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It’s not a spider. October 20, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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“There’s a sucker born every minute.” This quote, usually attributed to P.T. Barnum, but actually devised by the cynical comic W.C. Fields, seems especially applicable to today’s advertising industry.

Why wouldn’t the admongers believe it, when they can sell a gullible, status-obsessed public hideous witch shoes or ugly, gargantuan watches (or knockoffs thereof) for massive chunks of the biweekly paycheck, and all in the name of fashion? If an ad shows a sexy model leaning suggestively against a car, will buying said car really turn the balding, flabby midlevel manager who purchases it into James Bond, with gorgeous women clawing each other to be his chosen partner?

Not bloody likely. But that never seems to keep these nerdy creeps from buying cars that proclaim them to be everything the buyers aren’t, or from flaunting hideous 50-pound Rolexes, or keep their wives from providing free advertising to Louis Vuitton by carrying their blatantly branded purses and luggage, or cramming their expensively manicured feet into unspeakably unflattering Manolos. All for the sake of so-called status, telling the world one simple message: “I can afford this.” 

Business as usual, or so our friend Ben thought, until Silence Dogood pointed out a full-page ad in one of her favorite magazines, Vegetarian Times. Silence had picked up the October issue of the mag when we were in scenic Nashville recently to visit family, and was dissecting it with her usual enthusiasm (“This recipe would be great if only…”) when she came upon the ad, on page 51. It showed a photo of a large black spider with the caption “Think of our environment as a deadly spider… And Flor-Essence as your antidote.”

Flor-Essence appears to be a bottle of herbal drops that you administer as a “gentle detox” and dietary supplement to keep environmental toxins at bay. Okay, okay. Our friend Ben is not about to deny the impact of pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, GMO crops, pollutants, and the pervasive use of antibiotics on livestock, not to mention extensive chemical adulteration of food products, on our health. But Silence and I were taken aback by an asterisk placed after the statement “Think of our environment as a deadly spider… And Flor-Essence as your antidote.” What the bleep?!

Turns out, the advertisers apparently think we’re even stupider than we think we are. Stupider than a stale convenience-store doughnut. Scanning down the page, Silence and I finally found a very tiny, pale asterisk beside the following very tiny, pale type, which read: ” *Please note the environment is not actually a poisonous spider. Flor-Essence is not actually a spider bite antidote. And if you get bitten by a poisonous spider you should see a doctor (fast).”

Gee. And here our friend Ben had “actually” thought the environment was a poisonous spider. This explains why I haven’t set foot outside the door of Hawk’s Haven, the cottage home I share with Silence Dogood in the precise middle of nowhere, PA, for 15 years. What if I took a breath of fresh air and found myself attacked by a poisonous spider?! Even gulping down a whole bottle of herbal detox might not save me, despite my faith in a product that made such daring claims.

Yeesh. Please, people, fight back against this ludicrous, offensive, outrageous attack on our supposed stupidity. Buy only what you need, make sure you need only what you buy, and buy local, regional, handmade, and owner-operated whenever you can. Knowing who makes or raises the supplies and produce you need creates community, and community creates a buffer against hard times. You may find that those connections make all the difference if times get even harder.

Until then, try to see ads for what they are, well-paid efforts to manipulate public and consumer opinion. Forget the Rolexes and try to put your money where it will do the most good for your family and community.

What is money? October 6, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Most of us would really like to have more money. And yet, we all know the saying “Money is the root of all evil.” But that’s a misquote. The saying, radix malorum est cupiditas, is “The love of money is the root of all evil.” Think Scrooge: someone who loves money for its own sake.

Money itself is neither good nor evil. It’s a shorthand form of exchange. It stands for something else. With money in our pocket, we don’t have to carry a cow to market over our shoulders to trade for the goods we need.

It’s important to keep that stand-in factor in mind. We don’t actually want money; we want something it stands for. Whether that’s a lovely house or a new car or a swimming pool or someone to mow our lawn or a vacation; whether it’s the ability to pay for our kids’ college or to pay the part of a much-needed medical procedure that insurance won’t cover, these are all real things. These are the things we want, not money per se.

Even the peace of mind that comes from knowing there’s something in the savings account if you get laid off or something goes wrong, though intangible, is an actual benefit. So is the good feeling that comes from knowing that you’re paying off the mortgage, putting money aside for the college fund, saving for that vacation.

Money is in essence a worthless piece of paper to which we’ve all mutually agreed to assign a surrogate value. It’s greed, the love of money for its own sake, the willingness to deprive others to take more than one’s share, that’s evil, not money.