Do you like free stuff?

I’m going into my local convenience store, to purchase some delicious tobacco products. I’m minding my own business, that’s all, just minding my own business. All I want is to complete my transaction, and then go about my happy little way.

Call it a failure of my usual shill filter, call it what you will; but I am suddenly hyper-aware of the marketing efforts around me. It would seem that if I would only elect to purchase an extruded meat product made from the lips and assholes of diseased farm animals, nestled in a bread product that was crafted from wheat from which every trace of nutrition has been blasted, that I can receive for free! chips made from corn that the gods themselves have forsaken, slathered in something that only a demented mad scientist would deem to call a cheese sauce. Yummy!

And then this is what I am wondering: how did things go this far? How on earth did everything get so tacky, tasteless and base? And then it occurs to me, at the soul of my being, where I really live, I hate it here. And then I started to notice just how much of the world I am actively filtering out. And then I opened my self. I said “now I am going to notice how things really are”.

My friends, I am here to tell you that there is not one of my senses that I do not instinctively filter. Things look ugly, smell bad, are loud and annoying, the air itself tastes foul and all of the surfaces that I touch are sticky or nasty. What I am saying is that if we really pay attention to the world that we are moving through, that it is vile.

And I can’t help but wonder how we let this happen. How did we take this precious blue and green oasis in the desert of space, and turn it into a wasteland of parking lots, payday loan centers, furniture stores, malls, car dealerships, pawn shops, McDonalds, and so forth and so on and so forth and so on.

Fuck. Someone beam me up, because being here just sucks.

I like it where* I *am.

Sounds like you need a vacation. I reccomend downtown Los Angeles.


Perhaps you’d rather live with a herd of gorillas?

Or perhaps you think that there was some mythical, idyllic time in human history in which things were not “vile.” Well… no. Every age in human history has had a host of vile, ugly problems. That’s curse of not being created perfect.

We’re working on it.

I’ve had that feeling, too. Despair at the utter and complete crassness of urban North American culture. Everything reduced to its lowest commonality, obtrusive, insulting advertising, too loud too stupid too ugly too much.

Watching television does this to me. 7-11s exemplify it.

The only solution is to find a some trees and birds and flowers and go sit amid them and be quiet.

i, as a taosit, believe that if you really pay attention to the world around you, you will see how beautiful it is. you should read this. i think that you had the same reaction that the buddha had in the story.

I agree with Savannah– Not all civilization is like this. What the OP described was distinctly North American (United States for the most part). THIS is the vile, disgusting world that nearly unfettered capitalism brings us. Yes, other parts of the world are racing to catch up with our wretchedness, it’s true. It’s also very, very sad.

And let me preclude any bullshit comments that one of the mewing sheeple may bring along: I’d leave the country if could, but t’s not that easy. I’d very much prefer to STAY in the USA and have all the worthless, materialistic bullshit flushed out along with all the lemmings who blindly consume it.

Some day we’ll get the USA back. I hope.

The US of A does not = The World. I can be in pure wilderness within a couple of hours from where I am right now.

Oh, sure - just teeming with fer-de-lances, dengue-invested mosquitos and big, hurty, Paraponera ants.

Okay, better than Burger King - but still :p.

  • Tamerlane

Err…uhh…infested. Though I suppose if I were a mosquito I might invest in dengue futures - always money to be made from misery ;).

  • Tamerlane

Venomous and disease-ridden, perhaps, but not “tacky, tasteless, and base!”

Now there are some orchids, mind you, that are quite tacky.

This pretty much sums up a month I spent camping in a swamp in Gabon during the rainy season a couple of years ago. In particular, the first bit perfectly describes the goddam frikken elephants that infested the place. :smiley:

Dude. I have bad news. You live in Seattle, which is, comparatively, one of the best cities in the US.

It can get much worse.

So…tobacco good. Hotdogs and chips bad? I think you have your outrage-o-meter mis-calibrated.

Not that I have anything against adults smoking as much as they want but if you’re going to be angry about things being advertised that’s poison to the human body…

I wonder if any of that has to do with tobacco.

Well yeah, everything sucks, but that’s the nature of existence. It’s the nature of reality. People grow old and senile. Food rots. Metal rusts. On the larger scale, entropy ensues, meaning that the semi-random effects of chaos tend toward degradation of everything involved. Human nature is, for most, inherently self-serving, and it takes a conscious effort to act in opposition to that, which is nigh-impossible to maintain on a constant basis; ergo, people are assholes. We concede that nothing’s perfect; there are flaws to be found in everything if one looks hard enough. The human mind is incapable of total trust, so everyone lies to everyone else, and even if that weren’t so, the mind can’t read itself well enough for anyone to reveal all their own truths anyway, so you can never form a complete connection with another human being. What relationships do exist between us inevitably contain misunderstanding and untruth, even if unintentional and even if unrecognized. Eternal optimism breeds eternal disappointment, and eternal pessimism carries the bittersweet confidence that one is right a disproportionately great amount of the time. Shit sucks, and everything is shit. All of these are tendecies I acknowledge as being generally true of the universe in which we live.

