Friday, June 11, 2010

The Archdruid Report

JMG rocks. This week he mentions that his whole purpose with this blog was to look at the competing mythologies of the cornucopians and the doomers with regard to industrial society. Turns out, this is what I really like about his writing. There are at least two layers to any problem, and oil/resources are one of them.

1) The underlying Reality. Kant's pneumena, God's truth. Whatever that is. For oil, there is a number of barrels underground. For water in the Ogalalla, there is a number of gallons. How fat and sugar are metabolized.

2) The way a culture understands the problem. How knowledge is socially constructed. The mythologies they use to understand it. For us it is the doomers' apocalypse, the cornucopian's progress, Americans' protestant ethic as a thought framework.

Dealing with any problem effectively means pulling apart these two layers and dealing with each one separately. BUT, it is tremendously difficult to do this because every investigator has his/her own mythologies, politics, moralities, social constructions of knowledge. And each one of us needs to be relentlessly self-critical to strip our own mythology from any underlying reality. This is what people mean when they say reality is anything you want it to be. When you strip all that stuff away, reality turns out to be pretty slippery.

Marketers learned a long time ago to ignore the reality and focus on the second part. The mythology, the emotion, the social construction matters FAR MORE than any underlying (T)ruth. That is why Sears is a credit card company, Buck knives, Schwinn bikes, and everything else is manufactured overseas. Because focusing on the branding is culture work, social psychological construction and alteration of the entire culture. The products are afterthoughts.

Nevertheless, we the buying public have a tremendously difficult time recognizing our own emotional and social psychological manipulation. Try getting a hippy or college professor to recognize that their Subaru is every bit as emotional purchase as Sara Palin's Hummer. Or a doctor who likes his Mercedes. Hell, it's hard to get people to realize that the colors in advertisements are market tested to get the perfect emotional response. So getting a deeply rational physician recognizing his Merc and his Rolex as status symbols is hard. Physicians think their rational. They think Mercs and Rolexes are built well. Hippies think Subarus are awesome. Sara Palin thinks her Hummer is 'safe.'

And every market research sales meeting I ever sat in, the client wanted to know "How can we dig deep into the emotional drivers of behavior? The psychology of it?"

So to bring the cow round back to the barn, trying to understand the (T)ruth of our resource situation, as per oil or water is tremendously difficult because it means cutting through the mythology in which people's perception of the truth of those situations are. And how do I know when my own mythology regarding the truth is clouding my reading the (T)ruth?

The Archdruid Report

1 comment:

Tommy Krenshaw said...

Knowing this, is there a way to "lead" people back to reality by using the same sort of tactic? In other words, if we know that marketing triggers produce results amongst the masses, can't we use the same triggers to promote sustainability, sensible living, or even purposeful living?

Is this ethical, or should we be relying on people to make their own decisions?