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?

 

 

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.

 

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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].

 

Oct 3

3 H’s…Hurricanes, History and Halloween

 

This month of October 2016, is certainly shaping up to be an action packed month!

 

HURRICANES 

 

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I’m writing this from within my concrete fortress, awaiting the ‘real’ coming of Matthew…the hurricane that is. Yet Matthew is acting like a man that has announced he is on his way home, but ‘stop a’road’, keeping his lady (read Jamaica) waiting…in anticipation! It seems that by giving these weather conditions names, they actually take on human characteristics.

 

Even before my first visit to Jamaica in 1989, I was familiar with the devastation that hurricanes can cause, because my original travel date (in 1988) was cancelled because of the big bad Hurricane Gilbert!

 

Being from the insurance sector, I had naively assumed that Lovindeer’s song…’Wild Gilbert’ was alluding to the claim settlements from insurance policies, when he sang of “mi colour TV…a Gilbert gi me”. It only occurred to me quite recently, while conversing with a friend, that Lovindeer may actually have been referring to looters availing themselves of furniture items from vacant homes, devoid of roofs! I’m such a believer in the good side of human nature! Lovindeer, I will await your confirmation.

 

THE WAITING GAME

 

I personally witnessed the lingering, taunting behaviour of Ivan in September 2008, which played with us throughout what seemed the longest night of my life! Hearing but not seeing the menacing visitor was the worst part.

 

The wait! From the many social media posts today, that is what is challenging most folk at the moment. When you are poised and ready for action…any prolonged delay can frustrate! The coming and going of the heavy rains merely serves to taunt us some more.

 

STOP EAT OUT DI SUPPLIES!

 

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Another issue caused by this delay is the gradual depletion of emergency food supplies, before any emergency! The cupboards look so ‘fat’ with their snacks and surplus ‘bounty’ that I’ve had to remind my teen son to take it easy! Bare cupboards when Matthew does eventually drop in on us wouldn’t be pretty!

 

What about that eerie silence, indicating that the animals are well aware of the impending onslaught…which is what it will likely mean to the smaller species on the island. Where do all the birds go during a hurricane? Have you ever wondered?

 

Anyway, My Dear Fellow Jamaicans, I hope that when these few lines reach you, they will find you dry…with a roof on your home and in the best of health!

 

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HISTORY

 

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Also, in this hemisphere, we recognise February as Black History month along with the big brother island, USA.  I was a little confused when moving to Jamaica, having lived all my Black History months in England, during the month of October.

 

BLACK ‘JAMAICAN’ HISTORY

 

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This relatively small island has some rich history of its own, which, while indelibly mixed with influences from various other peoples, recalls its most prominent historical era as the African slave trade. In spite of the unspeakable evils and latent damage caused during/post this era, I like to celebrate the resilience of a strong and tallawah people, boasting the greats like Marcus Garvey, Nanny of the Maroons, Paul Bogle, Sam Sharpe and other heroes that resisted and led the struggles that liberated and uplifted the majority peoples of our beautiful island.

 

Let’s remember their sacrifices and bravery on this coming Heroes Day…17th October 2016. On that day, let us remember and honour all seven of our national heroes.

 

HALLOWEEN

 

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The end of the month also sees some of our tropical island folk adorning themselves in ghoulish or ghostly garments and celebrating the ‘Halloween’ Festival on 31st October. Many think that these ghostly traditions started in the United States of America, but in spite of the huge commercialized celebrations each year across the USA, the origins of Halloween or All Hallowed Eve, are actually European. The Celts, who were a European tribal group that existed during the Iron Age (6th Century BC), are apparently the ones to blame…I mean credit.

 

What started as a Celtic festival celebrating their 1st November New Year, was based on the belief that the souls of the dead would be ‘available’ on this 31st October date. For what? Don’t ask me.

 

But why the dressing up?

 

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The Druids, who were the teachers, philosophers and judges within the Celtic religious system, celebrated Samhain, the original name for the festival, by sacrificing animals, lighting huge bonfires to encourage the sun not to ‘vanish’, danced to keep evil spirits away and left their house doors open in the hope that the spirits of their loved ones might join them around their firesides. You a’hear me?!

 

Think about it…Jamaicans, that traditionally use every trick, practice or ploy in the book to keep spirits OUT of their homes…following a foreign cultural practice that is inviting them in? No sah! Tape measures over doors, bible open to a Psalm, passing a child over the grave of a deceased relative…you name them, we, to this day, still practice ‘protection’. Hocus pocus or not, Jamaicans don’t take chances with this ‘duppy’ thing! And why does this Halloween thing smack so much of Obeah?

 

Anyway, back to my point about the dressing up. The Celts wore animal heads and skins as costumes because it was believed that spirits would either be entertained by the living or find a body to possess for the incoming year. By dressing up, they thought the ‘duppies’ would bypass them! Don’t laugh! Belief kills and belief cures…right?

 

So, now that you know the origin and traditions of the Halloween celebrations…do you still want your children dressing up in ghost, devil and witches costume? I hear many guffawing and saying it’s just a little harmless fun. Or is it that we, like the Celts, are unconsciously trying to avoid being possessed by the ghosts that are conjured up on this All Hallowed Eve?

 

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In my humble opinion, without sounding too much like a Halloween party pooper, it’s not every tradition or cultural expression that should be adopted from the apparently ‘developed world’, especially when the tradition comes from a very ancient, primitive and un-developed era in that world. Or maybe we aren’t afraid of foreign duppies? Can you imagine our kids dressing up as a rolling calf (clad with clanking chains) or in an Obeah man costume, school pencil behind an ear, in the pitch black night…walking around knocking on the door of the average Jamaican? The story might very well end up with neither trick nor treat! ‘Jamaican duppy know who fi frighten’.

 

THE 3 H’S CONNECTION

 

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It might just be that as we sit awaiting the restoration of power by JPS over the next few ‘hurricane’ days, we might just find ourselves in that rare, technology starved family huddle, telling some candle-light ghost stories. While we do…let those of us that partake in Halloween, also reflect on the roots of our 31st October rituals and consider…does this practice correlate with who we are? Ourstory? The story that we celebrate during the month of October (in the UK), as Black History Month!

 

Stay dry, stay focused…stay safe!