Beyond the news, the hysteria and the outbreak itself is a profound lesson for humanity about global consumerism.
So I think we should use this time to think deeply on what we consume and where it’s from.
First, we can longer ignore the physical reality of consumption. All of the migration, pollution, and extraction of resources that go along with it, is at the very heart of this global crisis. The politicization, the conspiracy theories, and the lack of coherent response from the American government is in fact —an elaborate farce. One that obscures the causes of it, and a danger it brings.
I have said this many times, but the problem is that people do not know how to properly think for themselves and so, that renders you weak, or at least susceptible to control.
What is definable now is of utmost importance. At the base of all that we can know is of course, the unknown. And the basis for the unknown is mythology.
Why would the modern era be any different. We are living at the end of myth, that of endless bull markets and profit.
Many of us feel our powerless. That’s another myth.
How easy it is to forget that every time we purchase a product, or buy a service, we influence policy in one direction or another.
We are not powerless.
No matter how bad this gets.
Consumption is a disease, you know.
No, really — it is.
Consumption is another name for tuberculosis. A lung disease that ravaged human’s at the turn of the last century — a disease caused by bacteria that usually attacks the lungs and was once the leading cause of death in the United States.
Today, Tuberculosis is primarily controlled.
We can, in other words, get beyond our noses, or lungs. We do not have to be consumed with media, or information. We can choose.
We have before. We will again. We do this by asking questions.
Most importantly — what do we need to learn most right now? That what we consume, how we consume it, and where it came from is of vital importance.
The irony is undeniable.
The virus came from China — from whence 21.2% of overall U.S. imports came just two years ago. We’ve decreased trade with China, haven’t we? The deeper irony is that the likely culprit the Chinese pin this on, the “intemediary species,” are from Malayan Pangolins.
Not ironic at all.
Before I twist your noodles on this, let me back up here for a minute.
In 2003, when Facebook became a global phenomenon, I was a strategist at a large global advertising agency.
I was sure that everything my colleagues and I wanted to change about consumerism was actually going to change.
The industry was going to be less loud, less intrusive, less in your face.
“More sniper-rifle, less shotgun,” people used to say.
We’d target the consumer and give them exactly what they wanted instead of blasting them with too many options and often missing the target. We’d affect trade, we’d empower local economies and local supply chains!
Of course, this never happened.
Chinese imports went up 59.7% from 2008, and 427% from 2001. Social media in this country, brought to us by the technocrati of Silicon Valley, did absolutely nothing to empower Americans, our markets, or our working class.
Seven years later, the market crashed. I was SVP of Strategy for another global agency. I was walked out to the parking garage the morning after the market tanked.
We had all financial clients, and I was new, and that’s how corporate America works. I stayed on as a consultant, but it was rough. Two years later, I founded my analytics company. I got funded to do research on the markets as they related to National Security and “non-lethal, economic warfare.”
That’s what I thought I was doing. I was looking for a way in to the elite. That’s what I thought I was and what I strove for. I’ve been in the places that the conspiracy theorists talk about, so I will say that I know more about these things than I’d like to.
The world changes, the market changes — it is humans that are slow on the pick-up.
And the market adapts, creates new paradigms, humans go along.
Here’s a partial list of companies founded during tough times.
General Electric: 1890
General Motors: 1908
Burger King: 1953
These companies changed the way the world operates, entertains itself, and works.
Remember your first Iphone?
That came Iraq, and then China. And we all changed. America was no longer safe. We knew politicians lied to us, but we did nothing about it.
Over the next five years after the recession, all of the disintermediated, consumer-centric companies came to market. Airbnb, Instagram, Uber, Snap, Lyft, DoorDash, Impossible Foods, Tinder, Slack.
These geniuses put the person and personality, and the ambition that attends both front and center. Now you could have anything you wanted, exactly when you wanted it.
They granted our wish. Instantaneous satisfaction, guaranteed.
Lifestyle marketing, influencers, self-help gurus, and life-coaches, these positions have flourished.
Supporting whom, do you think?
And the markets took off again.
People made boatloads of money.
I wonder now how many lost their souls.
Mayor Blasio of N.Y. said that the pandemic was about expanding beyond personal ambition.
