good” advertiser is he or she who creates awareness ads concerning public issues or promotes benefits for the common welfare aside from the greedy ends of a conglomerate or multinational business. Here’s a few models:

A Brief Criticism of Actors

The actor seems to know how to represent every character but himself or herself. I think I should like to see one in their proper role as their own self, just to see how they flounder about in it, like the rest of us human beings. As a matter of fact, acting may itself be a sort of escapism for these people from their individual selves, with whom they are at a loss to shape and gain a certain distinctive individuality. They prefer the varied masks and costumes of more interesting and exotic personas to cover up the banality and ordinariness of their own persons, to compensate for the charm and allurement of character which they themselves may lack. The character they play is surer of himself or herself than he or she is. They think they are paying tribute to the playwright or historical figure which they portray, but it is only their own sense of pride and arrogance that they wear, to call out to the world: Look at me! I am an omnipotent, immortal god in the minds of mortals! Yet when they pass away, the character will live on while the actor’s name fades into obscurity.

Cyberanarchy

First introduced to this concept earlier in the year, the internet world appears to have adopted political anarchy in its governance of its online community. That being said, it would be another interesting case study to examine if political anarchy can actually work. After all, in the classical world of the Greeks, democracy was once considered to only work in small communities or poli and even then, it was subject to the tyranny of the majority (which still persists today in the larger democracies that have evolved with more or less political stability). Likewise, we only have a few examples in history where political anarchy has been implemented (no real failures to report), but to have political anarchy on a global scale is certainly something worth examining!

With such weakened international organizations like the United Nations which try to keep some sort of world order, we have seen spontaneous communal organization at the grassroots level on the internet that is essential to developing a politically anarchic society. People with common goals join together to petition for certain causes, rally for political aims, and even organize revolutions or opposition to real-world governments. Through its blogosphere, social networking, online journaling, the ease of setting up websites, and other media outlets, the internet has also risen as a voice for human expression and creativity that is recognized and heard by the rest of the world. The satisfaction of thymos (as discussed in an earlier post) and the drive for human development through instant access in information also adds to the score for political anarchy’s rating on the governance scale or rather lack of it in any concrete and federal sense.

This is not to say that a cyberworld without a central authority is not without its own problems. Cyberterrorism, child pornography, luring victims in online chatrooms or online dating websites, the organization of anti-human rights groups promoting racism, sexism, etc. and other less than pleasant features have also become widespread with the advent of the world wide web. Also, many people are restricted by their own real governments from accessing the political anarchic cybercommunity, as in the case of the Great Firewall of China. The quantity of information on the internet also makes it hard to distinguish from the quality of information needed to develop the human race epistemologically.

However, the seeming chaos that the cybercommunity seems to represent is not altogether a bad thing, all things considered. In the 25 or so years since the Internet was born, the rapid growth of more or less organized online communities in the absence of any regulating authority may give some credit or discredit to the modern philosophers’ theories of the state of nature and human organization as social animals or political animals. In another post, I would like to explore the ethical conduct of the online communities in its response to its darker sides.

After clicking a random link suggestion, I’ve been kind of following his (her?) blog. He’s got a background in psychology, but he’s still exploring key ethical debates.

Morality Play

Anyone know any other good philosophy blogs?

The Soul

It’s difficult to give a brief overview of ideas concerning the soul. We may call it the personality or immaterial essence of a human being. The Greek word for the soul, anima, can be interpreted as the “breath” or “life” without which human activity would be meaningless or rather, be downgraded to animal activity.  For many proving the existence of a soul means that there is an afterlife for the human species, that we are not necessarily finite/mortal beings.

One interesting problem concerning the soul is proving its “existence” as either a separate entity or an integral part of the human makeup. It is not something identifiable with DNA or psychological makeup. Poor Descartes spouted elaborate and well-thought out theories on the rational mind (soul, consciousness, etc) as the highest sense, but when he faced the problem of what bound the mind to the body, by however miniscule a link, in order to reconcile the abyss between soul and body, he fell short and posited a false theory that a gland between your eyes was the source of the connection. This was later proved false, as no such gland existed when medical exploration of the human theory was conducted later in the Enlightenment era.

I’ve always fancied the idea of humans as “embodied souls”, as first introduced to us by my Grade 12 philosophy class so many years ago. It’s not so much the idea that we are trapped in a life on a material earth, but more so the concept that we must have a way to lead our spiritual lives by tangible actions that amount to some sort of good, as inherent in the soul, though flawed as I had discussed before. The soul is what animates our modularity (or moral senses), perhaps even being the source of our rationality and creativity.

I think I would like to explore the “afterlife” aspect of the soul in a second part to this post.

