Archive for May 2014
“There is only one state that fulfills the mystic’s longing for infinity, non-causality, non-identity: death. No matter what unintelligible causes he ascribes to his incommunicable feelings, whoever rejects reality rejects existence-and the feelings that move him from then on are hatred for all the values of man’s life, and lust for all the evils that destroy it. A mystic relishes the spectacle of suffering, of poverty, subservience and terror; these give him a feeling of triumph, a proof of the defeat of rational reality…” – Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
Hippies and beat nicks were the modern era’s mystics. They were openly, proudly of the view that reality is whatever they said it was, and that they could do whatever they wanted to themselves without consequence (so long as others didn’t judge them) – and many of them suffered the consequences (eg: brains fried from drugs and other health problems, financial ruin, eventual emotional emptiness once the “party” stopped, or even death).
Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of reality. Is reality real? Is it fixed or is it fluid? Is it logical or contradictory? These are the questions answered by metaphysics. Not all people consciously hold the same metaphysics (even though, subconsciously, because of the fallacy of self-exclusion, they do). This commercial is aimed at that (large) segment of the populations which would answer those questions with “no”, “fluid”, and “contradictory”, respectively.
The Waffle Taco is, at best, a non-descript product that could easily be substituted by plenty of other fast food offerings in terms of taste, nutritional value, and cost. It’s appeal is it’s novelty. The fact that it’s a bizarre, non-sensical combination of two unrelated foods. Nothing else. The old men in this commercial are incredulous about the Waffle Taco precisely because it reminds them of the changing metaphysical views of the culture they live in. They sense, inarticulately, just how much it is changed (from when they were young) when they observe something such as a taco with a waffle for a shell.
Of course, in reality, no one – not even old men who are disgusted by today’s culture – actually think that just because someone has a certain metaphysical code, and is therefore able to enjoy the notion of a waffle taco, is destined to become a pony tail wearing hippy. Real people (as opposed to caricatures of real people) realize that one’s metaphysical views can be mixed (ie: he can enjoy the idea that the law of identity need not be respected in one instance – a waffle taco – and yet be distrubed by it in another – when someone totally disregards the rights of others and the requirements of human cognition by interrupting a conversation to make an out-of-context demand). Real people realize that one’s subconscious ideas can clash with one’s conscious ideas, and therefore it isn’t necessary to fear that he will necessarily become a pony-tail wearing hippy (even though it is technically true that given enough time, a person’s conscious ideas will become his subconscious ideas and will cause him to make certain types of decisions about the course of his life).
Why are the old men in this commercial incredulous about the new, dominant metaphysical view? This commercial has an answer: because they’re crazy. In other words: anyone who holds any metaphysical views which differ from the prevailing views – anyone who thinks that reality is real, that certain fundamental facts are fixed and immutable, and that logic can illuminate all (even moral and esthetic decisions about things like drug use and hair style) – only thinks so because he is mentally ill. The old man makes a completely out-of-the-blue demand that his grandson dare “not grow a pony tail.” Most younger people (the people who this commercial is targeting) won’t realize that he says this because he grasps – again, inarticulately – the connection between the pony-tailed counter-culture of earlier decades and the arrival of the Waffle Taco in 2014. All they will observe is an old man interrupting a conversation by yelling, from across the street no less, a completely random comment (a clearly insane behavior – since it is tantamount to saying nothing at all, and only undermines the purpose of making it).
People who hold the metaphysical views which are complimented by The Waffle Taco need to believe that such people who are offended by The Waffle Taco are crazy. If not, then they would have to actually examine – and defend – the metaphysical views which make them enjoy such phenomenons. If they did, then they would realize that blurting it out in a fit of pique notwithstanding, the old man actually is right to claim that the approval of The Waffle Taco is tantamount to approving of the worst perversions and injustices which have eminated from the counter-culture over the last 50 or so years. They would realize that philosophically, there is nothing – in principle – which separates such a person from the most irrational and self-destructive “hippy” or “beat nick” (and therefore the old man’s fear about the pony tail is actually warranted, even if very poorly communicated).
