Friday, 15 February 2008

Advertising Vs. Politics (via creativity. via philosophy. via literay criticism. via ramble ramble ramble ramble...)

[WARNING: Despite the funny Karl Marx picture, this post could be quite dull. ]

It happened again to me yesterday. Someone asked me what I do and I told them.

"Ha-oh!" came the reply. "It's you then. You're one of them - the liars."

Yep. The "liars". That's us. Anyone who works in advertsing and marketing is a liar. We sit round on Satan's patio all day, making up evil, insidious fibs with which to poison the dear and innocent earth. Or so is the perception of the hysterical left-wing imbecile who works in my local.

So exactly how does one reconcile a healthy, idealist, proto-Marxist, working class, fuck-the-man politic (such as my own) with the apprently oppressive, totalitarian, globe-raping poltics of 21st century capitalism? Hmmm...

When my career trajectory first began to point towards advertising, I knew that deep-down I was gonna have to face this peculiar moral quandry. How can I work in an industry that appears to contradict everything I beleive in? After all, advertising is propganda, right? It exploits people's weaknesses and questions their judgement. It baffles and confuses them; argues with them and dictates to them. Mass media is garbage, yet I'm volunteering to create more of it. I'm potentially gonna be part of that machine that hectors and heckles us/we/they, the brow-beaten proletariat. Or so goes received opinion.

So I went away and I thought about it. Really thought about it. Pros and cons. Finally, I asked myself why I wanted to do it; what was my motivation. And the answer (not surprisingly) was... creativity. Yawn. I just wanted to be creative. It's that simple. Just like every other fucker these days. But. That then posed a further, even greater philosophical question.

I was placing my own, personal pursuit of creativity and expression above all, which seemed selfish and, well... just a bit shallow. Therefore, I had to ask myself what was my moral reasoning - my position- on creativity? And this was an important point for me to nail because otherwise everything I did potentially lacked any integrity at all.

Eventually, I stumbled across the answer in a novel; the bloated, badly-written, and obnoxious "masterpiece" Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand.

Atlas Shrugged tells the story of what happens when all the creative, innovative people in the world fuck-off to an island and leave civilisation to crumble without them. (Cracking idea for a story, but dragged out over 1500 interminable pages of insufferable dialogue and dry intellectualism. Unless you're unemployed, don't waste your time). Anyway, Rand's novels are all vehicles for her (often flawed) philosophy of Objectivism which champions "competition, creativity and human greatness." And within Objectivism comes a model of capitalism that I'd previously never considered before; a model of consensual capitalism, where free and open competition is the wellspring of excellence. Only via competition can we acheive our potential and only by acheiveing our potential can we evolve.

Ok. So it all sounds a bit Neitzsche. Which, to be fair, it is. But here was capitalism without the master-slave dynamic. Here was capitalism being presented as a dialogue; a constant, on-going debate about new ideas. And so the purpose, the reasoning of creativity was to participate in that debate. And -voila- that's where I found my moral position on creativity and, eventually, my work. Creativity is not necessarily a force for mediating individualsim or celebrating the self. Sure, I can behave like an artist from time to time; heckling and complaining from the sidelines about how things are going, but it's just as exciting to be right there on the pitch. I know it sounds kinda obvious now... but at the time...

So the next time some moron calls you a "sell-out" or even "a liar" just tell them that it's all about competition. If they're not up to the fight, then keep their fuckin mouths shut.

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