Monday, 6 January 2014

What Boggles The Image Nation?


"And tonight's third winning digit is your middle finger!"
Unnamed Derelict from atop a brownstone in Cabrini Green just before she leapt


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Public Relations
Advertising does not define our perception of reality, it just sells enough bits and pieces of it to partially shape a landscape of choices, which affords certain brands of consumers the right to claim that their choices are more limited than they'll admit is true at the same time they're buying enough of what is being hawked to dictate more the delimitation of choice than the advertising itself. The eventual unavailability of alternatives is a self-made delusion nurtured into full-fledged reality.

The only outright successful advertising campaign is the long-con that has people buying in to the advertising industry by the billions. This is not to say that the advertising they offer never works for those paying for it; it just works without fail for the industry itself.

Every metric used to judge the effectiveness of advertising is framed for & by the industry & its advocates. Those laying down the big bucks to have their products framed by the same want nothing more than to believe that they are getting a major return on their investment. And you can bet that the decision makers will do all they can to make it look like they made the right decision in choosing this or that campaign.

Then, there are million-dollar ringer-companies out there shilling for the advertisers: You know, the guy who wins a Twenty in a sidewalk shell game so that anyone walking by with twenty bucks burning a hole in his pocket can see how it's done. The only difference is that people who can afford to lay down a million-dollar bill also have a support system in place to convince them that they won and/or reimburse them if they're willing to admit they didn't.

From the strictly-consumer end of that food chain, even the little guy resists admitting he bought a piece of shit, whether it's testimonial-ized or not; the advert, as it were, might be the object itself sitting in a basket with a bunch of other crap.

Ultimately, its not about the sale of the product promoted, but the creation of the environment. Indeed, a commercial promotion leads often enough to someone's defiance, a resistance personally meaningful that's relatively futile when it happens within these confines.

You can try to tune it out, but the ear worm is omnipresent. It's virtually virtual, abstracting the nature of who we truly are, further and deeper, as if being rescued and led astray are one and the same.

The creatives in advertising are no more creatively influential than I was when I created my last poop joke. Some have a larger base of operations than others, due to patrons out to shape the biggest picture possible, but producer promoter and consumer, we're all just trading in scatological humor.

Now, the advertising advocates - they'll tell you that proven ad strategies are being employed to influence every aspect of our lives; and the stats geeks will interpret the results and tell you who you are; and although most won't believe this definition about themselves, they'll believe the definition about everyone else. This can only lead to a phony self-image and delusional beliefs about the entire world.

Hence the employment of this successful strategy.

What if, this construct being an illusion, the process of self-discovery could lead to the ultimate dead-end - that of running around in circles - with manifold movements of people striving to heighten the self-awareness of a self that does not exist, removing distractive layer upon distractive layer, headed quite directly in the wrong direction?


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The name The Image Nation - as I independently conceived it* - was inspired by a conversation I had with a homeless guy on the Howard 'L train one night. At some point he asked, "How you go'na know you goin' asleep?" and repeated and re-repeated the question with an affect of cumulative profundity.

I took this guy's colloquial crypticism to mean that life just might be a dream and nothing but - but he might also have been wondering aloud, while looking me in the eye, if he'd find a warm resting place that particular evening, other than that train he would, no doubt, eventually get schlepped off of.

You can imagine, but only imagine, what the world is like through someone else's eyes, that is, if you try. You can even less likely embody a mode of thought that lives in a way you can barely conceive. Yet, you and I are commoner of mind than either of us with correspondent representations of ourselves from the 13th century. And though we are led to believe by way of the teachings of history and representations in fiction that we can imagine what that world was like in the middle ages - we have the costumes, after all - it'd be just an imagining, no more or less accurate than theirs of ours.

And then there's prehistory, and what we think that we think we know it says about us.

The meaning of The Image Nation might be framed via the most exclusive interpretation of the word "paradigm" - a term so-used that it's lost its strength potential, ironically through the growing influence of the passive digestion of science (not un-akin to the swelling evolution of "irony").

