We’re born with a lot of our choices made for us: we’re on earth; not somewhere else. We have arms; not wings. Fingers; not a hoof. Eyes; but in front, not behind, not to the sides …
Still, we have lots of choices: we could study for the test, or have another martini, or, smoke a joint instead.
What kills me about our culture is what killed Ivan Illich: inspired him to write about radical monopoly. My father could walk downtown, or take the subway, or ride a bicycle. In Manhattan he wasn’t likely to drive a car, but he certainly could take a taxi. Whether in Manhattan or Brooklyn or on Nassau County, he wasn’t likely to fly: that remains true today, though rich people can catch a helicopter from the roof of the PanAm Building. What the culture dedicates itself to though is reducing real choices while illuminating brand choices. General Motors spends billions to get us to think that Chevy instead of Ford is an important choice. Kleenex, instead of the store brand tissue. Coke, instead of Pepsi.
The culture has degenerated even further since Illich published his observations, from the late 1960s and on through the 1970s: when the culture’s opposition to allowing great thinking / great writing to be published caught up with and overcame publishers’ profit and public taste. What I marvel at that’s new in the past few decades is the strides institutional monopolies have made in channeling feedback and bending it into flattery. It’s very much like what the Church did to Dark Age Europe: If the priest buggered your kid, knocked up your wife, and you said anything, it got published in Church annals as: “Vito is eternally grateful that our precious priests have assured the souls of him and his family bliss in eternity.”
In jail I was sent to a halfway house run by the Salvation Army. They had a hierarchy of Christian storm-troopers to torture Christ’s real disciples. First thing I read posted on the wall where I entered was a report card: on the Salvation Army, written by Salvation Army. It told how God would find that they had done a great job: couldn’t be improved on.
We don’t need God’s Judgment; we’re already had the institutions own obit shoved up our nose.
These days any institutions tries the same trick.
Here I satirize the tendency, where choice becomes multiple choice, a la the school system, with its false testing.
(I pick on that devil’s disciple, Walmart:)
1 You are very satisfied with our servcie at WalMart, and wish to offer flattery.
2 You are very satisfied with our prices at WalMart, and wish to give your change to the clerk.
3 You are very satisfied with the quality of our goods at WalMart, and wish to make a flattering suggestion.
4 You are very satisfied with the convenience of WalMart’s location, and would like to vow to train your children to shop at WalMart no matter the service, the prices, the goods, the location.