Sep 4

FROM CONSUMERISM TO COMMUNALISM…A PIPE DREAM?

 

 

Question. If the goods/services being advertised in the various media were absolutely necessary…that is to say they were ‘needed’ by the average human being (based on disposable income indicators), why do they hire actors or superstars to convince us? Why do they use near-naked males/females to stimulate the senses? Subliminal signs and sounds. Colour codes. And that’s just scratching the surface. If these goods/services were indeed necessary (not compulsory like motor insurance :)) wouldn’t the natural need for ‘things’, coupled with affordability, direct the human flow of customers to the respective ‘thing’? Furthermore, I just listened to a radio advertisement and, having a keen ear for voices, word choices, the authenticity and connection of the speaker to the overall message being conveyed, I found the tones of the characters used to be very robotic. Could it be the digital age compelling us to accept the monotonic tone of a robot to tell us what we MUST buy, lest we be haunted by a neighbourhood of fully equipped Joneses, left man/woman-less, lose street cred…or whatever the penalty implied in the ads for our NOT purchasing the goods/service being advertised. It all sounds like a subliminal stick up of the mind to me. There you are, torn between the items you absolutely MUST purchase and those you don’t get and then have to endure the shame, lower social ranking, poor self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy…in general the stresses arising from the knowledge that you don’t have the said high end commodity or the new brand of human weave, it’s much the same (especially if Mrs Jones/Lacretia respectively has one!!!). Exaggeration for some of you, but a real dilemma for others!

 

NO AGE LIMITS

 

 

Take your average teenager…my son for example…just 16 yrs of age and he has already developed a mild fixation on ‘the latest IPhone’. He is NOT working! How did the consumerism-wizards get a hold of these young minds that don’t earn a cent AND get them to convince us parents (whether by coercion/emotional blackmail) to spend so much (as a ratio of earnings) of our hard earned cash? Remember, I’m referencing the average and below teenager and don’t get me wrong, my son has an IPhone, but it’s certainly not the latest version…and he didn’t get this one ‘as it drop’ in the Apple stores! Case in point. I watched a YouTube video recently showing that a certain community in Liverpool (England), which was designated the ‘poorest’ part of the country, had record crowds at its Apple store in the town, on the morning of a new IPhone launch. Lines (‘queues’ for the British-British), were extremely long! The consumer bug had clearly bitten hard and embedded itself deeply in the psyche of those folk. Matter over mind you could say.

 

 

But what about us? Have you ever stopped to consider how badly bitten you are by the consumerism bug? How many things in your home, for example, are regularly used and not just giving you or the home-helper grief to dust each week? How triggered are you when the advertisements for, or even the second hand news about, the launch of the latest IPhone, BMW, Nike, Dolce & Gabbana …(I’ve run out of name brands as I’m a hopeless non-follower of fashion)…add your own brands here…then answer the question J. Now don’t be defensive. I am by no means judging anyone here, God forbid, I too am working daily towards a re-balancing of my life, re-evaluating what I need more of (which by the way is ostensibly non-material) and what I can identify as non-essential clutter (be it physical, mental or human), to lighten and simplify my life somewhat. My hardest trigger to resist comes from the vicarious pangs of wanting to help my son keep up his street cred amongst his peers, while pointing out to him that he must not put material things before people and a conscious livity, that the yearning for the IPhone is fed by the marketers who use their mind manipulation tricks, that keep persons reaching and reaching perpetually for ‘things’ that they don’t need. But heck. He’s been a great son, doesn’t ask for much, he did well in his CXC’s. Maybe just this once…let me check the cashflow? See, I’m not perfectly de-consumerised, but I plead Maternalism! 🙂

 

WHO IS AT THE CONTROLS?