“Why do you talk such nonsense, you strange men? I do not compel anyone to learn to speak without knowing the truth, but if my advice is of any value, he learns that first and then acquires me. So what I claim is this, that without my help the knowledge of the truth does not give the art of persuasion.” – Socrates, Phaedrus 260d

A Neutral Career

(Over)Thinking about my future career aims, the choice of diplomacy as a noble career appears legitimate in a certain idealist sense. That is, diplomats are supposed to be peace makers and engineers of amicable economic and political relations between countries. Some of them become the heads of international humanitarian organizations or leaders of committees on pressing issues such as the AIDS epidemics, women’s rights, or child soldiers.  In such a light, it is often depicted as a self-giving  career that demands the creation of the utmost openness and cooperation between the two or more parties involved through the powers of persuasion and negotiation.

But then I started to wonder how such peace and “good” things were achieved and to what end. Essentially, the diplomat’s job is similar to that of a lawyer. While he/she may not have the right to interfere in the politics of another nation, the diplomat is still representing the interests of her/his client, namely their government (or governments/security or interest groups in the case of international org leaders). Therefore, national interests may hold a stronger sway than more Wilsonian efforts towards peace. A diplomat may also be instructed by their clients not to give away or discuss any information that would diminish the security advantages or disadvantages of a given nation or  to hide evidence that there would be any future hostilities or abandonment of cooperative interests to the country subject to the diplomatic mission. For example, if a stronger country is planning to go to war against a weaker country, which had previously been protected by amiable diplomatic relations, . Whose fault is it then, if the weaker country is not warned by the stronger country’s diplomat who was instructed to keep his or her mouth shut? By persuasion, a diplomat of a powerful country may have the ability to place intense political pressures on other countries, by implying that diplomatic relations may not continue if the subject country’s government is not changed to mirror the political ideals and principles of the powerful country, as in the case of the US’ promotion of democratic ideals over other forms of government. Because the diplomat is “valueless” and represents only interests, he or she is able to paint his or her country in whatever light in order to manipulate the target country to reflect the more powerful country’s desires. Thus, diplomacy can become a profession of illusory gains and veiled threats which can create an international climate of distrust and wariness.

I wonder to want extent this “neutrality” is prevalent in other careers…

Thymos

A brief recount of the philosophical motivations of man: Hobbes – self-preservation, Locke – property, Rousseau – liberty, Marx – equality, Mill – individual self-development, Nietzsche – master: power, slave: ressentiment

Deriving his philosophy from Hegel and Kojeve’s interpretation of Hegel, Fukuyama attributes man’s motivation to self-fulfillment in the form of thymos: similar to Nietzsche’s idea of exertions of energy or power, but more accurately translated as passionate anger or righteous upheaval against injustice caused by enemies of a given city-state (as best exemplified by Plato’s guardian class, whose warriors were compared to loyal dogs). In its extreme form of megalothymia (as discussed by Marx and Hegel) is the acknowledgement by the slave that the  master deserves recognition, where the slave does not, out of fear for his own life. On the other end of the extreme is isothymia, which demands utter equality of recognition, which can lead to the undermining of human distinction as some exhibit more talents than others, such as the case in Orwell’s 1984, where the character’s intelligence is parred (or impaired) with others by a earpiece that emits a high-pitched frequency, disturbing higher functions of thought.

Understanding recognition or thymos as the fundamental satisfaction of man’s nature contributes to our understanding of how liberal democracy is the best outlet or moderator of man’s capacities in the world as a being with Kantian asocial sociabilities. It is the balance of the need to distinguish oneself above others, yet carries the necessity of having others around to bestow that distinction. For instance, competition in the free market economy of a capitalist democracy provides the individual with the chance to earn recognition for himself, besides accumulating wealth and prestige, while at the same time forces him to rely on his clients or consumers who are his base and to compete with other businessman who are or may be his equal in market activities. There are even those businessmen who practice business, not for any gain that they may enjoy at present or in the future, but merely for the sake of the work itself (which explains the “workaholic” attitude of many free market economies).

More striking for my comprehension, recognition is a neutral term, contrary to a Hobbesian or realist view of man as evil and self-(pre)serving. If man were only concerned with his survival and relied on game theory and self interests to overpower his potential, human civilization would not have come so far. It may have been the case in earlier ages of the world that security was a top priority and to a certain extent, it is for many states on the international scene, but when humans are able to create conditions of peace, other issues such as human welfare, concerning liberty and equality, rise to the forefront. After all, it is far nobler to count self-preservation as nothing if it a slavish and demeaning one under oppression and injustice. Threats to existence are nothing when one’s existence is counted as nothing at all, especially within the human species.

On another note, Fukuyama’s introduces an interesting point that it is thymos, at its peak development in liberal democratic (albeit capitalist) societies, which puts aside our animal passions and ends them. Once ended, then truly distinct and human activity begins – that is, human activity which is not done purely for instintual, utilitarian, or animalistic (survival) reasons, but only for its sake. Here we may cite the liberal arts, technological advances, cutting edge scientific research, political activity, or the fine arts. I dare not make claims to speciesism, but I have yet to see a revolution among dogs against their masters, who have enslaved them in”pethood”.

Plato's Division of the Soul