Life’s Greatest Seduction

 

Here in the United States there is a commercial for a luxury car model (Cadillac ELR) that has people moving to their respective corners once again.  The nasty names have once again started flying..liberal, conservative, right winger, lefty, commie, socialist, anti-American, anti-hard work…and on and on and on.

I would first like to present the text of the advertisement and then comment:

 

(Man standing looking over his swimming pool)

Why do we work so hard?  For what?  For this?  For stuff?  Other countries, they work, they stroll home, they stop by the cafe, they take August off.  Off.  Why aren’t you like that?  Why aren’t we like that?

 (Strolls into his upscale home, past his studying children in the den, through the kitchen where he gives a low high five to his wife towards bedroom.)

Because we’re crazy, driven, hardworking believers.  Those other countries think we’re nuts.  Whatever.  Were the Wright Brothers insane?  Bill Gates? Les Paul? Ali?  Were we nuts when we pointed to the moon?  That’s right.  We went up there, and you know what we got?  Bored.  So we left. Got a car up there, left the keys in it.  Do you know why? Because we’re the only ones going back up there, that’s why.    

 (Goes into bedroom, changes from casual clothes into business suit, comes out saying…)

But I digress.  It’s pretty simple.  You work hard, you create your own luck, and you gotta believe anything is possible.  

 (Strolls out to driveway, unplugs his electric car and gets in.)

As for all the stuff, that’s the upside of only taking two weeks off in August.  N’est-ce pas?  

 (Winks conspiratorially)

 

It’s pretty easy to see why there is some polarity here.  What’s wrong with “stuff”?  Nothing, in and of itself.  What’s wrong with working hard?  Nothing, in and of itself.

What’s “wrong” for me here, is wrapped up in the illusions of humans as set out in “Conversations With God”, and the illusion that is glaring at me here is the illusion of “Superiority”.

This commercial says that one way is better than another way, not in terms of what works for me vs. what works for you, but in a way that diminishes what works for you.  It defines one way of being “American”, as the “right” way…the superior way. It insinuates that other ways of being and doing things, in other parts of the world, are inferior, lazy, not valuable.

From “What God Said” pg. 154-155

 

Life’s Greatest Seduction

I have learned and I have experienced that there is nothing more seductive in human life than the idea of superiority. …

   It turns out that all of us are equal in the eyes of God—a statement that is astonishingly and breathtakingly true, but a statement that the world’s religions cannot accept, cannot embrace, cannot endorse, and dare not suggest to anyone. For all of the world’s religions, and all the world’s political parties for that matter, and certainly the world’s so-called upper classes, depend for their very existence on the notion that somehow, in some way, they are “better” than another religion, party, or class. Take away superiority and you take away that which many people and groups feel is special about themselves.

Superiority wouldn’t be so bad if we did not use it as justification for discriminating against others—to say nothing about warring with others. But the idea of superiority is so ultimately ugly that it cannot produce anything save ultimately ugly results. …”

 

According to Craig Bierley, Cadillac’s advertising director this ad was aimed at a strictly American audience and, according to an AdAge article  “Rather than millionaires, the spot’s targeted at customers who make around $200,000 a year. They’re consumers with a ‘little bit of grit under their fingernails.’  Right up front, Mr. McDonough dismisses the idea the reason American work so hard is to buy “stuff.” What he’s really saying is that Americans work hard because that’s what they love to do.”  It is very hard to justify that the ad isn’t about promoting superiority when the product isn’t mentioned once in the text the actor reads, and isn’t even seen in the commercial until the very last few seconds. Further, any ad executive who believes that, in this world of instant global communication, an ad like this is going to remain viewed by only an American audience is either lying or exceedingly naive.

For me, the message of the commercial isn’t about selling a product, it is about selling the lie, which will sell the product.  It is asking you to define yourself though outside things, like the car, the house, the pool, the stuff, and view yourself superior to those who define themselves differently, or do not have those things.

And what happens when we begin to view ourselves as superior?  We separate.  We become us vs. them.  “They” no longer hold the same value as “us” and it becomes easier to do harm to another because we no longer believe that in harming that other we harm ourselves as well.  We move into a world of justification and rationalization that skews our views and removes us from seeing the total picture of our actions.

This commercial is, again to me, a sign that those who believe in “ours is just another way, not a better way” are being heard.  This commercial tells me that the strong appearance of what I do not wish to create means that what I DO wish to create is there, if not fully seen.  That the powers that be see the pushback and are pushing harder to overwhelm the pushers with shiny messages intended to divert.

Right now Superiority is producing some very ugly results, and this commercial does nothing but highlight that ugliness, even as it cloaks the ugliness cleverly in the seductions of the current, old, paradigm.

(Therese Wilson is a published poet, and is the administrator of, and Spiritual Helper at, the global website at www.cwghelpingoutreach.com  She may be contacted at: Therese@TheGlobalConversation.com.)

 

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  • Joel

    Somehow this clearly reminds me of the book by Dr. Seuss, “The Sneetches.” The insanity intensified over the course of the story then broke into pieces. In the end, all that remained were Sneetches – broke and real… and Together.

    • Therese

      I like Dr. Seuss! I like the juxtaposing of “broke” and “Together”. It is my hope that we will all still be pieces knowing, consciously, we are part of the “Together” after all.

  • Stephen mills

    Hey I lived in Italy where people worked to live.Life had some meaning other than winning and getting ahead .Life had a gentle slower pace family and community where the most important aspect of life.A family meal could last for hours even a round of golf was at least 5 hours long !
    Nobody seamed to be in to much of a hurry and most people did take August off ,they went up to the mountains Italian Dolomites for some healthy cooler air or off to the coast to chill and relax.
    Are people so brainwashed by this type of manipulation are Americans so lost in having stuff but no time to actually live life ! How many Americans make $200,000 a year anyway I bet you as a percentage there are more Italians with this level off income as American’s.

    What about this company mass producing an electric car for the masses with a message of changing the future of humanity as we awaken to a different world that’s based on sustainability and reverence for life .Stop the reliance of living of ancient sunlight and change to running on current sunlight now that could be an advert I would pay attention to .
    As usual Therese you are right on the pulse of what’s going on with American culture and this sadly ripples out across the globe .

  • As I read this I just thought wait it’s the Europeans (referred to as other countries) that have it right & this ad implodes in on itself, August off? That’s really a luxury! Overwork, a lot of things to take care of & maintain? Who is really living the good life? I don’t think it’s the America promoted here, but maybe that works for some, but who is really happier?

  • mewabe

    Interesting commentary…

    As someone who has lived a considerable number of years in 3 different nations (long enough to be a citizen in each), I can say without hesitation that Americans have indeed the most quantity of STUFF (mostly cheaply made in China stuff) but the lowest quality of life, if by quality we mean happiness.

    Americans who embrace the mainstream American lifestyle are less happy and much more stressed, more frustrated and insecure, and far less healthy physically and emotionally than people in Europe or Canada. The widespread use of psychotropic medications (anti-depressants, tranquilizers, etc) attest to this, not to mention alcoholism and drug abuse.

    Yet as they become ever more stressed, insecure and frustrated, mainstream Americans hold on to their old myth of cultural superiority…and yet, those Americans who have moved to Canada, or Equator, or Argentina, or New Zealand, or France, feel very sorry for those who remain here: they have found a quality of life, a lifestyle that satisfies them a great deal more, that is more sane, slower paced, less controlled and much freer, and that makes them happy enough to become and remain expatriates.

    The sense of cultural superiority individuals develop always comes from ignorance of other cultures and prejudices. That a company would exploit these in a commercial to sell their product reveals actual desperation.