Thursday, February 9, 2012

Still Wearing the Commercial Burqa

When the Age of Oil finally ends, commercialism will most certainly die with it. I’m fairly sure of this because commercialism absolutely depends on mass wealth, and mass wealth is due to “energy slaves.” Ponder for a moment world-wide energy consumption today (2005). It amounts to energy equivalent to 1.8 tons of oil per person per year; to be sure, not all of that comes from oil. The U.S. consumption is 8.7 tons per capita, dwarfed by the consumption in Qatar, the world’s highest, at 21.5 tons of oil-equivalent. By way of contrast there is Bangladesh, the world’s lowest with 0.2 tons or 377 pounds. Bangladesh comes closest to what the world was like before the Age of Oil.

My topic today, however, isn’t oil. It’s the obscenity of obscenities—commercialism’s most visible symbol, advertising on television. That too will disappear but will soon be forgotten. These forms of assault on human dignity will vanish because the arts needed to display them will decay along with the high technology necessary to make them visible when energy-wealth will be no more. Advertising, to be sure, is not on the same level of evil as the gladiatorial games, human sacrifice, the immolation of Hindu widows, foot-binding, and other actual physical assaults (usually on women). But it does resemble an obscenity still very much alive and well in parts of the Muslim world—the burqa.

Print advertising doesn’t cover things up. And bits and pieces of that kind of advertising produced today will still be in archives in the year 4000. That sort of stuff is relatively innocuous because it’s easy to ignore. But the Commercial Burqa? That we must endure—and these days even on Public TV. It covers up the programming so that it can’t be seen—not even through little holes in its fabric. We can mute it, to be sure, but the muting is itself a kind of burqa. And, to be sure, ads are bad. But silence? Lordy! Silence is really unendurable for us, creatures of our own time that we are.

1 comment:

  1. Inspired!
    Comparing Advertising to a Burqa is wonderful.
    The burqa as a metaphor for how we hide reality, to mark off certain areas as "haram" to our perception, as we continue our predatory rapine.

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