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“Everybody Knows”

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded;
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed.
Everybody knows the war is over;
Everybody knows the good guys lost.
Everybody knows the fight was fixed;
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich.
That's how it goes...
Everybody knows.

So Leonard Cohen put it, and so I've discovered in discussing the renegade message. Everybody already knows it all — they know that ads lie and that we buy too much crap and that very little of it is a wise purchase or even a good value. They know that we spend money we don't have on things we don't need even if we have to borrow it... even if we have to lie to borrow it; even if we have to lie to ourselves to borrow it. They know that it's bad to keep spending all your money, especially on crap someone told you defines a life worth living.

But they keep doing it anyway.

Everybody knows that the world is nothing like the fantasyland portrayed by ads.  Everybody knows that marketing exists solely to manipulate us... but of course everybody knows it only works on stupid and gullible people. Everybody knows that it's all one big whirl of cynicism and waste and looking out for number one. Everybody knows that forgetting “caveat emptor” brings only well-deserved and essentially self-inflicted pain.

And then they complain about their aching back.

While contemporary songwriters croon us to sleep with the soothing message that everybody knows what cynical losers we are, we have to listen to an older wit to put it all in context:

Josh Billings photo
"Josh Billings"
(Henry Wheeler Shaw, 1818-1885)

It ain't what we know that gets us into trouble. It's what we know that ain't so.
— Josh Billings*

In this case, it's not the small and filtered amount most of us know about marketing and consumerism, or even the much larger amount we don't know. No, it's very much what we know that “ain't so.” For all its familiar lyrics, the renegade message — the voice of renegade consumer philosophy and synthesis — is not something everybody knows. It's about the parts that few people understand, even though they're in plain sight. It's about the overall picture decades of conditioning have trained us to interpret in ways that benefit only the hustlers. The marketing world delights in its mastery of "ain't so."

Which, as I say in many places, is not your fault. It's natural to take new information and store it in the most convenient existing pigeonhole. It takes work to learn new information. It takes extra work to create a new category of ideas. It takes more work yet to replace comforting "ain't so's" with unsettling alternatives... but that's exactly what grasping the renegade consumer message requires. Unfortunately, no one can do this work for you. You have to carry out your own accumulated garbage to make room for these replacement ideas.

The very word “consumerism” has a pigeonhole in most people's minds, and all that's attached to the term follows it right in. Extend the discussion to include “advertising” and “marketing” and similar terms only opens that same bin wider; the content is absorbed and filed without having ever really passed through conscious consideration... because the listener "already knows."

The biggest hurdle in getting newcomers to grasp what Renegade Consumer is all about is thus getting them to set aside their assumptions long enough — just long enough; a short time, really — to understand what's different about these ideas, and what parts don't fit in the same pigeonhole as everything else generically tagged “consumerism.” I've discovered that I can't lower that hurdle much; I can't overcome generations of conditioning and indoctrinated belief in any short and simple way. I can only give each new potential renegade the ability to clear the hurdle as it stands.

The forthcoming book does the best job by far of taking the reader to a complete understanding... but "forthcoming" doesn't help anyone yet. The material slowly accumulating here will take the careful reader a good part of the way to clearing the path, but it will take time and effort — work — to process. I can't do much to make it simple, but if you've read this far I am bound to try and give you a short-form introduction to the ideas that Renegade Consumer is striving to pass along. Understand that this is short-form. I don't mean any of these statements to stand on its own, unchallenged and unsupported... but I assure you the long form of the material here and the book support them in the sturdiest ways.

So take a breath and a sip of whatever you have at hand. Relax. Open your mind, concentrate and try to accept this as "what's really so":

  • We have been conditioned over generations by the unceasing efforts of the consumer goods industry, through generations of marketing effort, to accept acquisition and consumption as a major purpose (if not the major purpose) of our lives. Not consumption that betters our lives, but consumption at any cost that provides maximized profits for the goods makers.
  • We have been collaterally conditioned to make choices that will maximize our ability to earn and thus spend and thus consume. We have evolved into a culture that prizes the ability to consume over many other truly admirable achievements.
  • You have better choices within your immediate grasp.
  • These choices are better because they will allow you to restructure your life around elements more important than earning a maximum amount of income to support a maximum amount of consumption.
  • The amount each individual will be able to change his or her life, and their family's lives, will depend on their understanding of how they are being manipulated, and have been conditioned since Grandma had pigtails.

 So.

 

* The funny thing about this quote is that it's frequently misattributed to a dozen others, including Mark Twain and Will Rogers... so the quip itself becomes something many people “know that ain't so.”

Everybody Knows lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC.

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