The World of Marketing: Living in the Garden
It’s enormously difficult to shake off a cultural inheritance in which one has been submersed for one’s whole life.
For about the last hundred and fifty years, there has been growing a general viewpoint in Western society as a whole which embraces Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest’ natural environment, Marx’s dialectical materialism (which stresses that human society is based on physical needs and the dominance of force) and Freud’s theories of psychoanalysis (which reduce the human being to a collection of dark urges) along with a whole host of other principles and theories of which these three are only the better known. The broad consensus which has developed is that we live in a purely material universe which is gradually ‘winding down’ and collapsing, which is meaningless, and which gives rise to a society based on raw survival instincts, accidental genetics and a ruthless and amoral coercion. Might makes right; only the strong survive; behind the stars is eternal blackness -- that kind of thing. Our own minds, we are told, are elaborate but nevertheless purely chemical networks — the firing of one synapse against another has no qualitative difference to any other such firing.
Such a world is empty. Our existential survival is all that there is — and we are not even sure if there’s a comprehensible reason for any of it.
Everything that we come into contact with, from our childhood schooling to the reading material that is in circulation everywhere to the media, to politics and what passes for modern culture has been pervaded by this generality. This pervasion or infiltration goes so deep that, even in reading this, many will feel hackles of protest rising — how can it be any other way? our impulses tell us. 'This is the world — welcome to it, and wake up to it. Don't try to convince me otherwise,' inner voices may cry, 'it's hard enough to accept as it is. Try not to think and just tell yourself that there is no other way of looking at things.'
Except that that isn’t necessarily the whole picture.
Part of this Ironic culture’s self-defence mechanism is something that C. S. Lewis called ‘chronological snobbery’. This is the position taken my many people that the world which we see around us — the ‘modern’ world — is the latest product of an ongoing evolution. Drawing on the ideas implicit in Darwin, Marx and others, they say that society adapts, changes and ‘improves’ (they fail to notice the contradiction inherent in the term) so that what we have today is ‘naturally better' than what was available ‘yesterday’. They point to technology as the ‘obvious’ example: you could not even read this article a hundred years ago because of the way that technology has evolved and created new, faster and better gadgets. Medical advances, man on the moon, transportation and communication revolutions — all these things are accepted as evidence that we live in a 'better' and ‘more advanced’ world than that of the 19th century or its ‘primitive’ predecessors. ‘Progress’ is the god of this viewpoint — and many crimes are overlooked and condoned in its name.