The real slight of hand that Western consumerist culture has pulled is giving us the illusion of choice…
After reading a great blog about marketing to existentialists, I got to thinking more about the choices we make (or think we make) and how we think they define us. Fight Club was used as an example of consumerist existenialism in that post.
Another really fine example of cinematic choice is The Matrix Revolutions. Neo vs. Smith, final showdown, what’s the great epiphany that enables Neo to defeat Smith? The one thing that Smith can’t grasp in order to fully exist on his own: choice. It’s the only reason that justifies Neo’s actions and gives him meaning. It’s not freedom, peace, or love — all of which Smith defines as “vagaries of perception, the temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose.”
Neo’s purpose is a postmodern one. When reality around us is suspect and illusory, there is no truth higher than our own wills, our own existential predetermination. And as empowering as that might seem, the revelation is no less depressing. There is no higher meaning after all, no greater good worth fighting for, other than the whim of individuals.
And yet, despite the pearl of wisdom this represents, even the nature of choice reveals itself to be illusory. How can we really trust our decisions, given the stimuli driving them? There are far too many third parties with vested interests in our likes and dislikes. In a capitalist society where a free market thrives on consumers, can we really be sure that our decisions are our own?
The real slight of hand that our Western consumerist culture has pulled is giving us the illusion of choice whilst really making us look, talk, and breed the same way. One would think that with the myriad choices available to us, there would be an infinite variety of demographics. But there’s not. It’s really just three major buying blocks: 12-17, 18-35, 36+ year olds.
So just how much existence are we experiencing if in fact our perception of choice is misguided? If all of this sounds Orwellian, it should.