The Hidden Persuaders‘ by Vance Packard was first published in 1957, which means it is nearly 60yrs old.
I was just flicking through it and came across this passage.
It made me think how TV ads for new toys and gadgets will be on children’s TV channels and junk mail will be coming through our doors encouraging housewives (and househusbands) to fill kitchen cupboards with biscuits and bottles of wine.

“What is the morality of the practice of encouraging housewives to be non-rational and impulsive in buying family food?
What is the morality of playing upon hidden weaknesses and frailties – such as our anxieties, aggressive feelings, dread of non-conformity, and infantile hang-overs – to sell products? Specifically, what are the ethics of businesses that shape campaigns designed to thrive on these weaknesses they have diagnosed?
What is the morality of manipulating small children even before they reach the age where they are legally responsible for their actions?
What is the morality of treating voters like customers, and child customers seeking father images at that?
What is the morality of exploiting our deepest sensitivities and yearnings for commercial purposes?
What is the morality of appealing for our charity by playing upon our secret desires for self-enhancement?
What is the morality of developing in the public an attitude of wastefulness toward national resources by encouraging the ‘psychological obsolescence’ of products already in use?
What is the morality of subordinating truth to cheerfulness in keeping the citizen posted on the state of his nation?”

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such a waster

We don’t get much junk mail, I try my best to not waste food yet still there seems to be constant trips to the bins,  the study is a full of paper ready to be thrown away,  black leads  leading to trips and stumbles  and then perhaps  an occasional trip into a USB port, half used pencils, unread books.
That is not even to consider things like the amount of energy I waste on the computer or heating the house.

I read a book a few weeks ago called ‘The Waste Makers‘ by Vance Packard. Having been written in the 1960 you might have thought it would be dated now that we know so much, but no. It still seems relevant and wise.

He claims that to make the economy grow we need to consume and then outlines  nine ways in which we are encouraged to consume and keep things growing.

1 Have more than you Really Need
Why do I have to many pencils when I rarely use pencils?
Why do we have 3 containers of concentrated lemon in the fridge?

2 Have a throw away spirit
Why am I constantly throwing away paper?
Why am I so wasteful with food?

3 Planned obsolescence (Things breaking)

4 Planned obsolescence of desire


5 Things that can’t be easily repaired or mended
Car electronics that can only be ordered from the manufacturers, funny screw heads etc. The repairman is helpless.
6 Sell things with lots of ‘spin’
Look at this! It’s the greatest thing ever! Your life will be much easier if you get this! Stephen Fry uses it!

7 Sell things using credit

8 Encourage Hedonism
Unlimited broadband! Excellent, I’ll be able to do more now.

9 More People Means More Markets

(no picture for that. But selling for/to children and teenagers? Markets like China and India?)

structural evil / corporate evil

…our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms…


Captured by the consumerist imagination of the Empire.

Considering the Lumber for 2012

Looking out from a 5* Golf Resort on Lough Erne, (a place I would not normally reside in it has to be said) I read these words from ‘Three Men and a Boat’ by Jerome K. Jerome.
It was an echo of more familiar words from St. Matthew.

George said:

“You know we are on a wrong track altogether. We must not think of the things we could do with, but only of the things that we can’t do without.”

George comes out really quite sensible at times. You’d be surprised. I call that downright wisdom, not merely as regards the present case, but with reference to our trip up the river of life, generally. How many people, on that voyage, load up the boat till it is ever in danger of swamping with a store of foolish things which they think essential to the pleasure and comfort of the trip, but which are really only useless lumber.

How they pile the poor little craft mast-high with fine clothes and big houses; with useless servants, and a host of swell friends that do not care twopence for them, and that they do not care three ha’pence for; with expensive entertainments that nobody enjoys, with formalities and fashions, with pretence and ostentation, and with – oh, heaviest, maddest lumber of all! – the dread of what will my neighbour think, with luxuries that only cloy, with pleasures that bore, with empty show that, like the criminal’s iron crown of yore, makes to bleed and swoon the aching head that wears it!

It is lumber, man – all lumber! Throw it overboard. It makes the boat so heavy to pull, you nearly faint at the oars. It makes it so cumbersome and dangerous to manage, you never know a moment’s freedom from anxiety and care, never gain a moment’s rest for dreamy laziness – no time to watch the windy shadows skimming lightly o’er the shallows, or the glittering sunbeams flitting in and out among the ripples, or the great trees by the margin looking down at their own image, or the woods all green and golden, or the lilies white and yellow, or the sombre- waving rushes, or the sedges, or the orchis, or the blue forget-me-nots.

Throw the lumber over, man! Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need – a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink; for thirst is a dangerous thing.

You will find the boat easier to pull then, and it will not be so liable to upset, and it will not matter so much if it does upset; good, plain merchandise will stand water. You will have time to think as well as to work.