Tools Of Discombobulation

Progress is currently slow. There was a period of fairly quick writing, but being the kind of writer that I am, it is now a nit-picking process of making sure what has been written makes sense and actually gets the points across in the way I want them to. Normally a writer would hammer through the first draft and then go back to the beginning to review it: in Time’s Up! (still available from all good book stores and a few bad ones) I wrote chapter by chapter, sending each chapter to a few friends – all of whom were duly credited – for criticism. I will probably be doing to same this time, but have the extra issue of having to produce at least one more chapter for a prospective publisher before 9th December, which wouldn’t be a problem, except the chapter I’m writing is very similar to the horrific CHAPTER 13 (in caps because I remember writing it so vividly) from TI!

Actually it’s harder.

I’m having to make a convincing case for Undermining the Tools of Disconnection, and then listing each of the 15 Tools (up from 10) in such a way as to allow the reader to start formulating Undermining strategies, so by the time the Undermining chapters are underway the reader is already well placed to decide whether she is going to take part in this or that task. I have just finished the treatment for the first Tool, and as I’m always open to criticism, here it is:

Reward Us for Being Good Consumers


It is fairly easy to make civilized people happy, or at least give people the sense that they are happy; they just have to be primed in the right way. What is key to creating this malleable state of mind is making people believe from a very early age that “happiness” is something far more superficial than having a deep and genuine state of contentment and well-being. The marketing of consumer goods and services (“experiences”) tap into the desire for happiness through colourful and positive images reflecting enjoyment of whatever is being marketed; this is compounded by continual messaging through the mass media that consumption in general is a “good thing”, and the consumption of anything new and fashionable is likely to lead to improvement in our quality of life. This powerful message is easily transferred to the next generation via parents and peers who are already primed.


At a personal level, this can be recognised through being aware of anything that makes you feel better, yet is clearly a product of the consumer culture: so, for instance, if you are watching or listening to an advertisement and begin to feel happy, regardless of the source of the advertisement then that Tool is in operation. The same can be observed on other people who are showing signs of happiness where no source beyond that which has been manufactured is evident. The popularity of shopping malls, cinemas, amusement parks and package holidays are further evidence that the genuine need for happiness has been subsumed into industrial-scale consumption: we go shopping to “feel good” now.


The two main consequences of “consumption happiness” are, first, that we become less inclined to seek deeper, more satisfying forms of happiness from the real world – such as the enjoyment of dipping our toes into cool water on a hot day – instead seeking out disconnected sources of “happiness” through material consumption. The second, less direct, consequence is that increased consumption through our desire to be happy, leads to environmental and social degradation, particularly where the things we consume are produced, powered from and disposed of.

Perpetrators (examples):

Consumer journalists; advertising executives; marketing professionals; salespeople; travel agents; product developers.

There’s another 14 of these to do, so any comments are most welcome before I do all of them wrong.

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