The way I see it, there are a few ways to deal with this.

Number one, you can decide life is pointless and shoot yourself in the head. Somewhat obviously, I have chosen to reject this path. I figure that either humanity was granted consciousness, not necessarily for any particular reason but at least because of something, in which case we are what we are and I might as well experience whatever that is that for whatever it’s worth; or else consciousness is an illusion (don’t know how that’d work but I can’t reject it as a possibility), in which case the truth of reality is inherently impossible for humans to believe, so I might as well ignore that possibility entirely and pretend I’m a sentient being. Thus, I continue to persist.

Number two, you can tend toward escapism. This is the popular choice among those who recognize the problem but are A) too weak-minded to process it to any sort of satisfactory conclusion, or B) too weak-willed to implement any sort of proactive method to deal with it, up to and including Option One. Escapism can be sought through many paths. You can drown your consciousness with alcohol. You can alter it with drugs. You can devote your entire being toward a practical goal (getting money, solving math problems, collecting rocks, etc.) in an attempt to ensure that you never have time to think about any abstractions. You can seek out the higher power of your choice and convince yourself that, whatever you may believe to be true, there’s somebody/something perfect out there that will make sure everything’s okay in the end (NOTE: before anyone yells at me about that, please understand that I have no problems with the concept of religion in general; merely the use of it as a method to run away from the fuckedupness of one’s life. Once you understand that, by all means, feel free to yell at me at your leisure). There are so many methods of escape that I could never possibly list them all. The common bond between them, though, is the desire to avoid, through their implementation, the abstract thoughts that flow unbidden through the inner recesses of the mind, forcing us all to contemplate, if only for the briefest of moments, the truths of our own existence. Personally, I like thinking about this crap, so escapism’s a no-go for me.

Number three, you can decide that everyone sucks, and become a sociopath. I’m not a fan of this option either. It’s just as much of a cop-out as escapism, but with the side disadvantage of no longer caring if you harm other people who aren’t you. Furthermore, it’s illogical. Clearly you believe yourself to be capable of creating and maintaining beliefs contrary to the dystopia you believe the world to be, at least enough to recognize that the stuff you think sucks sucks. So, if sociopathy is your conclusion, your mental process must either be that the people around you aren’t the same sort of being that you are – in which case, I’d quite like to hear your explanation of the perceived differences of inherent structure and process – or else that you are simply so far superior in depth, scope, and complexity of awareness than everyone else that you are entitled to consider them inconsequential, in which case I suggest that you read a fucking book and get over yourself.

Number four, you can enter the wide world of pessimism. You concede that other people may be borderline acceptable (at least, enough so to merit your acknowledgement of their sentience, you generous person you), but that’s about it. Furthermore, everything else is pretty crappy too. Hell, why bother doing anything? You could try something, but you’d just fail, and even if you didn’t, the end result would end up sucking anyway, so you might as well not. You think about ending it all, but that takes too much work, and besides, death probably sucks as much as life. You expend only the minimum effort required for basic sustenance, and spend the rest of the day wallowing in a bottomless pool of self-pity and despair, until eventually you die. Hmm…uh, no. I’ll not do that. That’s okay. But thanks for asking.

Number five, you can delude yourself into thinking that things are, for the most part, pretty darned okay. Become an optimist at heart, and enter into each of your endeavors with the best of intentions, confident that if you simply try hard enough and your heart’s in the right place, in the end, things will turn out right as rain. You can do this if you like. Enjoy getting shit on, taken advantage of, and ending up wholly and devastatingly disappointed in 90% of everything you ever do. If you can actually manage to fool yourself thoroughly enough to honestly believe it’s working, and keep up the charade until you die, you might succeed at being kinda sorta happy. But geez, what an empty-ass life. You’d have to make sure you never really thought about anything for too long. Me, I can’t pretend that everything is great when faced every day with so much evidence to the contrary.

Last, but not least, there is my own outlook of choice. It’s my personal attempt at creating the best of both worlds. The key, you see, is to act as though one is an optimist…but in truth, one retains a pessimistic mindset at all times. You see something new; you know it’s probably going to suck…try it anyway! You notice an opportunity; you’re sure it’s just going to end up blowing up in your face…take it! You meet somebody; more than likely they’re just another vapid automaton, or if not, they’ll probably try to take advantage of you somehow…go talk to 'em, and try to make a friend! It’s all about the big picture. If you’re a pessimist, you acknowledge that your life is probably going to suck anyway, right? In that case, what harm have you done if you engage in a few endeavors that turn out for the worse? When you do get hosed – which will, in all likelihood, be pretty often – you can just shrug your shoulders, say “Well, I knew that was coming”, and get on with life. But – and here’s the kicker – on the rare occasion that something actually turns out very, very RIGHT…well, hallelujah and glory be! Something good! What a surprise! That’s so totally kickass awesome, I can hardly believe it! Woohoo! What a great fucking day to be alive! For that moment, my friend, you will know the meaning of happiness.