Indeed, the epidemic is making people grow beyond their own desire by curtailing their freedom and leaving them with the very things that have driven digital life. For the last decade most of us rely on digital for comfort and company.
Go figure, now we have more time to spend with our phones.
That’s what will wear out next.
Our short attention spans will run permanently short.
I can relate.
I watched the movie 1917 last night, and a few questions occurred to me.
Are we prepared to sacrifice?
Are we ready for these times?
Are we as brave as most assuredly those who marched off to France were?
Because we can’t leave that to soldiers. We are soldiers now. All of us mobilised by a virus from China.
What, if anything, can corporate America do to explain this? Do working people have a personal relationship with the diplomatic corps?
So we don’t know.
Are they going to ignore the cues — when the times themselves ask that of them?
Isn’t that the marketer’s job?
To ask people to do less for themselves and more for others?
No it isn’t.
If you think back on the last one hundred years — advertising was quaint.
Marlboro, Dewers, Hilton Hotels, British Airways, American Express. These brands sold you to you. They told you who you wanted. McDonald’s, Folger’s Coffee, Tang, and Starbucks are things you thought you needed.
Soon, people are going to realize that they don’t really need any of these.
Today’s brands — the tech ones that you’re stuck on do not enjoy that pleasant ubiquity.
People suspect that tech-brands are in cohoots with the government. Of course they are. That’s how they succeed.
They play a different role in our lives. Perhaps a negative one.
Because if you look close, these platforms make us think the world revolves around us.
Our Facebook feed is a biographical essay.
A well-timed Instagram post can reach millions, so as measly as we feel — we might, if chosen, be powerful.
Our lifestyle choices and preferences are all we talk about. To be extraordinary athletic and intelligent is all the rage.
We don’t have real power.
so we signal status.
But not love.
And now we have this virus — something no one wants.
So in an instant, we have gone from wanting to endlessly consume, to be seen to not wanting to be consumed, and tucking ourselves away.
Brothers and sisters — Consumption is a disease.
The world revolves around our community, not ourselves. Not the corporate reality we are consuming, supporting, or investing in.
A dear friend who is seventy years old and a Sufi and environmentalist for many years mentioned that scientists working on climate change have discovered pathogens locked up in the ice for 50,000+ years.
These pathogens can come back to life in the lab, and they are sure to be things we have no immunity for.
This is just the beginning.
Your preferences and wants and needs are not going to make you immune.
2019 n-Cov is a wake-up call and, unfortunately, a preview that younger people are going to confront head-on.
How do today’s afflicted expand beyond the consumption of our day, both the marketplace itself and the virological agent that now plagues us?
And what of the world of 2025, 2030, and 2045 as these epidemics inevitably worsen?
We cannot continue to consume as if seated at the table to which the global market is perpetually laying out plates of food.
We are not pigs, after all.
Why would we want to be animals? Look at what we do to them on this planet.
A group of researchers from South China Agricultural University found that samples from coronavirus patients were 99% identical to samples of the virus taken from wild pangolins.
An Animal. A very weird, but beautiful creature from the rainforest that would surely have liked to remain there — undisturbed, as you or I would.
Scientists say the results make sense, given what we know about the animals DNA.
They often poached for their keratin scales, which are used as ingredients in traditional Chinese medicine. Their meat is also considered a delicacy in China. They serve it at banquets reserved for wealthy guests who wish to signal status. I doubt the average Chinese person is gnoshing on it.
We are not so different, the Chinese and us. We both live under repressive ideologies. One iron-booted, the other, double-breast suited.
As the planet unleashes undoubtedly more of this in the next two decades, we must tune less into our fear and more into ourselves and one another. We should take care of our bodies, and be careful what we put in our stomachs.
We must consider the music we listen to and media we consume and ask,
“Why am I filling my head with this”?
We must plant seeds in our local communities. We must spend less. We must stop consuming the global economy.
Consumption was a disease that killed people by filling their lungs with liquid. When asked about this death, one doctor queried, “I think it must be like drowning, inside of yourself.”
We must think more about how we consume and where it comes from.
We have a choice about this virus to make, all of us.