Wednesday, September 27, 2023

A World View.

I read a lot.

Some people might say I read too much.

I read so much, in fact, that I have almost no time for popular culture or television. I get criticized for that. By people in advertising. By my daughters. By friends who ask me "if I've seen..." 

The answer is invariably no.

I haven't. And I don't want to.

Like I said. 

I read a lot. It's my escape from a world that is too much with us. And reading allows me to exercise my brain. It makes me a better writer and a better advertising person.  And I like reading. So I shouldn't have to explain.

I always figured there are a lot of people who could make things cool and contemporary. But, as Bernbach instructed, I'm looking for simple, timeless, human truths and reading is where I often find them.

Again. My choice.

Not long ago, I finished Simon Sebag Montefiore's new 1400-page book, "The World: A Family History of Humanity." You can buy it here. Or on the monopoly online bookseller that's co-opted a river and killed almost all competition..

There's a lot of killing in the book. After all, it's a history of the world. A lot of religious wars. A lot of conquering. A lot of regicide. A lot of plagues. A lot of decapitation and burying enemies alive. 

It's worse than the nightly news.

These aren't the worst of times or the best of times. They're just times. The world isn't spinning off its axis, it was never on an axis.

The World was not an easy read. Harder than a 163-page powerpoint on the new media ecosystem and the changing media landscape of Generation R--or whatever letter we're on. 

But I hung in there.

About 1,390 pages in I got to the quotation above by Edward O.  Wilson.


Then I substituted for the word humanity the word advertising. And suddenly I had today's entire holding company miasma figured out. 

The real problem of advertising
is that we have palaeolithic emotions, 
medieval institutions and
godlike technology.

In other words,
people haven't changed in 200,000 years.
Yet we allow ourselves to be ruled by corporations 
that believe in serfdom, 
and further we believe that flawed,
often malevolent technology
will solve our problems when, really, 
only we can.

Here are next 160 words of Montefiore's book. The last 160 words of his book.

Before you rush off to your next meeting or write your next banner ad, maybe you can take five minutes and think about what they might mean. Even to us in advertising who are often so crass and commercial. 

Think about humans.

Doing so might be more important than thinking about KPIs, ROAS, and any other banality the non-humans can concoct. 
Think about these two lines from a short poem by Arthur Miller, Lines from California. Then read.

"They know they are the Future.
They are exceedingly well-armed."

I'm just a shitty copywriter in an even shittier world. But that's also why I started to write. Or think. Or tell a joke. Or hold a hand. Or smile at a loved one. 


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