I see a river; it’s oceans that I want.
You have to give me everything; everything’s not enough
– Depeche Mode, I want it all

Consume, consumer, consume!
In Hair, they got naked and sang about the coming of the age of Aquarius: a time for peace, love and harmony. A bit of wiki-digging tells me we’ve another 500 years to wait. So, that put paid to that utopian escapist fantasy. Back here in the non-Aquarian now, the mange-ridden cat of consumerism continues to pee incontinently over us all. So why have we got our mouths wide open?

Yeah, but everything’s about consumption, right?
In the 1950s, trying to understand the mother/baby bond, psychologist Harry Harlow ran experiments on monkeys. He had assumed that babies loved their mothers because they dispense milk – no more. But he got it very wrong, with some awful consequences. He replaced the mother monkeys with teat-machines and then towelling-clad teat machines. [Monkey dads don’t figure, so it’s probably safe to say the human equivalent issue is parenting, full stop]. Not only were the cries of the mothers at separation reported to be unbearable for the lab team, but the monkey “children” grew up severely emotionally and psychologically damaged. Without the love, care, attention, call it what you will, of the monkey mothers, when they grew up, these monkeys self-harmed, were violent, and unable to bond with other monkeys.

Banksy’s Consumer JesusWhy link Harlow and consumerism? Because it’s about substitution. Harlow thought a fundamental need (parental love) might just be self-interest (the need for food). He tried to replace the parent with some of the component parts: milk, something to suck, soft furry textures. But the experiments proved, in the case of monkeys at least, that there is a fundamental emotional need that cannot be substituted by the surface characteristics of parenting (delivering of food, something warm to cling to). Consumerism works the same way: when we’ve gone beyond the basics of bread, energy, shelter, products need to compete for you, especially to buy luxuries. They need to appeal to you, and so they work to appeal to particular emotional needs. (Thanks to Banksy for this excellent illustration).

The best marketing the world has ever known
Here’s a good example. Many stop-smoking experts find the biggest barrier to getting people to stop is not the physical addition (after all, the need for a fag is not strong enough to wake you up in the middle of the night, is it?). No, it’s the psychological ‘need’ to smoke that is the barrier.

Smoking ‘gives’ the smoker something beyond nicotine. We’ve all heard these: “smokers are more interesting”; “I don’t care about my health, I’m such a rebel”; “all the cool people smoke”. These are powerful myths about self-identity: “I’m brave /different /rebellious /artistic /devil-may-care /unable to concentrate without it…” and so on.

But where on earth have these values come from? Why is a skinny carcinogenic, heart-attack inducing stick of paper-clad leaf, peddled by multi-national, exploitative and very rich wankers both so appealing and a psychological crutch? It has to be the best piece of marketing the world has ever seen (I’m speaking as a smoker – I know whereof I speak…) Even the death thing works in faggery’s favour-* it adds to the devil-may-care list of values.

If egos (healthy, strong, fragile or limping) didn’t exist, would smoking?


…to be continued…..


* (US cousins, I am not talking male homosexual encounters; this is about the fetishisation of cigarettes).