Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Adverto Pervertum

The creation of the fetish is the manufacture of an object or concept purported to contain some desirable essence; an ascribed content capable of exerting an influence or similar effect upon the mind or 'spirit' of other people, endowing the object's possessor with a certain social power and through them contributing to that fetishes prestige, it is the endowment of natural or constructed objects with a value or content external to them.

The production of these objects is undertaken with a specific aim in mind, somebody might visit their local hierophant seeking a blessing, lucky charm, or similar tool to enhance their sexual prowess, protect them in battle or which will ward off evil spirits, in effect transferring their sense of inadequacy, apprehension or anxiety to the objects creator, an authoritarian vessel who absorbs this psychological energy then produces it's mediation in a tangible form.

During this process the object is fashioned so as best to convey it's ability to achieve it's particular purpose: a protection charm would be small, versatile and lightweight so as not to impede the wearer; a dream catcher woven with numerous interlaced strands as any net used for hunting or fishing; a figurine designed to root out a traitor or thief in the tribe, would represent a humanoid figure for potential suspects to more easily identify with it[1].

Employed alongside these more obvious requirements are: colours with their ascribed mystical properties; materials such as crystals or stones with their distinctive colouration and 'properties'; a representation like Rome's Imperial Eagle or part of an actual animal said to contain it's desirable properties, for instance a Rabbit foot, Eagle feather, Shark teeth, Rhinoceros horn or Tiger blood; objects of particular shape and form important to a culture; the inscription of symbols or runes upon an object and so on.

Every potential feature and device is employed to establish an object's credibility within a hieratic framework, the value of the fetish is dependent not only upon the certainty their fashioner can project to facilitate belief in it's efficacy, but also upon an underlying relation to the world and explanation of it's various phenomena, the rudimentary awareness of which is exploited in the construction of each particular fetish.

An 18th century bard wrote “my love is like a red red rose”, a more contemporary bard stated “In every dream home a heartache”, needless to say in our fascination with the “nice” and revulsion toward the accurate, the former remains far more popularly known.

The explicit objects of identification in each religious ideology differ, the implicit truth of our submission to an oppressive external hierarchy permeates them all, as W. Mcgaffey states of the Congo ritual system: “Fetishism' is about relations among people, rather than the objects that mediate and disguise those relations.

Even words such as truth, freedom, love, power, success, or knowledge; general concepts, slogans or phrases, through repetition become fetishized objects people feel and are encouraged to believe are essential, for the navigation of a world still steeped in no small amount of error.

Like the Congolese Warriors encountered by Che Guevara while combating Imperialist forces in Africa, who, being equipped only with Mulele Water (or Dawa Potion) from their castes of holy men; fetishes designed to deflect bullets; and no small measure of credulity, being thus convinced of their invulnerability ran blindly into battle towards their own destruction. A person clothing themselves in certain symbols, phrases, ideas or slogans; who believes they possess bravery, beauty, knowledge or truth; who has been convinced they are honest, pure, attractive, funny or pious; or who has obtained some object embodying one or more of these attributes, can derive from these symbolic forms no small measure of confidence in their efficacy.

These fetish objects are effective in proportion to the amount of certainty the individual selling them -the shaman, psychic, priest, salesman, seducer, teacher or political leader- can project. Their social prestige, the purely contingent validation of it's owners confidence in them, and perpetual affirmation of a range of fetishes' efficacy in hierarchical human culture throughout history. [1.1]

'Beautiful' feelings are taken as arguments in themselves; the 'sustaining breast' as the bellows of divinity, and mere conviction as the criterion of 'truth'.

By the puritanical preacher inspiring enough 'faith' amongst his congregation, even the convoluted doctrines of the New Testament can become, if not convincing then certainly emotionally rousing, this is why advertising companies and public image gurus are employed by corporations and individuals, to inspire confidence in certain products, ideas or marketable commodities for a considerable fee.

Taken at superficially appealing face value then eventually being adopted by multitudes, fetishized ideas, explanations, objects or factitiously constructed 'realities' become irresistible, particularly when the tension between their demonstration by one and absence for another, becomes unbearable to the unconscious of the latter.

This is due not only to the natural human desire to 'fit-in', our inherent susceptibility to persuasion, taste for novelty and fear of alienation, but is facilitated by coercive behaviour such as psychological or physical bullying and manipulation, often unconsciously seeking to enforce one's own adherence to cultural 'norms' by attacking those of others, or in the case of religious morality; attacking and debasing a people's very nature to coerce their conformity.

