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Bumper Sticker Philosophy: There is no alternative to being yourself   (December 20, 2005)

Wisdom can pop up in the most unlikely places: consider this bumper sticker I saw recently: "There is no alternative to being yourself." Sounds rather obvious, doesn't it? But then why are we drawn to instant make-overs and the allure of material transformation via worship at the many alters of the the Shopping Gods?

It is, of course, an attractive illusion: that by buying some new material cloak--be it the fabric of clothing, the painted steel of a new vehicle, or the glittering gold of a new self-enhancing ornament--we become someone other than ourselves, someone better, more attractive, more worthy of respect or even adoration.

The marketers rather naturally know this all too well. Thus the models accompanying the merchandise are svelt, sophisticated, worldly, or whatever image the product must project to fulfill the con; you, too, can become this powerful new being simply by purchasing this material good (or in the case of spas, etc., this temporal service).

And now we are promised physical transformation. According to the Wall Street Journal of 12/15/05:
It's part of the overall boom in the plastic-surgery business. Last year, 9.2 million cosmetic procedures were performed in the U.S., 24% more than in 2000, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
No word yet on whether that fanny-tuck makes you a better person, a better lover, a worthier friend, or anything else of actual value. The painfully obvious answer is: it does not.

At the same time that cosmetic surgery is growing by leaps and bounds, as the WSJ reported on 12/8/05, Americans Feel More Isolated, Less Empowered, Poll Shows. (free feature) So is the manic trend toward transforming our outward selves a pathetic, misdirected attempt to staunch a rising internal sense of isolation and powerlessness? I would suggest "yes." Too bad such external transformations never work any true magic.

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copyright © 2005 Charles Hugh Smith. All rights reserved in all media.

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