The commercial danger of inflation (as it applies to egos) 9th June 2004
It used to be that Britain was industry. And we thought we were Great. British Mechanical Imperialism reigned supreme.
In the last years of the 19th century you wouldn't have bet against GB to win the Space Race (but we hadn't invented that yet). The roads you drove on, and bridges you crossed were based on British design and ingenuity. No-one mentored us. We lead in steam technology, because we thought 'just that bit faster', and were quicker off the mark. We always had to push just that bit further. Repression + aggression = invention you might say.
We were not averse to hard work or taking risks. We had True Grit, what some Brits call bottle. You win some, you lose some; you aim to win most. Sure, things got uncomfortable. Socially we ducked the questions that the Establishment preferred to avoid. But our entrepreneurs as were had glorious aims. Theirs wasn’t simply to make money, they aimed make money work.
However, they lacked a global foresight. Not that surprising, you're talking about a hypocritical race of people. A people who were distraught at the idea that 'a lady' might be discommoded, but who had commoditised other people. The very idea of one person, or a people, being better than another would lead to to a PC avalanche today, but historically we'd hoist our petticoats to step over a dead poor/black person with nary a second glance.
They may be cliches, but they're often cliches because they're true. The railway networks across the UK and the USA weren't built because of cultural determination or economic necessity. They were built upon the bones of expendable people.
It's not different today. The sweat shops are a moveable feast of indentured slavery. It moves from one Enterprise Processing Zone to another as the tax breaks fracture. But what goes around comes around. The end of all great civilizations, as in urban conurbations, comes not from decadence (the popular premise) but from over-stretching supply lines. The body core and the extremities become so disparate as to lose touch. When one can no longer rely upon the other, the society becomes unsustainable.
Commercially it will become a case of quid pro quota, when we have the money but are denied access to the goods.
If Britain is to recover its reputation as a leader, it has to learn to acknowledge the facts and to ask uncomfortable questions. Where is the end of the line for gasoline? What happens to all of the refineries and infrastructure? People still seem pretty green about the environmental issues in a real economy context. We must keep thinking these prickly things through. Who else will refine ERPS when some policies still act as if Wyatt was the one with the moustache - ERPS. Not forgetting that Bush is still confusing Kyoto with one of the Pokemon.
So what good does all this thinking do? Nothing. Unless we put it to good effect. We must think things through. Through thick and thin. We can't be thin-skinned can we? We have to make tough decisions. The economy, whether yokel, local or global doesn’t obey a three strikes and you're out rule. A sustainable and truly prosperous future means one heck of a long innings and someone has to be prepared to take the plate. There are no breaks, unless you make ‘em. The end game is a sustainable, satisfying and secure tomorrow. At times of crisis you need people you can trust. So these aren't policies that can be make by our self-serving 'local friendly neighbourhood' politicians then.
Advertising and marketing create trends to steer public perception. So it's the Global Advertising Groups, or GAGs (I'm not joking) who must share responsibility. The Western world has too much stuff. Too many people are cushionistas*, jogging has become jog-dialling (thanks SONY), we console ourselves with games consoles, and the statistics show that more people live alone in stasis. It's no coincidence that we once nomadic peoples cease to be moved once we stop moving. When one's own existence is tragic it is far easier to accept tragedy.
When Challenger tragically burst into flames Bill Clinton turned to Buzz Aldrin and desperate for some sense to the tragedy implored "What happened?" Buzz replied "Mr President, this is rocket science." The component parts of a business like a rocket ship are coreliant; any negligence or failure in one area can have a terminal outcome for the whole enterprise. Tha main danger to any business is complacency; that point when a company or a brand starts to believe that it is omnipotent e.g. Coca-cola. Entire civilizations have fallen when the citizens started to believe that they were entitled to a lifestyle disproportionate from their personal investment - a lifestyle sustained regardless of the cost to others.
This decadence is only a catalyst for failure. The demands of the one outweigh the needs of the many. Civilization itself didn't originally imply any sense of moral or intellectual evolution, it simply described an urban conurbation. Later as these settlements expanded and grew more permanent, civilization took on a greater meaning. Today we take civilization to mean so much more, and there are signs that we are forsaking it. Our Occidental consumer society is one in which the marketers tell us more and promise us less, safe in the knowledge that their target audience is made up of hasty folk who won't read the label, or explore the manual.
Modern brands serve up business as a spectator sport through association with celebrities and entertainment media. It is no longer enough to promise something and to deliver on the promise - because you can only do that once. Brands are required to please and to tease, to reinvent themselves and constantly offer newer 'improved' products. Then the consumer gets caught up in the upgrade updraft, and in anticipating the next model doesn't notice the shortcomings of the previous one; or the fact that it didn't last.
Common sense dictates that constantly keeping market expectations on the boil can only create 'excess' pressure. The problem is that we openly worship the people who make the most money, and money is an abstract, a mechanism invented to allow people to trade and to exchange goods regardless of their geographic location. What is the inevitable outcome when the 'bads' eclipse the goods? Pride comes before a fall, and who will be there to catch our civilization?
In global terms, we don't so much do unto others, we make sure that everyone gets 'done'. Therein lies our very undoing.
© jackade 09 vi 04
* Please see jackabulary for more custom words and bespoke phrases