Merging and Purging : A Developing Story

by V.A. Caminiti

The merge lane was marked very clearly and visible from both the freeway and the meter controlled entrance.  Not a law, but in actuality, instructions for conduct.  So why is this guy in the blue pick-up truck hugging the bumper of the car in front of him? Why isn’t he permitting me to move onto the highway in the same way the driver in front of him yielded to the car that preceded mine?  More importantly though, how have I gone from the bliss of Zen to seeing ‘Red’ in mere seconds?  Why has my serene enjoyment of John Mayer’s ‘Stop This Train’ in magnificent fidelity been replaced by envisioning retaliation in some twisted homicidal Walter Mitty daydream?

The answer may be a sad commentary on humanity, but it is not elusive.  We’re humans.  We’re a developing species. We are territorial, tribal and often unreasonable.  We exist with so much solitude in our tons of moving steel as though we are anonymous – much as a costume party – and we act territorial and primitive as though our automobile were a cave and other drivers are intruders.  The chain reaction is as social a phenomenon as the contagion of yawning.  Before long the freeway has become the sad scene of competitive rudeness and anti-social behavior that would send us racing a child to a team of Ritalin dispensing psychiatrists should they exhibit this type of behavior on a school play-ground. We’re also creatures of habit, good ones and bad ones and we confuse feelings with facts. We become intellectually and spiritually lazy when we simply react instead of taking the responsibility to examine the consequences of our actions in a socially responsible way. 

On the other hand, we’re cognitive social beings with the ability to reason and innately improve our surroundings and our species.  It seems though; there is something that is disrupting our progression. Many believe it is the 24/7 sensory smorgasbord enticing us to feast habitually and ultimately overwhelming our ability to reason.  My observations put me in the column of those that concur. Not unlike celebrity endorsements of products, marketing is a valuable tool of capitalism, but there are techniques of marketing that have been deemed as an unfair manipulation of man’s mind.  Most of my generation (when the US lead in world education standards) learned of the outlawed practices of overt subliminal advertising – although actual tests revealed that the conclusions were false, the public outcry was overwhelming – believing that signs flashed  for a nanosecond on a movie screen to ‘buy popcorn’  were actually effective. 

This reaction to James Vicary’s claims, foremost by Vance Packard in his book “The Hidden Persuaders” led to global condemnation in 1958 of a practice that wasn’t borne out by science but did conveniently mesh with ideological fear monger’s claims of insidious communism looming in sleeper cells throughout the world.  This was possible because even the most reasonable person didn’t require massive testing to deduce that bombarding individuals with multi-sensory images of any product or thought would result in, at the very least, familiarity. And, to that end, familiarity, unto itself, does not necessarily breed contempt but it often breeds acceptance. So naturally the opportunity to use this as collateral to support the concept of the ‘Red Menace’ was a viable tool to many.

It is the job of public relations firms to work the channels of acceptance to the point that the line between truth and fiction becomes blurred to the extent that people vociferously campaign against their own best interests. This is considered a major success when accomplished and is employed by corn-syrup laden soft-drink peddlers, non-nutritious convenience food makers and scores of companies selling essentially tap water in plastic bottles.  The image of two bath tubs will for the next  ten years indelibly represent  the transformation of dysfunction into a four-hour erection , just as a twenty-year  concerted assault on the word ‘Liberal’ has transformed it into a pejorative and deny it as the basic philosophy of every major religion in the modern world. 

The provocateurs posing as news analysts and worthy commentators, quite often use their visibility, as a launching pad for the marketing of ideology, and in 15 years created an industry of allegedly conservative talk into a multi-billion dollar business that essentially benefits from controversy.  Many believe it is simply propaganda driven by the oligarchy that controls it.  On the other hand, many of us believe that it is not about the specific ideology, but about the wealth that can be amassed by ostensibly promoting an irrelevant orthodoxy – that above all else – must result in deep controversy.  The result has been an annuity, powered by team sportsmanship and the duped are lulled into jingoistic ranting that defies logic since the meat on the bone is generally no more than meaningless sayings or slogans that are ill-advised or simply inconsistent with their own self interests … i.e. the recent ‘Tea Bagging’ farce.Hence, we are a ‘nation of laws’ not a ‘nation of gold’.

This is the perplexing nexus that provides cover for the most desperate capitalists.  Those, for instance, that systematically transformed our financial centers into casinos over decades of obfuscation and herding public support with dreams of wealth as carrots on sticks. But, in actuality, the wealth was cleverly disguised debt with the illusion of prosperity.  The realization that a misguided lust for wealth transformed the offspring of Rosie-the-Riveter and G.I. Joe into the pawns that owe the company store more than they can repay is most alarming.  Moreover, the massive sensory assault of the marketers has managed to persuade a large segment of society to cheer for the very powers that have enslaved Americans with inescapable debt, compound cynicism and a disquieting disregard for our responsibility as good neighbors and fellow humans.

This ubiquitous toxicity is not without an antidote, and it is heartening that young and fresh minds around the world are beginning to cease the reign of avarice by seizing the reins of influence and exposing the danger of complacency when people start realizing that ‘fat, dumb and happy’ is not a goal but a terminal diagnosis. The ‘usual suspects’ have to redouble their marketing efforts to the emerging demographic that is no longer pleased with suppressed self-esteem in lieu of designer jeans and a Maitre D’ that knows their name; or, owning  a ridiculously impractical automobile that not only is wasteful and harmful – but is a part of story of how we’ve been shirking humanity. 

