Bluster

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The boundary between fact and fantasy only seems wider than it used to be. Commerce has long been exempted from any legal obligation to tell the truth about anything; us emptors have always been well-advised to caveat plenty, because the promotional material probably promises much more than the product could possibly deliver. They play liar’s poker, and each of us gets to sit in the rube’s chair at the table.

This is nothing personal. Bluster quite naturally expands over time. Stretching any truth encourages its ever greater elasticity. Advertisements intend to persuade, not inform, though much promotional material appears informational. If it was paid for by someone expecting to recoup their outlay, I should expect that it might well say anything to separate me from my money.

Fortunately, I don’t have much money, but poverty doesn’t exempt anyone from bluster. Much of the stuff advertised as economical, might have approached economy had the cost of bluster not needed to be added into the price to make margins. But most folks aren’t half as cheap as I am, and even I am not half as cheap as I believe myself to be. Bluster extends beyond making prices appear to shrink, it mostly focuses upon inflating less tangible attributes like value. When something’s touted as a greater value, I should probably be asking, “For whom,” and not expect the answer to be anything like a plaintive, “Me.”

I’m a born sucker for value, which I should not, but do, mistake for something related to values. The concept of value, the illusion of value, seems value-neutral, a story intended to persuade rather than inform. I am never more pleased than when enjoying something I’m convinced evinces true value, because it really, really does. Value bluster fills me with hot air, too, and I seem to defy gravity. Ahhhh.

Not only consumer products get blustered these days. Policy positions rival hot air balloons for pure substance. Paid political advertisements originate in alternate universes, even when my candidate whole-heartedly endorses the message. Even cookbooks and repair manuals promote partisan positions. Poetry isn’t exempt.

I suspect that there’s no living in this society without bluster and the soothing sensations it engenders. Plain speech seems well-suited to the homespun Amish, and alien to any consumer economy. The lie goes in before the name goes on, just before the moment the machine affixes the bright orange sticker intended to distract my attention, rendering me blind to my alternatives.

The field of ‘public relations’ trades in a dark art its purveyors label ‘engineering consent.’ In a free (market) society, choice is king, but not the sort of monarch really trusted to use his native judgement. Bluster is his wily prime minister, spinning perspectives to ensure that he freely makes only the proper choices; and this requires continuous engineering. Fortunately for the wily prime minister, humans seem about as pliable as the average hypnotized chicken, eminently susceptible to any well-shaped suggestion.

We each have a fine set of preconscious needs which the consent engineer knows how to entice. He plays us like a busker blowing a battered saxophone, letting the street echo reverberate his tune. Who could not be moved to voluntarily drop a buck into that open case? We feel so danged validated when we do.

Perhaps the difficulty lies in this need for validation. My need to find some authority to punch my ticket means that I’m eternally one-down from anyone wearing a conductor uniform. Bluster isn’t just a push, I’m shoving my way to the head of that line, praying I’ll get there on time, before the conductor ends his shift and I miss out. Miss out on what? That sublime validation, even if it comes as an acknowledgement that I’m the rube at the table, destined to wear a barrel home from the game. I don’t much care whether I win or I lose as long as I get to sit at that table and play.

©2014 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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