 

 

So if we are all the consumer puppets, who/what is pulling our strings? Perhaps those benefiting most from the consistently turning consumerism treadmill, supported greatly by highly paid marketing houses and not forgetting the Joneses, who never fail to bring attention to their latest acquisitions. I heard recently on BBC Radio, which is one of the few media sources I still get a sense of ‘factual-ness’ from (remind me, that’s a different blog topic), that the top advertising agencies in the world now hire the top neurologists, to assist them in knowing how the human mind and brain work!!! Now that struck me, as a person fascinated by neurology, to the extent of becoming a Neuronet therapist to assist children with learning challenges, but I digress. Those corporately hired neurologists…by all accounts,  are not hired to find out what the REAL needs of consumers are…more so to further manipulate minds, to steer wealth/last pennies in the direction of capitalist giants. Case in point, right now ladies, count (in your head if you are not in close proximity to your closet); how much shoes yu have? Now, how many do you wear regularly? Ok, then. Nothing new here I hear you say, but as the mind manipulation will now be based on the latest neuroscientific research, developed by privately hired neurologists…advertisers will be taking the term ‘getting into our heads’ to new levels. As I think about it, these same neurologists could, if more morally than materially guided, be more useful to humanity by devoting their time and expertise to developing mental skills that foster universal harmony. Anyway. It’s not for me to judge, but I’m just saying, as a born-again marketer, preying on highly stressed and strategically targeted masses, through mind-bending advertising, just seems wrong-up! I don’t know if I will be classified as a whistle-blower, but I recall my marketing course had us exploring strategies for, ‘capturing’ the minds of the consumer, persuading them that they ‘need’ this or that product/service that they never knew existed. Keep them purchasing, working to purchase more, borrowing to purchase yet more, then, financially extended, family relations strained, health compromised and consistently exhausted, you convince them to take the commercially advertised drugs that will keep you going that little bit longer, without checking the cause of the pain, in between the commercially advertised 2 weeks vacations…after which, the pain still exists.

 

 

Wow. Not a very pretty picture, now that I’ve stopped to read back. So, let me change gear and share what possible alternatives there are for those of us still hooked by the consumer-chain yet open minded enough to explore an alternative ‘livity’… or at least ease up on the throttle of our racing consumption engine. I’m not advocating a cold turkey extraction from the consumer train…that would be tantamount to jumping off an actual moving train and experiencing the shock and resultant psychological disorientation…as you realise you have just taken your whole wardrobe of Gucci shoes and matching handbags to the charity shop! I know it’s not easy once you are entwined, to unravel the old livity and re-ravel a new one…without the proverbial ‘trappings’. See, we even give the ‘things’ a name representing bondage! So, let’s get creative, like the marketers of these multi-billion dollar advertising agencies…with their highly paid neurologists.

 

 

If George Orwell did it, picture this. We are now in the year 2030…

 

There will now be a one month intermission.

 

Log in again the first week of October to…

 

FIND OUT MAKEDA’S PROPOSED ALTERNATIVE LIVITY STRATEGIES IN PART 2 OF “CONSUMERISM TO COMMUNALISM…A PIPE DREAM?

 

 

May 14

MINISTRY OF HAPPINESS AND WELLBEING

Just imagine for a moment that a Government of a modern day country chose to establish a ministry dedicated specifically to the happiness and well-being of its citizens and residents. Sounds outlandish, right? I mean, a Government  (according to Wikipedia and the Business Dictionary) is a system or group of people governing an organized community or state…that sets and administers public policy and exercises executive, political and sovereign power through customs, institutions, and laws within a state. Not much room for the exploration of happiness and well-being in such a stiff-necked, protocol following world of Government one might say. Having worked within the structures of local government in the UK, I can testify that I witnessed no proactive strides to foster happiness and well-being within either written policies or human practices. Job descriptions were flooded with to do’s, but no attention was given to how the civil servants felt. Feelings were simply not questioned unless they rose to high levels, spilling over into ‘misconduct’ that interfered with the carefully planned out functions. No wonder there is so much talk of ‘extended tea breaks’ in our public sector world.

