Monthly Archives: November 2008

An ad for ads?

There are tell-tale signs of an economic slowdown in Australia.

Here, too, in Japan are similar signs. There were ads on television about how advertising is good for you, that we need advertising. While I see the value of ads as a way to tell us about the availability of a product, it is when ads become a persuasion tool for our need for something not needed that it starts to tick me off.

Most of the products advertised on TV I really don’t need. They do not cover the basics for our survival. We don’t need an ipod to be happy. To come to think of it, if it were necessary for our survival we needn’t advertise about it in the first place. We’d all know what it is.

This is about the difference between needs and wants. But they are often very difficult to tell apart. Skim through this post and you will notice how difficult it is to use the word “want” instead of “need”. At times they can be used interchangeably. At other times they cannot.

So there must be something fundamentally very wrong with our society and our way of life when there is a need(?) to advertise for ads.

The trend towards variable tolls

It seems there is a trend towards variable tolls around world lately.

In my beloved Australia there is talk introducing it for the Sydney highway systems including the Sydney Harbour Bridge. And in Illinois they are also proposing the same thing (not to any harbour bridge though).

In Japan, the tolls for freeways are super high. But that hasn’t stopped people from using them. As Hugh Bartling has pointed out it only serves to stratify people – the rich-and-the-willing-to-pay type and the poor-and-cannot-afford-it type. And Japan seems to be like this.

How the revenue is spent is an important issue. If it is not used to create new alternative forms of ecologically sound mobility it is pointless and it ends up being a “revenue grab” as David Jeffery calls it.

As I have said before, money makes it all too easy to redistribute for other (mis)uses. Money, like labour, should remain closely related to the point it is collected. Otherwise we lose sight of the reasons for collecting it in the first place.

My Ingrid Betancourt link

While I am retiring the Ingrid Betancourt link on my blog it does not mean we should forget the other people who are still prisoners of FARC or killed in the name of “freedom” in Colombia. There is no excuse for violence, detainment or suppression of any form by anyone or any organization.

We need to continue to remind ourselves that injustice done upon us is not reason to do it to others.

Buy Nothing Day

It is almost Adbusters’ Buy Nothing Day. This year it is on 29 November (28 November if you live in North America).

In the past I have read criticism that it does nothing to slow down consumption and spending. To these critics I don’t agree.

Any form of highlighting of our consumption habits will help slow it down. We tend to forget how easy it is to consume when we think money can buy all, and when things are prepared and made available at your convenience at every street corner.

So show support on Buy Nothing Day by buying nothing. Remind yourself of just how precious the planet’s resources are. Remind yourself to share these resources with others including other animals and vegetation. Remind yourself that resources are not only ours to consume but belongs to everyone and everything.

Our supermarket fantasy

Tim Burton had tried to say it in his version of Planet of the Apes.

In this film Man’s downfall was his forgetting of how to do things for himself (I will use the masculine here since it is generally his fault). Mr Burton’s representation was one of Man not being able to find food for himself without a supermarket nearby. That men in the future cannot grow their own food, cannot live off the land, unlike the apes (in the film) that become the dominant species.

An apt image, I think.

I will have to admit that when I was young, I too had no clue about where food came from and how it was grown. I had lived in a kind of bubble-like existence I like to call a supermarket fantasy. But I doubt I was alone in this. Urban living simply meant one never saw, first hand, where these produce came from. I had believed, just like many other young naive urban children, food came from supermarkets, because that was what I saw. A logical conclusion to draw if these are the only clues you have. And it did not help by calling food food and not produce. We tend to forget food needs to be produced by someone somewhere rather than miraculously appearing on the supermarket shelf.

So the problem, I believe, begins with the urban lifestyle.

City living has two main problems. One is the already mentioned supermarket fantasy where one just does not directly see where our basic needs come from. The other is the image the city projects – an image of a false superiority of human ingenuity. In his creation of superstructures Man constructs a world of his own individual greatness, when all the time he forgets his own insignificance in the long march of history. It is as though the previous four billion years played no part in his creation, that he is where he is because of his own will and determination. He forgets his reliance on the things of the world to create this delusional image of himself.

But don’t misunderstand me. I am not a believer in Determinism. Nor am I a believer that we can do everything though our own will. I believe it is a mix of both. Life is partly determined. We are where we are though a serious of chance. And where we go from here is partially in our hands, for chance still plays a role. Man has a tendency to overstate the case.

Returning to the subject of urban living, Man is now in a place a where he believes that he must live in cities, that city living is good. This is understandable considering its benefits. But in doing so he also has forgotten that he still relies on the land for survival. All he sees is that he needs to make enough money so as to buy the vegetables from that supermarket shelf, when all the time he forgets that it is though his labour, and not money, that he obtains his needs.

So money and city living are, in a sense, one that the same root cause. They both promote the kind of abstract thinking which causes Man to forget about what is necessary.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2008

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition is run by the Natural History Museum in London and the BBC Wildlife Magazine. This year’s overall winner is Steve Winter for his photo capture of the rare snow leopard.

Photos from competition will be exhibited at the Museum from the end of October 2008 to April 2009.