I heartily recommend my mindset. When you’re sufficiently well-practiced at it, you eventually reach a point where you’re utterly immune to getting totally and completely screwed. It was as a direct result of this mindset that when, the very day – 24 hours – after I purchased my shiny not-so-new car that I scrimped and pinched and saved $7000 over the course of the past five years for, I was run off of the interstate by a psychotic bitch who slammed the gas and fled the scene as I spun out and smashed into the guardrail thereby totalling the car on which I knew full well I had only liability insurance, my very first action – and there are witnesses who can attest to this – was to step out of the car, survey the damage, shake my head, raise my hands to the sky…and laugh. I laughed so hard I shook. I laughed so hard tears fell down my cheeks. I raised my fist, spun around 360 degrees, and gave the universe one big fat all-encompassing thumbs-up. I laughed for a good ten minutes before I bothered to call the cops. Never once did I get angry. Why? Because I knew damn well something like that was going to happen. I invested five fucking years of my life into getting that car. No way in hell reality was going to let me get away with that scot-free. Thing was, I figured I’d probably blow a tire or something, and I thought it would take at least a month or so. But nope, twenty-four hours and totalled. Good one, universe. Damned good. Funniest thing I’d seen in quite some time. See, it just wouldn’t have done me any good to get angry. Instead, I laughed, paid to have the wreckage towed, got my grandparents to get me a loan and send me the payment book, and bought a new car in about a month. Hasn’t screwed me over yet, but I’m waitin’.

Same deal when I joined the military. I was going to be a linguist in the Air Force. I was going to spend two years on the beautful beaches of Monterey, CA, learning the fascinating and challenging Chinese language, after which I’d spend two years doing compelling intelligence and translation work somewhere else I’d never been. During the course of this, I was going to complete my bachelor’s degree, and quite possibly start work on a Master’s. When I was done, I was going to take my degree, my linguistics training, and my Top Secret security clearance, get a job as a corporate translator for mucho moolah, finish my Master’s, and use the extra money from my job to get the Freedom of Thought Movement off the ground. So, back in May, I said goodbye to friends and family and headed off to San Antonio for basic training…where I promptly sustained a lifelong injury to my knee and was summarily booted with no benefits whatsoever, returning to Roanoke with no job, no money, nowhere to live, and no future. Ah well. Once again, that was gonna happen. The greater amount of myself invested into something, the greater amount of screwed-itude that comes pouring out of the gigantic hose that hangs perpetually over the whole of humanity. No sense in getting depressed about it. I slept on my friend’s parents’ couch for a while, got a job, convinced my dad to move back into our old apartment together, and here I am.

Anyway, anecdotes aside, the mindset works. By keeping low expectations, you’re rarely disappointed, and yet, you don’t allow said expectations to affect the actions you choose to undertake. You pretend everything is going to kick ass. When it doesn’t, you say “oh well”, because you knew better anyway. And when it does…well, you’re just the happiest motherfucker under the sun. Everybody loves a pleasant surprise.

In short (heh), everything does suck…but keep your chin up. There’s some good in some stuff sometimes. You just have to wait for it, make sure you take advantage of it when it comes, and savor it for every second you possibly can.

Without going quite as far as either you or the OP, I would agree that a lot of American mass-market commercialism has a pretty ugly affect. The columnist Paul Graham (who has a lot of interesting ideas, some of which however I consider to be complete bullshit) offered some suggestions about why that’s so. See what you think:

You got that right.

You should have never put on those sunglasses

Now you are gonna have to have a half hour fight with Keith David.

Marketing efforts? In a convenience store? How shocking!

Lips and anuses are legally meat byproducts. Under US law, beef hot dogs made with beef byproducts must be clearly labeled as such, in letters of the same size and style as the word beef. Diseased farm animals? You know they are diseased how exactly? the FDA and other authorities didn’t present the sale of diseased meat why exactly?

This is shocking or vile why?

We came down from the trees. You want tacky and tasteless? Look at pictures of the original paint jobs of Roman statues.

No it isn’t. I’m with Comrade33. I do pay atention to the world and find it to be a wondrous place. Chocolate was once the sole property of Aztec royalty. Then, it belonged only to the kings of certain European countries. Sale of seeds or recipes were punishable by death. Now, I can go to the local kwik e mart and buy chocolate ice cream, chocolate cake, chocolate milk, and chocolate candies of countless varieties.

I don’t see vile marketing. I see an abundance of marvellous foods.

Again, you’re romanticizing the past. You’d find a marketplace in Ur to be just as vile.

A lot of what the OP rants against comes from the fact that, through most of the U.S., the car is king. I had the same thought–walking down the corridor at work and happening to glance out the window of an office I was passing by, I noticed the I-105 far below me. And below that, running parallel underneath, was the Imperial Highway. How much of our world has turned to concrete and asphalt, to accommodate the automobile? The tacky billboards, strip malls, and signs are also there to be noticed by motorists, and not pedestrians. Did you ever notice that it’s actually awkward to look at a billboard when you’re walking? Or maybe then you’re just paying more attention to other things.