Something to Tell You

In Something To Tell You by Hanif Kureishi, Henry, the playwright and intellectual disillusioned with Blair, writes an op-ed about his own exit from the Labour Party. He believes that the party, ‘along with other organisations, including corporations, had moved towards the condition of being cults, a project which not only claimed your loyalty but also your inner freedom.’

This comes close to a notion explored in a previous post (Ogre-Me on Advertising) that advertisers are appealing to your love and adoration, not so much trying to sell a product.

It makes me think of these corporations as a person. Like who, perhaps, when they have all the money and all the power, all the sales and all the profits, all the rising shares, all the influence in the government — when you have all that you want, perhaps all you want still — and don’t get, because you’ve not been authentic — is love.

And when I say they’ve not been authentic, I mean that there has always been something insincere built into the way most of the market works. It is taken for granted that if one has to make profits, if one has to succeed as a business, if one’s advertising has to work, one must take for granted a degree of insincerity towards oneself (by entertaining and promoting inflated ideas of one’s worth or quality or size or capability), and others (by making them believe these inflations as true). But repeating this over time could leave a person or organisation with a nagging sense of doubt about how much they, and their work, are genuinely appreciated by their customers. I remember a time when my grandparents and parents almost loved certain companies and their products, because they trusted them, they knew these things not only delivered but they were built to last. We humanised them, or thought of them as we would of good friends or pet dogs.

Today, while products are increasingly built for obsolescence, and services increasingly booby trapped with privacy invasions and other issues, it becomes hard to trust corporations – far from loving them. Perhaps it is apt then that their ads express a longing for genuine appreciation? Even love?

I think, to love and be loved, one must try to be as authentic as possible. I guess it is hard, because we are constantly anxious to impress others or defend ourselves against risks such as hurt or fiscal loss. But if, as Hemingway said, all cowardice comes from not loving or not loving well, I guess it takes a lot of courage to be authentic.

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