The Image Nation is an established State of Mind that trans-germinated via subatomic slaveship caravan from deep space and the ocean depths to the banks of the river and the midtown trust.

The Image Nation dictates a binary existence: no matter how bad, good exists. Where there is sadness, there is happiness, and vice-versa. It castigates, on the other hand, a comparison of certain bad things to certain other bad things, though it allows for relativism when it's expedient.

It says that no matter how unjustly a block of dictatorships treats its citizens and neighbors - and in spite of its posing "a threat to the entire planet" - that it can be defeated and an international order will set things right.

It maintains that good reigns triumphant, while evil is forever rearing its ugly head. It secretly stands above God for the faithful and in place of the same for everyone else. Country cannot be placed ahead of The Image Nation, though you'd never know it from the behavior of patriots.

It tells you that the way to get money out of politics is to gather enough money to politic against it. It swears from your Inbox that this citizen-institution, being independent and uncorrupted, will make good on donations, affecting a change of the system from without, as compared to the folly of the same from within. But they define and grab "the system" from a ladder several rungs below the window to the room where the system really resides and shout breathlessly at the building's facade, begging it to renovate itself.

The Image Nation asserts that there is fairness amidst an everything that is fixed - this being a bedrock, permanent and unmovable, yet flexible for status maintenance. It is reform. It is an ideology that's afraid of anything else.

The Image Nation finds someone to worship after all substance has been used up. Critics of heroes are boiled down to malcontents, the distillation from which future heroes are crafted. 

When X calls for the privatization of a public broadcaster, or Y the corresponding reverse, The Image Nation evinces genuine anger and frustration, despite its just being money changing hands, six to one, half-a-dozen to another.

It is not the truth. It is not a lie. It just is. It is. There's nothing you can do to change it, though under your will it changes.

It's barely to be believed what it will have you eating. It is your dictator, but you sit at the head of the table. It's a sadomaso meal.

The Image Nation is steered from above, perceived from below, has a life of its own, is too muddy to make out and too muddled to understand, yet the image is as clear as your face in the mirror.

The Image Nation has the world clinging fast to duality, though the circle in which it spins has no delineation, demarcation, color and/or shade, and while there is an entrance/exit door staring us all in the face, no one sees it coming until it's already gone. If you think you saw it, that wasn't it.

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Public Policy
The casing with a button marked "push for walk signal" is an example of the Law & Order Republic portrayed as assistant to the citizen-pedestrian. It further implies that without traffic laws, all is lost to grating gridlock and frighteningly speedy chaos - reasoning that suggests you'd be silly to jaywalk when you have regulatory self-service at your fingertips.

What it doesn't tell you is that it probably doesn't change anything; the light will come and go as it always does. Maybe at one time in an old-timey past such a button was installed at a busy intersection with the occasional pedestrian in mind: the traffic could flow unabated until some codger got to the corner to cross.

But citizen-pedestrians being as they are - young and old, childish, churlish and unruly - we couldn't just leave our automobile coordination to our automotive whimsy.

Theoretically, you can cross the street. But when the signal doesn't work, your right to street-crossing is curbed. Liberty is theoretical.

Law and order buffs - I mean here to include those who would deny being any such animal, but will stress the importance of a Nation of Laws - would tell you that the punishment for crossing during red is also hypothetical, that under such circumstances, one can reason with law enforcement. As I said: Liberty is theoretical. If you'd like to experience the wrath of liberty between every theory, try to live your life undocumented.

The better half of the world leads itself around by the nose, half a world wholly appeased by the inference that the other half is in prison or worse, but the implication is a threat, not a freedom. The idea that majority-rule is good uses the reasonable notion that most people are good to back it up. It conducts academic exercises in elitist democracy through which the majority elite rule. This seems to have led to a default willingness to believe that there can be oversight without personal knowledge. It is a disease that is spread by passing authority from one body to another.

