postFriday, 21 March 2008

Operation Margarine

What does early margarine advertising have to do with the army, the church and arguments? Find out by reading this post.

The following is an extreme translation of Operation Margarine by Roland Barthes from Mythologies (find out what that is).

But this T-Shirt from Busted Tees

Nowadays it is common for people to smugly discuss the problems of the status quo as an foolproof means of defending it. This is how it goes down: You take the idea or the belief that you treasure like a head on a stick – then you attack it from all angles. Allow everyone to know how petty or problematic it is – let the idea ‘go-down’ on its own imperfection. Then just before this idea explodes all over its self pull it up and save it “in spite of” its problems, or rather because of them. Want a couple of examples? There are o so many.

Take the army. It’s a barbaric institution that is above civil law – it is the autocratic state within the democratic state. It takes common people and drowns them in uniformity. They are the ones who fight for the rights of a country that they themselves are exempt from. And just when everyone is in your pocket and sees that the army is archaic, with slight of hand, bam! Now you are talking about the perfect patriotic institution, that which the whole country, the flag - democracy itself depends on. It is a necessary sacrifice that is made to create the heroes that protect our way of life. And like a battered wife who knows no better, we come crawling back, battered and bruised but still very much in love.

Speaking of the army again. Argue about the scientists and engineers that blindly push the limits to create such devastating weapons – the same weapons that are used to exterminate human life. But then pull a 180 and speak about all the great developments that have come about because of this fierce science. Explain how the military is great because of the triumphs, which it provided the genesis of.

Last but not least, let us look at the church: Talk with words laced in napalm about its self-righteousness, its narrow-minded bigots – lay all of its faults out on the table. But then just before you deliver the final blow (picture the Superman vs Doomsday battle) – explain the benefits that its moral lawfulness provides and how the act of salvation can save even those who are excluded from its reach.

It is a kind of vaccine: one cures doubts in an idea by explaining the faults that plague it.

This inoculates those it touches as they accept a lesser evil to prevent or cure a diabolic one. Then anyone who rebels against the inhumanities of the status quo and its values – is the common illness that is now insignificant – already inoculated against. There protests will fall on deaf ears, as they are already accounted for. Those who see the weaknesses are pre-empted and familiarized with them before they can consider them as anything other than inevitable, and in the long run beneficial. We trade our freedom for the transcendent good of the idea. A little ‘confessed’ evil saves one from acknowledging a lot of hidden evil.

This vaccine can be seen in the marketing for Astra margarine. Their adverts always begin with a cry of resent against margarine: “A mousse? Made with margarine? Unthinkable!” “Margarine? Your uncle will be furious!” and then the adverts open one’s eyes and margarine is described as a delicious, economical and useful food.

The ads aren’t just selling a product they are selling a value - “Get rid of the prejudice which costs you dearly.” This is how the status quo disposes of progressive views. “The army is extreme, archaic and undemocratic.” “Of course the church is full of bigots and murderous conformism.” The argument then turns to the inevitable, “But”. But what is wrong with these insignificant negatives when they are entwined with tremendous advantages? It is worth the cost of the immunization. After all, does it matter if margarine is just fat, when it goes further than butter and costs less? Does it matter if the cost of order is a little brutal or a little blind, when it provides us such tremendous social benefits overall? And so we stand rid of the prejudices which cost us dearly. Stripped of our principles which cost ‘us’ too much, in terms of the ‘greater’ good.

1 comment:

Rizzo said...

That shirt is hilarious

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