 

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Anyway, imagine how surprised and delighted I was upon recently visiting the UAE (United Arab Emirates) and discovering that the Emirates had the foresight to establish a fully staffed government ministry…not just a department…dedicated to the happiness and well-being of persons living in/visiting each of its seven (7) federate areas (emirates). Now I was part of a theatrical delegation from Jamaica, proudly representing a monodrama piece, “Who Will Sing For Lena?” by Janice Liddell, at the biennial Fujairah International Arts Festival. From the moment of landing at Dubai airport, there was an immediate sense of feeling welcomed and respected. The feeling permeated the entire visit. It may not sound like a big deal, but having lived the majority of my life in England and had opportunities to travel, I can tell you that ‘welcome’ and ‘respected’ are not words that readily come to mind when recalling arrivals on the tarmac (in the earlier years) at many world airports. Even when returning to my UK ‘home’ soil I did not feel the warm and dignified welcome I got upon landing in Dubai. The point I am working to make here is that our Arab brothers and sisters, contrary to the stereotypical portrayals in the western media, took me aback with the genuine and consistent royal treatment meted out to our Jamaican delegation from the day we landed, right up to the day we left!  Are we following the right models?

 

 

Now back to the UAE Government’s bold and refreshing move to establish a ministry for happiness and well-being. It became apparent as our festival package unfolded that many of the volunteers coordinating same were high ranking government personnel, including a Chief Happiness and Positivity Officer (what a job title!), that willingly answered my many questions about life in the UAE and the practical work of my now, favourite ministry. It was clear to me that the work of this ministry is more than just words on paper or that the officers pay more than just lip service to the cause/mission of the ministry.  It was in the air. In the smiles. In the social conduct. I was impressed.

 

 

Having packed up and relocated my life from England to Jamaica some years ago, I, for the first time, found myself considering whether or not another relocation was now in order. Had I become complacent in my assessment of the place I call home? Had my love for Jamaica blinkered me to really examine whether or not it is STILL the best place for me to continue calling ‘home’? What criteria have I been working with? Being the birthplace of both my dearly departed parents, Jamaica is a place I fell in love with even before first setting foot on the island in 1989. I recall vividly hearing my father’s stories of the land he loved and yearned to return to. I remember the first vacation here, when I bawled on a dingy, out at sea, at Doctors Cave Beach, because I didn’t want to go back (to England). I wonder now if all of these retained reflections are mere sentimentality. Dare I take off the rose tinted glasses and take a real hard look at my perception of my tropical island home. The unique, world emulated culture, natural beauty and spiritual potency of this island are just a few of the things that still tick my boxes. But are these enough? If so, why then, after 23 years, has a visit to a distant land, with a very different culture, a language that I can’t speak, got me (re)considering my love affair with Jamaica? Like any relation-ship I must now ask, is it sailing in the right direction? Have I given back to the country as much as it has blessed me or was it a one sided relationship? Are we still compatible after our respective evolving?  Why all the questions all of a sudden? (Sorry, that was another one!). Was it the potent sense of peace, consistent civil order or just the reciprocal respect that prevail on a daily basis in the UAE that caught my eye? Could it have been the reverence and respect shown to the country’s women and children that wood me?  It is do-able, I kept telling myself! I am not ignoring the fact that the nations common practice of Islam must certainly play a role in fostering greater unity and social cohesiveness, but short of a wholesale conversion to Islam in Jamaica, perhaps we could start with a simple Government implemented solution, that we might make our people happier and healthier…perhaps?

 

 

