I am fond of your generation. Indeed, our elders may consider me one of you, as I am only thirty-one and remember vividly what it was like to be eighteen to twenty-five—the age range I am speaking to now. Thus, it gives me no joy to say this: the vast majority of you are brainwashed by corporate interests. It does, however, give me pleasure to say that, not only do you have the power to free yourselves from their spell, doing so is easy.
THE STARTING POINT: TYPES OF ADVERTISING, IN RELATION TO MILLENNIALS
First, we need to start with one general principle. Rational advertising does not work on you. This does not mean that your generation is not logical; quite the opposite, in fact. It is that you have Google and everything else, and you can find the rational stuff easy enough on your own. You rebel when advertisers waste their time by shoving information that you can find easily enough themselves, if you so choose.
Yet, rational advertising is not the only type, and there is one that works extraordinarily well on Millennials. Better, indeed, than any form of advertising has ever worked on any generation before: emotional advertising. Further, there are many different ways in which advertising can hit you in the feels, and, these days, what we see most of is companies promoting social justice through their products.
Soon, we will explore why I say “better than any form has ever worked on any generation before,” using an example. Before that, however, our thought tree splits two ways—our general principle grows two branches.
THE HOW AND THE WHY, GENERALLY
From here, two things must be said and explored. First, these corporate interests seeking to compel you always come at you with a message that you like, that you want to hear. Again, the most prevalent today is an appeal to social justice through advertisement of products and services.
Second, the goals of these interests go far beyond merely convincing you to buy their products, and this is where the real problems enter. In the background is the global economy, in which every company is a gear, all turning together, working synergistically, feeding off each other.
Let’s now explore those two statements, through a single commercial. A while back, Cheerios aired a touching and intimate television commercial about a family with a black father, pregnant white mother, and their biracial daughter.
So here’s what happens off the bat. They come at your emotions with this wonderful, heartfelt image that has a subtle social justice tinge. This is one of the things that makes America great; that people of different races and cultures can find love in one another. All good things.
But here’s where the bad enters. Recall, the first point in this section is that they come at you with stuff you like. Now we get to the brainwashing, which is what the rest of this piece is about.
What happens after the commercial airs? Well, online publications that cater to progressive Millennials start running stories about how some conservatives are upset over the portrayal of an interracial couple in an advertisement for such a staple of American life. Open the flood gates.
The tweets. The memes. The outrage. The ridicule. The anger and the fear. You know the drill, citizen.
THE HOW AND WHY, SPECIFICALLY
Now we need to stop and dissect. Let’s start at the beginning. Where did this conservative outcry over such a warm advertisement originate, and who did it include?
Well, would you believe that it both started and ended with some random commentators and tweeters and redditors? That’s not coming from me; that’s coming from the pieces written by the sorry excuse rags themselves, like the one linked above. How many is of course impossible to say. Yet, there are a lot of people on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit, and all three sites contain some of the darkest corners of the internet. It is incredibly easy for a “news” outlet to find tweets that say what they want them to say, in order to write the story they want to write.
So why does this matter? Now we get to science.
There is a cognitive bias called representation bias. All humans exhibit it—as well as many other cognitive biases—to varying degrees. Understand that the brain’s primary function, like the rest of your body, is survival. This instinct bleeds into even the higher forms of thought: cognitive functioning. The things you think are coming from a place concerned first and foremost with getting you through one day and then the next. How this manifests through elevated thought is by simplifying the world around you in order to fit a particular story, what we might call one’s worldview or perspective. The more a person is capable of abstract thought, the more complicated this story may be, yet the fundamental is unchanging. Your brain simplifies the world for you, so that you can understand it well enough to your own satisifaction and survive.
The way this simplification happens is through cognitive biases, of which the representation bias is one. What this bias means is that, when people are presented with information, they have a strong tendency towards believing that the information before them is representative of the context as a whole. So, when progressive Millenials are, through social media, presented with pieces about how some conservatives expressed outrage over an interracial couple on television, the progressives innately believe that outrage over interracial coupling is the norm amongst conservatives.
And where did it all start? A few crazies in the dark corners of the internet who were puffed up by online “publications” that only want to get clicks by presenting you with a narrative that taps into your emotions, in this case anger and even fear—the two favorites.
Now, what effect does this manifestation of the representation bias have? First, it increases polarization and creates barriers between cultures. Remember, this “story” about the response to the Cheerios ad does not happen in isolation. How many different items are you bombarded with through social media that provoke a negative response in you? Five a day? Ten? Twenty?