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Public Press
There is much of science that the vast majority of the educated and informed do not understand enough to verify firsthand, yet the reliance on science is never referred to as faith, even when the scientist is appointed Minister of This, That & the Other Thing.

It's no mystery of history that the Romans knew how to pacify as well as conquer; if the masses willingly bow to a god, or to the peer pressure from those who do, why not make him, and them, part of the program?

Observe the global phenomenon that is Christmas and consider the unfading residue of the Holy Roman Empire. Here in Deutschland, the word for Christmas has no Hebrew, Greek, Latin or Old-English origins - but the etymology is said to be all about the birth of baby Jesus.

As such, "Weihnachten" is steadfast in use and predominates; I like to imagine there's a barely concealed gnosis behind the word; that it might be less a consecration of his holiness the messiah, and more the ushering in of the waning of the long nights as we northerners head into the coldest time of year as a result of the long nights having waxed, reminding us of the resurrection of the children of the corn come springtime, inspiration to get us through the winter.

Then I like to imagine that it might, still, mean something else that, in turn, refers to something else entirely.

I'm sure my interpretation is as fallacious as it is free, but mine wouldn't be the most egregious. What is, in the end, the misappropriation of a myth?

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Inferred is religion as the cause of war because War itself steps up to the podium and states quite reasonably that it's not religion that's the reason or the cause, but those who misuse religion for such purposes or those who prohibit its practice. Since everybody knows that War lies, maybe there's an implication that's not wholly unintentional: Religion therefore must be the cause?

War also says there is other stuff that's not the reason for its existence. But you don't hear much discussion about how it's the misuse of Economic Science that leads to war. Unless you're a terrorist. More correctly, unless you're a registered and cataloged unit on a part of the map that the media-channeled Directors of the Boards of the Federation of the Free Trade between Democratic Republics say terrorists breed. So you might be if you intersect perilously close in philosophical proximity to this defined milieu. Or so it's said.

Is your opinion your own? Like the advertising industry, the massive public informing- and ultra secret intelligence gathering networks are just more fingers in the aggregate pie hole between saltier snacks. That's entertainment. Authority flavor: movies and TV dramas; bureaucrats and their spokespeople; interpreters of all they portray & do and say & cue present various angles of the same perspective, a union through which all remains equal.

Educated in this environment, one would expect the broadest institutions sponsoring professional espionage to have spies in every corner professing to be any number of things they're not. Yet one believes the spy is who he says he is, especially when he says he's a spy finally telling the truth.

One man calls him a hero; the other - for his head. Is the traitor-spy a pie in the face of the organization that paid him? Or does that organization have a finger in each and every alleged turncoat and/or would-be traitor's pie? And who's got dibs on the movie rights?

Even The Image Nation is beyond such distinctions.
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Karl-Liebknecht-Straße & Hirtenstraße, Berlin - New Year's Eve Day, 2013



*When I coined the term in 1992, it was for a screenplay that I was writing for entry into the Nicholl Fellowships competition, ultimately entitled A Share of Realty. This was likewise a pun-tailed mixed metaphor, but took half the pun for a portmanteau, which one of the Nicholl readers may have taken for a typo. (Isn't the realty in which we sleep the ultimate reality?)

Like much of my writing it was general and unfocused. I tried to juxta-juggle ideas on crumbly ground: Wall Street expanding their field of influence via the Net (I chose the more theological "The Way") with doppelgänger brothers representing respectively ecology vs. shareholder commodification of everything from real estate to natural science, and there was also something to do with state-imposed re-education referred to as Introspection vs. an underground movement employing Regression, the latter of which evolved out of my obsession with my cats, who were sisters. I even had parallel bits of dialog and a monologue and soliloquy made parallel through matching meter and verse. The epigraph of this entry is the final line of the latter.

I probably have many of the details wrong; the only copies left are likely decaying, like my memory, but in a waste dump somewhere.