When asked about the crime rate in his area, a senior UAE police officer (who invited us to be guests at his home) had to scratch his head to recall the one (1) murder that happened back in 2013. A domestic dispute. I remember blowing down heavily at his response, as I reflected on the lives of those lost and being lost in Jamaica daily. The officer spoke of doors and gates to compounds being left open at night. I immediately recalled hearing my father speak of the same comfort in his rural home community in Manchester, back in the day. Today’s Jamaica has two States of Emergency, multiple murders daily, women and children looking over their shoulders, young disenfranchised men being rounded up in packs and detained at police stations for days without ‘due’ processing…we know the rest. Don’t get me wrong, while it saddens me to reflect on the dark side of our island, I remind myself and others often that the majority of my country folk are kind, loving, decent and honourable people, that will light up your day with the wittiest one liners…stop to help a roadside damsel experiencing vehicular distress and sing sincere hit songs of love! All is certainly not lost, but while we witness the media hyped destabilization of our peace and security, perhaps it’s time for our government officials to try something outside the box…as their Emirati counterparts have clearly had the foresight to do. In the meantime, while we await the injection of conscience for our leaders, we can each be our own Chief Happiness and Well-being Officers, taking stock of the contribution we are making to the happiness and well-being of our fellow country folk? How about a little more compassion and empathy for ALL Jamaicans, non-judgement of those outside our circles and a refocused perspective of hope for starters? Wouldn’t hurt us, neither on an individual nor collective level right about now.

 

 

Radical changes do not have to come from revolutions by fed up citizens. Should, perchance, the collective conscience of our government officials, led by our current commander in chief, give rise to a commitment to work towards the happiness and well-being of EVERY citizen…(more) bloodshed may just be averted. I’ve been called the eternal optimist a few times in my life, so should you at this point scoff at my lofty idealistic notion of putting government and conscience in one sentence, my only retort at this point is …”God nah sleep”. Mystical magical manifestations were not confined to the biblical era.  Let your consciousness be focused on the positive attributes of our land, the many possible solutions and Love. We will always attract what our powerful collective minds dwell on most. It’s divine order.

 

 

While the state of ‘Wakanda’ is being brought from fiction to reality, for now, I’ll continue to assess my relationship with Jamaica and determine whether or not we need to take a little break or work to re-ignite the passion!  What do you think?

 

Happiness, Wellness and Plenty Blessing!

 

Apr 4

ON PARENTING AND PERSPECTIVES

 

On a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon, after a beautiful day at the beach, I witnessed a minor disagreement that stole my attention. A young man, well let’s say around 32 years old, from my perspective…on a little boat, on its return voyage from Lime Cay to Port Royal…started an argument with the one-eyed, visually impaired (in the good eye), steerer of the vessel.

 

Image result for BOAT LIME KEY JAMAICA

 

What struck me only momentarily on the day, but came back to me with a thud just now, is that the oddity (in my mind) was not in the fact that the man steering the boat was not bearing the full credentials of a person I would choose to be steering a little boat with me on board, but in the fact that this young, seemingly ‘uptown’ man, with a multiracial audience of strangers, elected to argue with (distract!) our already disadvantaged steerer! Add to that, a group of four young boys that our argumentative man was accompanying, (three of whom appeared to be his sons). Yes, I completely overlooked the vision issue and was drawn in by the drama unfolding with our arguer. My thinking was, his children are on board and his presence of mind didn’t say…let me allow this man to focus on getting us all to dry land safely??!!! He was peeved and had to get it off his chest.

 

SOBERING THOUGHTS

 

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By this time I’m trying not to engage my Risk Manager brain cells, upon noticing that the randomly distributed life jackets were ‘clearly optional’, and working on containing my UK Local Government ultra-Health & Safety training, to the tune of many sections, subsections and clauses. Who insures the boat and its passengers? What inspections of the vessel take place and how often? As I mention that, there really are a minefield of responsibilities and potential legal liabilities that many businesses and their leaders are totally unaware of. Directors Liability Insurance, for example, might seem like a luxury to many, but with the onerous responsibilities laid out by the Companies Act 2004, that luxury might be more appealing if one juxtaposed it with the seizure of personal assets of Directors because of a ‘breach’. Directors, don’t start stressing…yet; carry on with the story…I’ll link you at the end.

