Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Busting Ads: An Idealist's CV

Vancouver has always been my favorite Canadian city, stunningly beautiful landscape matched by a lively cultural scene. And every time it breaks into my consciousness, I remember I hadn’t yet checked out the Adbusters phenomenon: Ignorance no longer—Its considerable share in the OCCUPY WALL STREET movement made me check it out!

What a man is Kalle Lasn, born in Tallinn in 1942, his family fled Soviet troops in 1944 to a German refugee camp for five year; moved to Australia and Japan for twenty years (1949-69), followed by visits to Japan and Canada , where for twenty years of he made films for PBS and CBC, finetuning his critique of our advertising culture, if can call it that. He founded “Adbusters” in 1989, where he devised shrewd mocks like the TV Turnoff Week, when enticed millions to ignore their bad TV habits for seven days, kind of a shortened Lent. 

Adbusters became most renowned for culture-jamming, or “subvertising” or creating spoofs of well-known adverts. Out of such quirky maneuver was born the Occupy Wall Street movement, for which Lasn was the first to register a movement website.Never solemn, always searching for strategies which will enable the masses to understand how often advertising offends while pretending to please them. 

What really thrills Lasn is a minirevolt like the one that took place in November, 2011 when 70 Harvard economics students walk out of a lecture by their faculty head, Greg Mankiv—to end up joining the march of Occupy Boston. They want to know why all those Harvard faculty brains couldn’t predict the 2008 collapse. Worse, why the brass doesn’t complain that no guilty bankers don’t go to jail! (I was always nervous about how President Obama surrounded himself with such errant brass!)

Lasn is no born again Marxist. “For the past 15-20 years, we at Adbusters have been saying we have to jump over the dead body of the old left. I’m not all that interested in the political left, unless it’s the new horizontal left that’s coming out of Occupy.” And he assumes that Harvard students—and faculty!—should be meliorists: guarding against abuse of the common 99 by the rampant 1 %! Maybe there is a bad Harvard gene that blinds the best minds of the next generation to improving the ethics of the system.

In his latest book, “Meme Wars—The Creative Destruction of Neo-Classical Economics,” “I want,” Lasn asserts,”to light a fire under the economic students around the world. I can imagine a few of them asking: how come we are still being taught the old economics? Why did not even one in a hundred of you professors see the meltdown coming? It’s an invitation to the students who get wind of the book to create a bit of ruckus within the university.” Remember his ploy of subverting ads? In this fresh, cheeky textbook, he teaches you at sneer at economic nonsense. “Darling! Reads a subverted image of two 50s lovers.” Let’s get deeply in debt.”

Lasn finds three weaknesses in conventional economics textbooks: Orthodox economics has brought to the brink of Economic ruin. They foster a consumer culture that has turned humanity into a selfish, anxious race .It fetishes economic growth even though it is evident that such growth is ultimately destructive, since it not only makes us unhappy but it places unsustainable pressures on natural resources. “This is one of the most fatal flaws in neo-classical economics.” Lasn concludes,” We cannot keep selling off our natural capital and calling it income. It’s the most stupid mistake of all. . . When they measure growth, they don’t measure real progress.”(Patrick Kingsley, The Guardian, 11/5/2012.) 

Heh, get ready for the next Occupy march nearest. And bug your professors for fresher takes on our shakey global economy! Remember, you’re the generation that will suffer the most from their smug blindness. Don’t be afraid of Big Names. The bigger they are, the faster and farther they can fall—on you and yours! Life is a Lottery only for fools who don’t think! Kalle Lasn never stops thinking. Bust Ads!! They’re aimed at you—and yours.

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