You may think I’m slow on the uptake when I say this. And maybe I am. But I recently came to the realization that products or lifestyles that are vigorously marketed and promoted are bad for you. You can count on it. Noisy flashy marketing equals bad. There’s no need to buy media campaigns for fresh air, clean water and sunshine. We all know these are good for us.
I’ve wondered where guidance toward a healthy and meaningful life is to come from these days. I’ve searched for trustworthy leadership and practical guides for living. With families scattered and the cultural shift from stable multi-generational communities to shifting peer groups, there’s nothing out there in the way of leadership or guidance. Instead, we’re given profit-driven marketing and behavioral training in the guise of education, news and entertainment.
If you’re well-tied to the web through electronic communication devices, you may already be on top of this situation. In an attempt to dodge the main blast of American culture, I turned off broadcast media ten years ago. My mobile phone is only a phone.
But the media-dictated script for the “American Dream” is woven into me and my life. I spent the first 45 years of my existence media-saturated. Even without the last ten years of broadcast media, I’m immersed in the Dream. Everyone around me races after the Dream. The Dream leaks in.
When I was trapped and running as fast as I could on the American Dream hamster-wheel of debt till death, I didn’t have the time to pause and look beneath at the hidden gears. And the gruesome underbelly of the American Dream nightmare isn’t portrayed openly through our for-profit corporate-owned media channels.
Now that I’ve stopped running after the Dream, I have time to look more closely at what’s being sold to us. Everything, from cheap Chinese goods to the vehicles and fuels upon which our American Dream depends, is built from horrifying realities.
It hasn’t paid me to scuff below the surface shine on the American dream. Whenever I look behind the veil of marketing at the real costs to myself, other living beings and the planet, I’m less able to participate in the race for the Dream.
Perhaps it’s better not to look. Maybe I should find a job, buy a new car and borrow a fresh mortgage. I’m told that interest rates are at a historical low. Now would be a good time to tie on fresh shackles of debt. There are plenty of foreclosed properties out there.
But I’ve been burnt too many times already by well-marketed ideas. I was trapped for decades by “good” debt for education and real estate. I was sold on pharmaceutical breakthroughs, insurance protection schemes and automobiles.
We’re sold a constantly shifting “American Dream” by immortal and amoral private profit corporations. These companies control the majority of financial wealth on the planet. In this post-industrial money-based society, he who controls the money, controls everything. The corporate “he” behind the American Dream machine will outlive all of us without radical changes in the laws with which we granted him immortality and human rights.
The only trustworthy guidance I’ve found so far comes from a quiet place inside me. And I can only hear this when I turn off the media noise, stop running after the Dream and wake up.
Don’t go back to sleep.
Thanks for reading, thinking and writing.
Alice de Saavedra Keys MD
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.