This is yet another example of “evasion through hyperbole” – a phenomenon well documented on this blog. Succinctly, this commercial works precisely because it conceals itself behind the premise that no – or at least few – men actually do such things (and therefore deserve to be laughed at, and therefore this is just harmless humor), and yet at the same time that very concealment allows the vast majority of men who actually do such things (albeit not so blatantly) to think that they don’t.
Obviously this man is taking advantage of that woman. He is gaining something from her (higher esteeem for him) that he doesn’t deserve (because isn’t actually the one doing the chore of picking out the furniture). The appeal of the commercial is the rationalization: “Well I don’t to that, so therefore I don’t do anything like that. That isn’t what my relationship is based upon.”
Communism/socialism is the doctrine that all people are entitled to an equal (or at least adequate) share of a nation’s wealth, regardless of the degree of their contribution to the creation of that wealth. In practice, because it ignores basic economic principles, this doctrine results in dictatorship – which means that the only things which are ever actually “equalized” are the various petty details of one’s life (what kind of light bulb he can purchase, how many viewpoints he is allowed to be exposed to, what kind of haircut he can have). As Western culture continues to become more communist/socialist, Westerners – correctly – sense that their individuality is being threatened. The result is an emotion-based rebellion. People begin to cling to anything and everything that is “theirs” – no matter how irrational and self-destructive – simply because they fear if they don’t, then they have surrendered the battle for their independence, identity, and freedom.
Women, for whatever reason, are especially prone to this type of existentialism – and therefore the key to romantic success with them is to flatter it (even if you think it is wrong). In other words: to gain her approval (by making her believe that she has yours) even though you don’t deserve it (because she doesn’t actually have yours). This is simply a more subtle – although pervasive – form of exactly the same thing that is dramatized in this commercial. It’s exactly the sort of thing that this commercial is intended to help the viewer evade (so that he will have a moment’s pleasant reprieve from the self-contempt he feels as a result of his willingness to be stupid, and therefore – hopefully, from Ikea’s perspective – think of Ikea the next time he feels that contempt as a result of yet again being fake).
These two commercials employ “evasion through hyperbole.” By dramatizing absurd, extremely unlikely scenarios, they allow people to evade something that’s actually occurring within the culture. Is it true that the government – and thus the police – are becoming more and more arbitrary and oppressive? Yes. Absolutely. Is it true that the business community is becoming more and more pretentious, and less and less truly productive? Again, yes. Absolutely (which would explain why America has incurred more debt within the last 15 years than it did in it’s first 220).
These things are so obvious that even the most oblivious, narrowly-focused person cannot help but have an inkling of them. As a result, they experience a certain amount of fear (because there are consequences) and guilt (because they are part of a “self-governing people”). These commercials provide such people with the following rationalizations: “This country couldn’t be headed towards a police state, because if it were then that is the kind of thing that would be happening. That isn’t happening, so I must be misinterpreting something. There must be another explanation for why the things which actually are happening – which I think are arbitrary and oppressive – are happening.” The other one allows the viewer to think “This country’s economy isn’t a ‘bubble’ built upon pretense and posturing – because if it were then things like that would be happening. They’re not, so I must be misinterpreting something. There must be another reason why I have that inkling.”
The effect of such subliminal messages are, not accidentally, a moment’s reprieve from such uncomfortable (but well-founded) feelings. That relief then registers in the memory of the viewer, so that the next time they appear (which these companies know they will – since they are responses to facts), the viewer will remember the experience of being relieved of them. They will then (hopefully) associate that experience with the particular company which provided it for them, think about how they happen to need help with moving, or shipping, or copying, or whatever – and then purchase the product or services being advertised (and from Old Dominion or FedEx in particular, since they “might as well”, since there’s really no significant qualitative difference between competing products and services).