This is not only an introspective …  just look around.  Have you seen the antique thinking that still roams a significant number of corridors in our government? Have you listened to the treasonous rhetoric from relics that have been placed in elective office by defective voting practices and a political street game that is tantamount to a rigged roulette wheel?  This is not a politically convenient observation for the abuses are on both sides of the aisle, but it is refreshing that the there is some change we can believe in and it’s starting to come through the door. 

History will most likely treat the ‘Right’ very harshly for fronting for the Oligarch’s coup of our American National government.  Some of the dinosaur citizens will continue to repeat manufactured arguments, just short of denying the holocaust,  because they have been addicted to a certain news station on their car radios during drive time.  The continuous banter that FDR was a socialist, reviving arguments that were debunked before Joe McCarthy was elected Senator from Wisconsin in 1946. 

Yet the dwindling loyalist royalists clamor like street car bells on Market Street; repeating baseless commentary of feckless commentators instead of thinking independently and rationally; thereby,  personifying P.T. Barnum’s observation – ‘There’s a sucker born every minute’ – and punctuating it by judging patriotism by the number of times a showman says ‘God Bless America and the Troops’ and by counting the number of flag pins on his very expensive suit. A nation whose bittersweet history is built on the backs of immigrants and aliens, with complex problems that cannot be resolved with silly slogans and crowds cheering an unlicensed plumber turned inconvenient celebrity or political pundits and politicians that haven’t dealt with the fact that everything they’ve said in the last twenty years is digitized and available in 5 seconds with internet access or even a cell-phone and Google.   To argue for archaic and primitive torture of other human beings is to deny ourselves the very thing we cherish, freedom.

There was a popular movie a few years ago, ‘Pay It Forward.’  It seemed the message was a universal and not very original idea. In fact, it seemed quite consistent with what my family instilled in me as a child.  My parents were practicing humans without the plethora of vices that I came to be fond.  They taught us the distinction between ‘want’ and ‘need.’  Faith, Hope and Charity were life principles, not slogans. Plastering the American Flag on a container for keeping beer cold would be tantamount to using my childhood glow-in-the-dark Rosary beads as sling shot.  Surely I disagreed with parents on scores of issues as generational and even principled responsibility, but always with respect … well mostly.  And that seems to be the most important element of any disagreement; respect.  Thomas Jefferson based an entire thesis on this essential concept and without respect, there is no dialogue; and without a dialogue, there is no learning. 

So the next time I get on the freeway, I’m going to remember what I wrote here today and quell my primitive longings to impale someone’s head and carry it on a stick and when I get cut off or shut out, I’m going to resist the urge to pursue the offender and mete out justice by paying it backward and cutting him off (or even just daydreaming about it) and I’m going to turn up John Mayer or maybe listen to Jim Lehrer instead.  I’m going to continue to think a little more each day how I can make a difference and break more of the bad habits I’ve given refuge to in my very being; and I’m going to think of ways to express myself that aren’t about ad hominem attacks on my detractors but a well reasoned response that will encourage a dialogue, instead of a scrimmage.  I hope you’ll join me; even if we disagree, we’ll learn.

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4 Responses

  1. Hi, good post. I have been thinking about this issue,so thanks for sharing. I’ll definitely be subscribing to your blog.

  2. Hi, cool post. I have been thinking about this topic,so thanks for sharing. I will certainly be coming back to your blog. Keep up the good posts

  3. A fine posting. Not for nuttin’ but it made me think back driving for a season in the fine state of Massachusetts and how many times with similar “merging” attempts, this hominoid weakness you described was manifested.
    A great society is not formed in a day. I agree that the wave of change must ultimately emanate from the person level. I wonder if using the vehicles of modern communication to responsibly to steer that wave does not come with the dichotomy of a thread pulling on the very freedom to communicate as well as the veracity and intent of the bulletin itself.
    The previous American Federal administration clearly demonstrated how using the hysteria of an attack (the car that cut you off) generated license to implement public sentiment fueled by the so called protectors of truth, which changed the very lanes you are traveling. If you are outside the lines then you are anti government or anti-freedom even though yesterday the lane seemed wider.
    It is one thing to simply wait your turn in the merge line (or longer) with your pop music mish-mash CD turned up while your mood ring is glowing. It is another when the very law that implements the “instructions for conduct” is changed underneath you with one wave of a Copperfield wand so you unknowingly are in violation even if you don’t agree or worse not afforded the opportunity to object (…shades of Gitmo).
    Perhaps the sinusoidal function of decency and truth in administration is climbing back to a positive vertex one person at a time and is — on purpose — running out of phase with the ‘sheep-cloaked” hate mongers.
    I will join your ‘pay it forward’ quest and continue to instruct my children in the principles of self-governance; do it right and do it because it is right.

    • I’m thrilled to see your comment and the sentiment. There were though, at least 5 different metaphors you originated in your missive that would each, singularly support an entire article.

      This Sunday – one of the key oligarchs in the campaign th move us from reason back to disruption will be on Face the Nation. That is to say former VP Dick Cheney, most notable for poll numbers less than that of colon cancer, is once again, invited to talk smack and campaign for “knee-jerk annihilation” of other humans because they scare us. It is most disturbing that CBS and other media outlets (Fox is eliminated for this criticism since they couldn’t make it more clear that they are a neo-con beacon, first and foremost) offer the United States’ worst VP a bully pulpit to spread acrimony and to hurl neo-con feces and other talking points of the extremists for whom he has famously carried water for nearly 20 years.

      At least I can write more letters to the show, the show’s sponsor and to the host Bob Schieffer, voicing my discontent and why their losing my business. When Tom Delay, Karl Rove, Dick Morris and other famous sociopaths are invited on other shows I frequent – dozens of letters get sent. At the very least it is a good cathartic.

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