You are kept in a perpetual state of anger and fear, and that’s exactly where the elite want you. And when I say “elite,” left or right does not matter. To them, the first division is between the three classes, which means that this is the first division for the rest of us too.
A PERPETUAL STATE OF ANGER AND FEAR
You need to understand something. For the elite, the end game is not wealth, but power. Power is the goal in and of itself. Control. This is what House of Cards is about. This is what 1984 is about. This is what sociopathy and psychopathy is about. This is what countless studies demonstrate. Power and control are the ends. Wealth, law, government, politics, entertainment, media, and war above all: these are the means.
People who are angry and afraid are incredibly easy to control, especially if they’re also poor. See how this happens to people on both sides, right and left? Both are kept in a perpetual state of anger and fear, through different methods and for different reasons, and there are huge populations on both sides living in abject poverty, the left in inner cities and the right in rural places like Appalachia.
IT IS NOT SOME GRAND CONSPIRACY
You know, countless studies have shown that the leaders in fields like business, banking, law, and politics are sociopaths and psychopaths. We the People read these things and say “well, that makes sense, and I suppose you kinda gotta be that way to get to that level.”
But businesses, governments, legal systems, economies. These things have muscle memory—have institutional memory. Ideas, methods, and objectives accumulate and build off each other over time. And, when they are led by sociopaths and psychopaths, what we see is an accumulation of sociopathic and psychopathic interests in power structures.
Understand this. We are not talking about some grand conspiracy. We are talking about an accumulation of sociopathic and psychopathic interests in power structures, over centuries or over millennia, depending on how you want to look at it.
THROWING OFF THE CHAINS
So how do you break free of these corporate interests and reclaim your own heart and mind? Simple.
The first and most important step is awareness. Understand everything I say here and carry it with you in all that you hear, read, say, do. This alone limits their power over you a great deal.
The second step is to filter what you see and read. Listen, staying informed is important, but there comes a point where it is counterproductive and harmful to your psyche. This, of course, is most often the case when what you’re seeing and reading taps into your anger and fear, but it is not limited to those circumstances. The things you allow into your consciousness have a profound impact on your worldview, your health, and your happiness. Feed it less nasty stuff. Much less. Discovering what the world’s problems are is not difficult, and you simply do not need constant reminders.
The third and final step is kindness. Combat hate with love and pity. Refuse to sink to the lower level. Direct your energy towards adding to and perpetuating the good, not calling out the bad. All of this will not only become easy, it will become habit, once you’ve committed yourself to it, practiced it, and followed steps one and two. Progressives, when you see some white southerner waving a Confederate flag in a YouTube video, the goal is for your innate reaction to be one of pity, not anger; the goal is for your innate desire to be to change that person’s children or grandchildren, not deride the person him or herself. If you can reach this point, you win, period. Further, you will feel so much better on a daily basis, personally, mentally, physically.
Add a little sunshine and, if possible, the ocean to your life. Eat healthy and exercise a bit, drink clean water. Meditate, laugh, work with your hands. Voila, you have very powerful and natural anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication. These things also boost your immune and nervous systems. AND, FOR FUCKS SAKE, STOP FUCKING TAKING ADDERALL AND RITALIN!
You know, there are two traits that Millennials exhibit more than any other generation that, in many ways, are detrimental: rootlessness and a lack of spirituality. With respect to the former, wanderlust is increasing, and this is a good thing, as the benefits of travel are numerous and profound. Yet, in Millenials, this is so often accompanied by a lack of tethering to any one particular place. This bit is not a good thing. The benefits of having roots are numerous and profound as well.
With respect to the lack of spirituality, Millennials were brought up on guys like Bill Maher deriding religion with half-informed invective. They grew up in the age of not only rapid scientific advancement, but a rapid replacement of science for faith. Listen, I’m not telling you all to believe in a god or adopt a formal religion. My own spirituality is complex and unique, as it both is and should be for everyone. The point is that there is a great deal at work that is greater than any of us individually and greater than our species collectively. Energy and consciousness are at work in ways we simply cannot understand—can probably never understand.
A large and growing number of prominent theoretical physicists are now insisting that consciousness is not a product of the universe, but the universe of consciousness. What possibilities! The doors this opens! It is human arrogance alone that leads us to the false certainty that our minds are capable of comprehending it all. The benefits of having a spiritual ethos or code or curiosity are as numerous and profound as the benefits of having a keen interest in science.
Millennials, right now, the future is shifting towards your hands. If you can understand everything I have written here, can implement those three steps, and can learn to accompany your wanderlust with roots and your scientific curiosity with spiritual curiosity, then the future of our species is as bright as it can be.
Featured image by Eva Rinaldi via Flickr.