What if we all just said no?

Seriously.  What if we all just said no?

I have been called more frequently by telemarketers than by friends and family on my landline.  (Fair warning, friends and family, I’m about to jettison the landline).

The one that really stands out in my mind (besides the “Hi, I’m [Name] from Microsoft calling you about your computer – it sent me a message…” to which I recently replied, “Oh?  Indeed… [icy]”  “Yes, ma’am, indeed.”  “I’m going to hang up now, scammer.”) (which in retrospect, I should have gotten his call back number so I could give it to the police – Microsoft will never call you directly – that’s your job to call for tech support) is the one I received because I apparently entered a draw at a “recent convention I had attended” to win a cruise and I had! (…imagine that…)  Now, I basically never enter contests because it’s all a scam.  I’m sure someone actually wins the contest – don’t get me wrong.  But otherwise, that’s a whole load of free information they just received.  And you gave it to them willingly – thinking that it would only be used in a raffle.  But how do they profit from that?  First they’ll put you on their mailing list and phone list because you must be interested in them (since you gave them your contact information), and then they might share (for a fee) your information with other companies who are looking for an audience.

Why is it that I *have* to say “Yes” to certain companies doing what they wish with my information (including providing it to third party companies that they think I’d be interested in… uh huh…) in order to access their services?  Basically, they say if I want to “play” with them, I have to let them give/sell my information to someone.

But what if I said no?  Then I wouldn’t be able to access their services.  My loss.  Or is it?  Their “choice” means that they lose a customer.  What if we all said, “No, you can’t share my information”?  Then they would stop the practice, because they would be losing many more customers.  We would be going with the companies that say, “Hey, we respect your privacy and we don’t share your info with anyone – promise!  We know that we’re the special company that you chose specifically, and maybe we don’t know what third party companies you’d also like so we won’t assume.”

Not enough people care, though.  Some will argue that this is how the commercial world works.  You give up a bit of your privacy for better services.  You give up your information so that companies can better advertise to you.

That assumes we want to be advertised to though.  Oh wait, do we have a choice in that matter?

One of the fathers of modern advertising was Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud’s nephew, who employed not only Freud’s but also Gustave LeBon, Wilfred Trotter, and Ivan Pavlov’s psychological principles to propaganda and public relations (which was what propaganda was rebranded as, after the Nazis used that word too much).  The goal was the engineering of consent in “public persuasion” campaigns.

So let’s take a step back – do we really want that new gadget/luxury car/huge princess wedding, or are we being psychologically manipulated to think that we will feel more fulfilled/our lives will be better/the happily ever after ending will come if we put ourselves into debt to buy it?  And yet we all look at those with “simpler” lives who are happy and we envy them their simple life.  We envy those who don’t have a huge credit card balance to pay off, plus a mortgage, plus a car payment, plus the boatload of bills that are hitting our mailboxes every month for all the services we’ve subscribed to.  But we must be supremely happy because we have the huge house with the hot tub, the luxury cars (his and hers, of course), the remodelled kitchen and bathrooms, the 1500 thread count sheet sets and HD satellite for the HD TV…

What if we all said no?  This applies to lifestyle as well.  I had a moment of “Uh……?” when I was in my first module of yoga and we were discussing attachment.  I asked if my yoga teacher considered my vegetarianism to be attachment and he did not hesitate before he said, “Absolutely.”

The labels, the image that we portray to the outside world – “This is who I am!  You can recognize it because I resemble this, or I have this label!”  This is something that my boyfriend and I discuss occasionally, because for simplicity’s sake, I tend to characterize myself as “vegetarian” etc.  But really, I choose to eat a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet – I’m not ‘a vegetarian.’  I practice yoga – I’m not ‘a yogini.’  I paint – I am not ‘a painter.’  It’s easier to describe yourself with labels, but what of your personal uniqueness do you gloss over when you take a broad label for yourself?  You can have a small child, paint with oils, play cello, ride a cruising motorcycle, build Shaker style furniture and like to read sci-fi novels – or you can be a mother, artist, musician, biker, carpenter and nerd.  Which is the more honest interaction?  The one where you describe yourself, or the one where you take broad labels and people can assume who you are from there?

This ties in with the advertising rant above – advertising tries to makes us want the labels rather than encouraging us to really think about who we are and what we enjoy doing or experiencing.  A person who is supremely content with making their own furniture and walking to work is a poor consumer for Ikea and BMW.  But a person who wants the image and label that they are selling (as he muses in Fight Club – “What kind of dining set defines me as a person?”) will keep coming back to upgrade their image.  That’s brand loyalty, or customer loyalty.  But what about loyalty to yourself?  At what point do we stop recognizing that all this noise is drowning out our own voice inside that is trying to tell us that we’re unhappy, and that we’re not being true to ourselves?  That what we’re trying to fill this void of unhappiness with is exactly what’s making us unhappy?

When I was travelling in Ireland, I was watching my B&B owners’ children running around and playing outside, and I realized that what I do for fun now is very similar to what I did as a child.  I write fiction stories.  I sketch and paint.  I pack a bag with snacks and go exploring (granted, there are fewer trees being climbed, but there are definitely better pictures being taken).  As a child, I would pack up my two “kids” (Pansy and Bridget – my Cabbage Patch dolls), some “food supplies” (imaginary stew), light (the glow in the dark parts from my Construx spaceship building set), blankets and writing materials and my sister and I would go “hiking and exploring in the rainforest” (or basement…), to camp “overnight” (“Zzz… *yawn* Time to get up!”) and find new species.  I was about 8 or 9, I think, and I was playing at being a field biologist.

I actually feel better about my choices when I realize this, because it seems purer to who I am when I choose to entertain myself this way.  It also makes me think I haven’t lost who I am in becoming an adult.

So I return to my question – what if we all just said no?  What if we all remembered who we were and stopped buying in to the advertising?  What if we stopped sacrificing ourselves to play the game, and instead started honouring ourselves and playing the games that feed our souls?

I think it was this Construx set to make spaceships and other space exploration machines. Borrowed image from http://spaceshipsspacestationsandaliens.blogspot.ca/2010/04/15-construx-586-stellar-exploration-set.html. (Because I don’t have a picture of it.)

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