 

ROCKING THE BOAT

 

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So, back to the boat. The young man, who I was now actively psychoanalyzing, took to chastising the Captain of the vessel, who had instructed him to dust the sand off his and his flock of 4 boy children’s feet/shoes before entering the boat. “This is the third time yu a upset mi yu know!” he started (which immediately gave him away as a Jamaican living in Merica. A home-based brother would have said ‘dis’…not ‘upset’. The latter is more in sync with a culture where adults routinely ask children, if their feelings were hurt. Not a routine inquiry of Jamaican parenting…from my experience and vantage point of course. Anyway, Mr Merica by now is on a full scale rant…“why do you do it?” he asks earnestly. “You didn’t ask anyone else to dust their feet off”. The third time, he kept repeating, that he was upset by the Captain and he is tired of it. Up to now our Captain is clearly trying to remember this dude from the droves of boat riders over the years, not helped I’m sure by the fact that he obviously could not swear to a 20/20 glimpse at Mr Merica. Despite some feeble attempt to throw off his aggressor with utterings about not remembering him from before, the verbal lashing continued, including the threat that Captain needed to check himself because he, Mr Merica, is noticing a trend that he doesn’t like. At this point, I wondered if I was the only passenger noticing that the complainer kept going on and on, despite the Captain shifting his focus to steering the boat. He went quiet for a few seconds, only to pipe up again with the same rant. I had deduced by now, that his sense of self-importance had been eroded and it had triggered old feelings that he just had to vent.

 

DADDY WISDOM

 

Parenting

 

 

In between rants, he also entertained us by guiding his sons on such topics as their need to forget about what they like doing and find a job that earns them lots of money. I bit my Child Development, motivate-kids-to-live-their-full-passion lip and looked away. I even resisted the urge to whisper in the ear of the little boy sitting next to me…”do what you love son, money can’t buy happiness”, but daddy would have seen the move and we were only about half way across the waters. Cutting the story/journey short, as we approached the dock, where a few yachts/boats were shored…notice I’m getting into my nautical terminologies, as I am not averse to coming down from the hills and boarding a yacht ;)…Mr Merica announced to ‘his boys’ (I’m sure those on the land heard him too)…”that’s the yacht that used to belong to your grandpa…my father” (honestly, he said that!). As I started the concluding paragraph on his psychoanalysis in my head, he went on…”it’s not working now though, that’s why grandpa had to sell it”. I sensed that all other silent passengers aboard the boat must by now have been waiting for the inevitable finale to the sole voice of the voyage. He finished the announcement with…”I’ll have one bigger than that one day boys…work hard so one of you can buy it for me”. My thought by this time was, I hope the children have a mommy/mommies whose sense of balance is sharper, otherwise this boat load of future fodder are going to need a great deal of daddy override to ‘adjust’ some of the seeds of wisdom he is planting in their fertile young minds. But then again. That is just my view of the situation…from my unique perspective. This approach to parenting, despite the strong ego, fueled by the drive to prove oneself and perhaps a tups of low self-esteem, might be just the ticket for these young men. Because that’s the other point. Each of us can only see the world from our singular perspective…anything else is tantamount to imagination.

 

PARENTING 101

 

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We often hear parents say that children never came with a manual, so perhaps it’s time for parenting guidelines to be prepared, including a compulsory mandate that all Parents must have common sense. Anyway…again my opinion, from my conditioned perspective. At a time when world leaders and citizens are losing the temperament to agree to disagree with opinions from perspectives of others, it is important for us to respect the rights of others to have and express theirs. We are all unique beings on this journey. I wonder what Mr Merica would write about his experience of that boat ride? Or the other silent ones on the voyage. Now that would literally be a whole different set of stories!

 

In conclusion, the important message I want to leave you with today is…if you’re going on a boat ride across deep waters, make sure you focus on the attributes of your ‘Captain’ and not the distractions of a serial ranter. One is more than likely than the other to sink the boat. (Notwithstanding my prejudice, our Captain turned out to be a master at his craft and got us to shore safely!).

 

ARE YOU A DIRECTOR?

 

Appointing a new company director

 

Oh yes, I almost forgot. Any Directors of companies out there, don’t miss the boat! ;). Ask Sarifa about securing a Directors Liability quotation for you… (can’t resist it)…before the ship sails! Or…wait, wait, wait…you run aground! [Mic dropped].