I’m a victim of textual harassment. Texts that pressure me to buy, subscribe, donate, bequeath, support, upgrade, downsize, respond and beware invade my snail and electronic mail boxes daily. Not only do they pressure me to change my life. They hassle me to plan my death. It’s more than I can stand, especially as radio and TV hucksters harass me with equal or greater intensity whenever I tune in.
To increase the pressure, faceless figures behind the harassment stalk me. They keep track of my purchases, entertainment preferences, philosophical leanings and other personal data gleaned from interactions with the internet and who knows what else; and from these, they develop profiles of my past behaviour to influence my future decisions. It’s spooky.
Most of the harassment is for a commercial or political purpose, and it’s perfectly legal. Or, if you like, it’s imperfectly legal. Whatever the adverb, I can’t help wondering whether it’s moral.
The unwanted textual advances don’t just target adults. They also groom children so as to make us all more commercially and politically compliant. Of course they do. The textual groomers are pro-family, sort of. They believe the family that strays together pays together.
The most proficient groomers, though, are the TV hucksters. Look how they glamorize food and clothing. By repeatedly subjecting us to gustatory and sartorial temptation, they seduce us into spending money on overeating and underdressing. Well, that’s not entirely true. They don’t always promote obesity and immodesty. Sometimes they seduce us into under eating and overdressing, and promote anorexia and flamboyant fashions.
Their quick service commercials fascinate me. Quick service, of course, is a euphemism for fast food. Euphemisms are universal solvents. They dissolve the negativity that has accumulated around words or phrases they replace.
Quick service for fast food is almost as good a solvent as intellectually challenged for slow learner. The trouble with euphemisms, though, is that they eventually attract the negativity associated with the words they replace. Hence, the suggestion of gifted as a euphemism for intellectually challenged. But you can’t escape reality. You can only disguise it for a while. It remains to be seen what will replace quick service when the euphemism becomes a slur. I rather fancy sudden satiety.
The commercials I most often see feature one or more youthful admirers fawning over a six-storey cheeseburger. What especially fascinates me is that few dare to bite into it. As there’s a limit to how wide a normal mouth can safely open, I suspect they fear risking a dislocated jaw. Oh, I realize that other factors may account for their reticence. One, perhaps, is that some of them are so thin, if they swallowed a single mouthful, viewers would notice an immediate change in their waistlines.
One solution, I suppose, would be to recruit actors like legendary comedian Joe E. Brown of classic movie fame. His open mouth was almost as large as his head. I’m confident that anyone similarly endowed could accommodate a six-storey cheeseburger without mishap.
A further possibility would be to hire performers we euphemistically refer to as full figured. Their ample proportions would prevent any amount of nibbling from showing, immediately or otherwise.
While all harassing, stalking and grooming is fascinating, the kind that politicians engage in is mesmerizing. If they’re in power, they harass, stalk and groom to stay in. If they’re out of power, they do it to get in. There’s no logical limit to the time and treasure they devote to it. Not just their time and treasure, but also ours.
From pollsters and promoters who harass us, to foot soldiers who stalk us, to spin doctors who groom us, their attentiveness is astounding. At election time it’s overwhelming. It’s not that they’re in love with us. It’s that they’re in love with our votes. Like merchants who see us as consumers, politicians see us as voters, actual or potential. That’s why they kiss babies. If their baby bussing attracts voters who support family values, so much the better.
When, years ago, a provincial politician told me that his caucus was pro-life, I could barely contain my delight. Consequently, as the next election drew near, I easily coped with the harassment of the pollsters and promoters and the door-to-door stalking of the foot soldiers and the politicians themselves. I only lost heart when the spin doctors went into action. No doubt with the anti-life vote in mind, they spun “pro-life” into “opposed to abortion as a method of birth control”.
The spin was harder to digest than a regular diet of six-storey cheeseburgers.