This Is How It All Begins


Adbusters Magazine is awesome, this page is from their recent issue about ‘cool.’ I think they nail on the head one of my fears about raising my child in this consumeristic society with this little piece. The text at the bottom reads:

Even before your baby is born, a diaper arrives on your doorsteps, courtesy of Pampers. Once he opens his eyes, his childhood will be a whirlwind of logos and ads. School will be themed with endless commercials from sponsors. His heroes and role models will encourage him to buy products. By adolescence, he will have lost most of his original thoughts and emotions; he will look for cues from the marketers who have been with him from the beginning of his life to decide how he is to look, act and feel.

One might think this is a bit of an exaggeration, but I don’t think it is. I know my own life is telling of the influence of branding on me, and even when I try to avoid being ‘branded’ my choices are at the least affected by it (even if I’m purposefully choosing the opposite). Adbusters always gets me thinking on a different level then I generally consider. They call everything into question.

So, what is the solution for us parents and us as individuals fighting the system ourselves? Imagine a new system.
I think this quote, from another page of Adbusters issue on Cool nails it on the head…

“I want to live in a world where nothing is cool, where things actually are as they appear. That would be extraordinary. I want food and a living environment that are not part of some suit’s strategic vision. Cool has betrayed all of us. I want reality.” – Jessica Masse, Maine, USA

14 thoughts on “This Is How It All Begins”

  1. I got that same diaper when Zoe was born. I had the exact same misgivings as you mention here. I thought, how can I allow someone so innocent and pure to be subjected to all of these mind-numbing things. Sure its just a diaper, but it was what it represented to me.

    If you really want to cry; sit down and watch Saturday morning cartoons with your kid

  2. Jason,

    Thanks for the comment. Definitely going to be a constant struggle I think.
    Fortunately, we don’t have a TV and I’m hoping we can avoid it for years to come, I would bet there would be some tears if I tried watching it now.

  3. I hear you on the price. Which is why those are photos from when I was looking at in at the bookstore.

    But it is completely ad-free which seems like a wise idea too.

  4. I hate the commercialization of children as well.

    What are the alternatives, however? Communal life in the wilderness, disconnected from the larger world? Sure, people have tried that, and it has worked for some. If you dig it, go for it.

    The USSR took a swing at doing away with all things capitalist it for a few years. Sure, there was no Mickey and Goofy hawking goods to babies, but there were some other, shall we say, downsides to that system.

    How about this, train up your child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. “But things are so much harder now”, some people say. Well, 1st Corinthians 10:13 says “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

    Surely advertising = temptation. Sure, there are now print ads, tv ads, computer ads, bus ads, and diaper ads that there were not before. Heck, people eBay ad space on their foreheads these days, but is the temptation any different really? The real problem is that Mickey Mouse et al is distracting from and taking the place of what really matters, which is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.

    No dis’ intended, but I think it is a little self-indulgent and prideful to see ourselves as newly put upon or assaulted by things other than holy in some special way these days. “Woe is us, it has never been so bad – look how well we rail against it!” Maybe the methods are different, but the aim is the same: to distract us from what really matters. Alas, sometimes the very reaction is what distracts us from more important things. That is, you can try so hard to be sure you are not giving in to the “cool” of the day, that you create for yourself a separate, but equally distracting and all-consuming anti-cool. The solution now is the same as it was in ancient times. You don’t need subscriptions to Adbusters to tell you what that is.

  5. Aaron,

    Thanks, I really appreciate your thoughts. Your right in that this is simply a different distraction from our true purpose in life, that every previous generation had distractions, they were just different.

    However, I don’t think that should keep us from working hard to be aware of and try and step away from and outside of those distractions.
    Simply saying ‘there’s always distractions’ and going about our business would be a poor way of addressing the affect of ‘cool’ on us as individuals, a culture, and even the church. Ignoring it, or not talking about it, does not negate the affect it has on us.

    Simply because we are all humans, created in the image of God and whose ultimate purpose and fulfillment comes through Christ, doesn’t mean that we treat and speak to all people, children, adults and elderly the same.

