I began this trilogy to express my views towards the growing mentality of “health fascism” that we as public health advocates meet from time to time. Until now I have given my analysis of what different factors have shaped today’s consumers culture. And there is still one important factor I have failed to mention thus far. But I think it plays a major roll in today’s society.
Globalized information or misinformation?
We live in a globalized world. Not only considering goods and services, but more importantly considering information. Except for a few totalitarian states, there is practically a free flow of information between people, countries and organizations today. This can either make us painfully aware of the injustices all over the world or help us create our own social network bubbles of self-admiration. Sometimes maybe a combination of both.
This makes us seldomly surprised when we hear about climate change, terrorism, unemployment, economic depression, wars, refugees or something in the magnitude of that; I fear that we have actually taken it for granted as a natural order of the state of things, and we think that the world is worse of than it actually is, an idea Hans Rosling is struggling to combat with his Gapminder magic.
If we take climate change as an example, it can hardly have passed anyone that we have some big challenges ahead. In Sweden most young adolescents acknowledge this and worry about how climate change will affect their future (climate anxiety).
Considering we are fed these dystopian images daily in one way or another, have we lost faith in our future? Our popular culture often say more about our thoughts and feelings than we do ourselves, and with the rise of all “post-apocalyptic” movies, whether it be zombies or natural disasters, we are drowned in these images constantly. Thus, today’s society makes it harder for us to imagine the end of capitalism than the end of world; and regardless of your views about the capitalistic system this should send shivers down your spine.
Ideology of extreme individualization and infantilization
When political elections roll around, people ask themselves:
- Do politicians give us any alternatives?
- Has the establishment stopped serving the people?
- Can you really only trust yourself?
The political and ideological landscape that has emerged over the last few decades is a foul mix of Ayn Rand-style liberalism and corporations-driven consumer infantilism which plays a big roll in our society where we have seen demagogues take the place of politicians. Who wouldn’t be disillusioned by that?
How does this tie in with the negative attitude towards healthy behavior?
Well, I would say that health fascism is a mix of the infantile hyper consumerism together with the feelings of disillusionment and the effects of today’s neo-liberal ideology. Even if liberalism can be good in itself, today’s neo-liberalism is marked by putting the needs, interests and will of the individual above everything and everyone else, even each other. This also ties into consumerism since almost any product today can be marketed as long as it enhances the self-image and believed self-reliance of the costumer – which is quite a big contradiction as well, to buy yourself “free”.
Thus, this is the reality created for human beings in this globalized world. Not created in a sense that markets and business have any intrinsic interest in shaping consumers and controlling behavior, but in order for goods to survive they must be appealing in a way that reflect wished-for lifestyles.
When romanticizing unhealthy behavior becomes a symbol of freedom and independence maybe freedom has become a smoke screen for repression (as the French philosopher Michel Foucault suggested about capitalism)?
The corporate consumption complex works to shape our values and perspectives in a way that they can make ever more profits. They do this
- By chipping away on the empowerment and autonomy of citizens, turning them into infantile, atomized consumers focused on fulfilling their needs as instantly as possible;
- Through pervasive and massive marketing strategies;
- By promoting dystopian media campaigns and narratives.
The consequence we can already see emerging. Corporations and their neo-liberal worshippers are trying to give rise to a new society and mentality. A society that according to Benjamin Barber is
privatized, commercialized, infantilized and branded but one that is increasingly totalizing in its commercial embrace of our lives, sucking up the air from every other domain to sustain the sector devoted to consumption”.
I have taken you this far presenting these ideas without presenting any solution or way forward. For this I am sorry. In my next post I hope to present my idea of how resistance is possible, how consumerism can be overcome and how we can reclaim our lives from the corporate consumption complex.