Saturday, March 7, 2020

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday March 14, 2020 - The Princess Paradigm

Who is in charge of what you buy? I’m being rhetorical, of course, because the answer is: You are. Yet it seems to be a question which must be asked. For we appear to forget the answer, unless asked directly. This is the first important point of the case I’m trying to make here. We are in complete charge of how our own money is spent.

The corporate world doesn't want you to consciously acknowledge this, however. They want to maintain their subconscious grip to manipulate and persuade you into buying whatever they tell you to buy. 

We are unfailingly gullible when it comes to what we are told and by whom. We want to believe what we hear and read. Especially when it seems as though we are being given that information by a reliable source. But we still have preferences. We still have intrinsic human needs and wants and desires percolating beneath the surface of our conscious thoughts. 

It’s like two worlds existing side-by-side. The corporate world, which behaves as though its hold on your decision making ability is complete and unchangeable. And our subconscious inner world, which silently nudges us toward higher forms of thought and action. The corporate world thinks it’s doing the driving, when really it’s only able to affect the quality of the road surface, not the destination. Our higher selves are doing all the driving, make no mistake. 

That might seem like a contradiction when looking around and seeing how people behave and react when it comes to social and fiscal progress. But progress is occurring on a steady trajectory which is virtually impervious to the machinations of our greed and fear. Those lower attributes are the road’s surface, not the car, nor the driver. 

I say this because there are so many voices out there trying to tell you how the world is doomed and why you should subscribe to their prophecies. But they don’t understand the power of a social evolution that has been in process long before they were even born and will continue long after they’re gone. They think they have control over the rules of the game. And they want you to believe it too. 

The evidence of our social progress is most easily seen when looking at the types of things we buy. 

Business has an obligation to produce products that you will actually purchase. It needs to know your preferences so that it can adapt to them. It spends billions of dollars on demographic studies just so that it understands the wants and desires—and most importantly, the fears—of its human market base: you. It takes that data and then makes the things that you will want to buy.

Big business knows already about the trajectory of social progress. When it suits its purposes and bottom line it alters its business plans to accommodate that trajectory. In other words, when people become disinterested in a product, companies stop making it. They already know that to pursue manufacturing a product which has become distasteful to us is a waste of money. They can fool us for a bit, repackaging and re-branding to retain us a little longer, but not forever. Eventually, we always wise up. 

When people started becoming interested in electric vehicles, companies started making them. As people have wanted more, companies have started making more. Despite the fossil fuel industry’s documented desire that these types of vehicles be suppressed—buying up eco-friendly companies just to bury their technology— there are more electric cars now than ever. Why do you suppose that is? What does it tell us about who really controls the world and what’s driving that change?

The answer is: The consumer controls the world and our higher selves are driving the change we see. The biggest businesses on the planet are powerless against a consumer who will no longer buy what they’re making. Pay attention to retail. It’s sure as hell paying attention to you.

My favorite example is Disney. Not blaming Disney for establishing the patriarchal system that subjugates the rights of women, they did, however, participate in perpetuating it. Looking at a long line of princesses portrayed in their films, one can see a trend that has educated young girls and women to believe that they should uphold a particular standard of physical beauty and reliance upon men as their saviors. There are multiple studies pointing to how damaging this has been for young girls around the world, especially in countries not predominantly white. 

But, the Walt Disney Company, like all of the corporate world, knows which side of their bread is buttered. Beginning in the late 1980’s, their princesses slowly began to evolve toward more equitable and modern ideas about womanhood. That change did not occur because someone in a boardroom proposed that Disney begin using its cultural influence to empower women. Disney did not institute this change from their own moral compass. They were responding to the consumer. 

There is still a long way to go, of course. What seemed modern in 1989 about Ariel from The Little Mermaid having an independent mind and desires and who defied her male authority figures, seems less so today when we consider that she also had far less dialogue then the male characters, despite her being the title role. And she still got married in the end. 

Disney’s earliest princesses were all domestic damsels-in-distress. Eventually they became more openly rebellious and ambitious, but still typically “needed” a man to complete them as women. Today, these female characters are free spirited and independent, often not relying at all on men or romance to neatly tie up a story for its happy ending. That is a good sign.

It’s true, that these earlier Disney princesses are embedded in the eternal canon of classic family films. Their effects will be felt for a long time to come. But now that they are balanced with more empowered female characters, it allows for a healthy dialogue between parents and children about the issue of gender equality. Eventually the styles of those older characters will seem passé. 

This is an example of the inner part of us that is automatically evolving toward equity among our species. It is this part of us which influences the market as well as our politics. Whether it’s our increasing distaste for things like fossil fuels or Disney princesses that kowtow to men, or our enhanced desire to know the work conditions of those who manufacture our clothing and food, we only seem to become smarter and more compassionate in our desire to spend our money. 

I point this out to reassure you. We are not sliding backwards. We are moving forward at a pace so rapid that the old energies scarcely know what to do about it or how to contain it. They will not be successful. They want to go back to the old days when people knew their place, when governments could be trusted, and cigarettes were recommended by doctors. 

But those days are gone. Good riddance. Welcome to the New Age, warts and all. The transition is a rough road, made more so by those who would slow down our progress. But the destination remains a kingdom so beautiful we can hardly imagine it. Be at peace.

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