Perception Is Reality

The Tyranny Of choice

Posted on: December 26, 2007

As the Twelve Steppers say, we must acknowledge our powerlessness. We cannot knowledgeably make even a fraction of the appropriate choices available. Say it out loud. Today I will make several wrong choices. Now, whether you’ve selected an inferior vacuum cleaner, bought the large soda when the jumbo was a better deal, or accidentally prayed to the wrong god – forgive yourself. If we took some joy in being bad choosers, or at least placed less value on being stellar consumers of unimportant things, we would be training ourselves to accept a few extra drops of imperfection in our lives. Somehow, that would seem more like progress than having the choice between polyproylene arch brace contours and a solar-powered argyle.

Steven Waldman, my friends.

Over the past four months I’ve been studying advertising and its effects and roots in our North American society. Over the course, I have read from authors possibly down a couple centuries about the consumer culture. Many authors have talked about the benefits of advertising, such as giving us the ability to make informed decisions; while on the other hand, many authors claim this as a myth, stating that with puffery and imagery, we are dumbed down even more. I believe that since advertising impacts people at individual levels making each consumer a unique (and important) addition to the consumer culture, the judgement as to whether ads really dumb down or help make decisions about buying the correct product lies in the hands of these unique members of this society. Needless to say, history shows how the FDA and similar organizations give way to the big fishes in corporate America, knowingly allowing them to exploit the loopholes in policies, leaving major repercussions to be felt in the American society.

 Another imporant observation is the bleeding of consumer culture, a very, purely American thing – well, until recently – into third world countries such as Pakistan. By the way, it should be important to add here that advertising and the culture has already risen above the boundaries of ethnic demographics (although targeted advertising is a major, effective practice). I call this supervening, superceeding repercussions. All over we are now starting to see private fashion labels, advertising following the patterns of the American style (Create a problem or need, provide a solution), with images and extravagant claims which float viewers up to cloud number nine and therefore, need to have certain products or service. The important of family life is being targeted in advertisements by the services sector (financial stability, credit cards, cars and houses, loans, etc.), individuality by certain products which appeal to the self (such as an imported, branded colognes), the sense of belonging by minimal advertising (niche coffee bars and cafes), and so on. Already, this is reminiscent of Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs.

My question to you – and think about this – is where do we draw the line between wants and needs? Is there a difference between wants and desires?


2 Responses to "The Tyranny Of choice"

such as giving us the ability to make informed decisions; while on the other hand, many authors claim this as a myth, stating that with puffery and imagery, we are dumbed down even more.
First I have to say as an adverstising student and a member of the largest consumer demographic and in a cross section of two other ones I can’t say that advertising really does that much educating, when I finish watching a commercial I don’t feel smarter especially with the political pomp floating around. But I might feel irritated, or sexy, or moved, or appreciative, or silly (in that it sparks a series of one liners around my house). But not informed. So maybe I am just too cynical and am not looking with the right eye.

second, TO ANSWER THE LAST QUESTION, we don’t rarely in America do we. Not even in notoriusly poorer classes….. where the choice between fresh kicks and saving for college should be clearer. But we should draw it around advancement what do you need to get through the day…. but we don’t know ourselves we keep letting others dictate who we are.

I know that’s been said before but it is still true
Love your blog, I will be back

Hi Genesia,

Thank you for your input. It tis rare that I get some like yours. I have to agree with you, it does leave a peculiar feeling inside me. But over time, I’ve learned to look at ads from a point of view where I am no longer a viewer, I am the creator and I am looking at how good a job I have done. Honestly, this is what university has done to me. I can no longer enjoy ads and magazines for what they are: I start analyzing them in my mind.

Again, I have to agree to what you said. Just last night I was trying really hard to make a few friends understand how naive they sounded when they acted like they knew everything there was to know about Politics (among other tthings) because they kept up with the news and what the news tells you is always true. Agreed, news gives you stats but the analysis is never neutral. It involves not only the individual analyzing a situation, but also the institution and political leanings of the financier of that institution.

Sorry I guess I went off topic. But thankyou very much for your comment and by all means, please check back soon 🙂

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About the Author…

Born in Karachi, Pakistan in an Adventist hospital, I grew up in a city where on one side I experienced poverty and oppression, while on the other I had the good fortune of Tabish Bhimani being a member of an upper middle-class business family...more...

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