  6. Wow, thanks to both Ariah for the blog and to Aaron for his comment. I can’t stand the thought of what the world is going to try to do to my baby girl, and it is helpful to read things like this to keep from getting blind-sighted. And it was also so helpful to read Aaron’s response, because it is so easy to sink into despair over the omnipresence of the media – this stuff is in the air we breathe. But Aaron’s comment reminded me that we are not helpless. If God loves us and our children enough to die on a cross for us, then certainly he doesn’t leave us helpless against the powers that be. I do think things like Adbusters can be one of the tools he uses – My husband is a youth pastor at a really wealthy church in which the members are people who have been tremendously successful in the world. Just this past week a kid in the local middle school killed himself, and it sent shock waves through the church. Parents have such a hard time believing that something could really be “that bad” for one of these kids. “Kids are so over dramatic” one woman said. One of my husband’s biggest challenges in being at this church has been to try to open the eyes of the parents to the world of the youth, a world of high stress and victimization of sellers of cool and such – and that has been no small challenge. I do think we get blind-sighted, and I’m glad there exist multiple types of tools to fight against that. Thanks.

  7. klh,

    Thanks so much for your thoughts and your story. I think you are absolutely right that we as parents need to be ‘awake’ and aware of what our children our facing these days.

  8. I feel that nothing will change, we know what the problem is but it seems like were saying the problem and trying to compete with who has the “coolest” original view they see to what’s wrong with the world, like were being very deep dark and poetic. Were competing ourselves with “cool” words. And nothing is changing.

  9. Hannah is exactly right about one thing in particular – everyone is earnestly trying to rail against cool, and trying to sound really cool in the process. Heck, I know I thought my anti-cool commentary on ppl trying to sound cool as they complained about all the coolness being shoved down our throats was pretty cool, even though i later found some subject-verb disagreement, which took the cool down a couple of notches. to be fair though, I think ariah’s post and the girl’s “i want to live in a world where nothing is cool” comment was more a critique of commercial coolness, as opposed to the free stuff, like people competing to see who can sound the coolest when they complain about such commercialism.

    as for commercialism – look (and i am not just trying to sound cool here), this anti-commercial point of view is not going to win the day in a country whose economy is based on making, buying, and selling things. it won’t win in any place at any time this side of heaven, which is what we are really longing for as we react against all things ungood, unholy, and ungodly. sure, do your best to win friends and influence ppl for good, and to live better lives, and to be better to one another, but don’t expect it to become perfect here on earth, because it just won’t happen here.

  10. Thank you Jason
    My rant was nothing about the above quote.
    I like what that girl said above
    “i want to live in a world where nothing is cool”
    I think that’s just the best way to put it, simple, and although to me it does sound kind of cool i think it sounds more interesting then anything. Or I know some people probably thought it sounds different, so that girl is trying to be indie or something.
    it seems like whatever we say, the right way of saying it won’t be heard, and the wrong way (cool way) will be heard. Maybe I’m just cynical haha

  11. By the way, I don’t mean to sound flippant about that at all. this reminds me of what they like to say at my church about our tendency to try to always do right, and never do wrong, and then get all upset when we fail: “cheer up, you are so much worse of than you think, but cheer up, because the gospel is far greater than you imagine!” In other words, don’t rely on or take pride in or spend all your efforts on your “trying” to be good, because if that is where your worth is tied up, you are going to be nothing but defeated all the time. believe instead that you have nothing to bring to the table but your brokenness, and God brings the rest. so, in your struggles and concerns over commercialization, unfair coffee, making “too much” money, etc., keep in mind that no matter what you do with regard to all that, it won’t work, because what you are trying to do is to make heaven on earth. that is not to say that you should not do what is right and good, or be responsible and frugal and kind, but to realize that in spite of your efforts, all things will not be perfect here. so, cheer up!

  12. Hannah and Aaron,

    Love the dialog, it’s got me thinking, but I’m also not sure I totally agree.
    I’m not so naive as to think I can actually bring ‘perfection’ here on earth or anything, but there is still a lot we can do. I think Jesus is an example that the kingdom is both NOW and NOT YET, that is, it is something in the future to look forward to, but it is also something that is here, he embodied it, preached it and sent the Spirit to bring it also.

    That said, on the cool thing, I definitely want to avoid the ‘anti-cool’ band wagon, but I think there is some deep thinking here. That’s why it struck me, the quote, the idea that if nothing is ‘cool’ then there is no category to have to join (cool or anti-cool) but rather life and things as they are, God’s beautiful creation. I think in a small scale we can bring that sort of life to our churches and communities.

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