A concept, slogan or phrase general enough to superficially appeal to and be adopted by as many people as possible such as: “faith is good”; “doubt is bad”; “economic growth”; “technological progress”; “the poor are feckless and indolent”; or “the rich are greedy and ruthless”; “love is all you need”, like any material objects believed to be endowed with 'mystical' power, may create a perpetual feedback loop, becoming self referential 'truths'[2], first hierarchically bestowed then reinforced through repetition, they become socially enforced overtly and implicitly.

These reified concepts mediate and determine our social relations and interactions with the world, giving shape to the unconscious desires, drives and actions which constitute our activity, have you heard somebody say “I want happiness”, or “I want love”, then seen their life become a constant process of acquisition, an eternal recurrence of aspiration, attainment and disillusionment?

These are merely ways of expressing an otherwise undetermined urge through language, giving these deep, instinctual aspects of our nature an outlet in consciousness, the power lies in defining the content of these terms, determining what they actually represent or mean, their relevance to our individual lives.

One can be active about this process, or passively accept the multitudinous versions created, reproduced or marketed for consumers at considerable financial and 'spiritual' cost.

As Joseph Geobbals so adequately demonstrated in Germany during the 1930' and 40's;“[propaganda] must make use of painting in black-and-white, since otherwise it cannot be convincing to people”, an object's ease of availability, it's effortless adoption by the widest number of people is what matters, the confidence a particular fetish inspires, not it's factual accuracy, authenticity or ability to fulfil claims made about it, indeed many modern consumables are produced so as to be insufficient to requirements, thereby instituting not only a cycle of submission to the consumption of constantly emerging reproductions, but also an implicit justification for the unrelenting production of 'needs'.

Like the shipwrecked sailor driven to drink the sea water surrounding him to quench his thirst, these superficially appealing constructs merely exasperate our situation.

As this becomes ever more apparent; the gap between the attainment of our 'desires' and our inevitable dissatisfaction narrows, is it any surprise that religious fundamentalism; the conspiracy cult of easy answers; fetishism of nations, sovereignty, the economy; and other manifestations of black and white thinking are enjoying such a resurgence amidst this degeneration?

Advertising agencies as previously mentioned exist not only to appeal to, but also to produce human needs; utilizing the social technological mediums available, their audio-visual productions are designed to captivate and transfix the viewer upon certain things that they lack all the better if these are entirely non-existent: the need to get ahead of the curve; the need to be more connected; the need to go faster, be fitter, stronger, better looking; to be loved; to gain enlightenment; inner peace ad infinitum, thereby affirming the sense of inadequacy, apprehension or anxieties, which channel people towards perpetual passive consumption of various products designed to 'save' us.

Those skilled in the marketing of conceptual or physical objects, are fundamentally indebted to the advancements made in psychological research -which advanced our understanding of the unconscious nature of human beings- during the 20th century, whether that knowledge was given freely, taken or earned, it is unfortunately overwhelmingly employed in manipulating and further enslaving, rather than empowering those who don't have it.

The theologians of the numerous cults of easy answers are well aware of the same techniques, “What's that, you lack understanding of an often incomprehensible world?
Here, have mine.... It will only cost you one mortal soul”.

Constructed fetish objects; the symbols, become mistaken for the things they are intended to signify, in the case of the dream catcher it is the owners subconscious temporarily convinced and put at rest, rather than the efficacy of the object itself, the consumer of a particular brand of deodorant, feeling confidence in his appeal to the olfactory nerves of the opposite sex may exude this confidence, which -rather than how an individual smells- is what appeals to the target audience.

The object or symbol in question, merely provides a framework or container in which various fears and desires can be expressed, it mediates the existence of these uncomfortable aspects of human consciousness, and temporarily allays them for as long as it takes for the next 'stop-gap' to arrive.


[1] In the Congolese system and what are known as Voodoo dolls this included sticking pins into the doll and gauging the response of potential suspects, demonstrating the painful torturous punishments they might experience when found out, the idea being that guilt would manifest in a wince, panic or even pain where the object representing the guilty party has been pierced.

[1.1] For example astrology, christianity, numerology, etc etc.

[2] This is a logical fallacy “appeal to popularity”: a thing widely valued becomes established as 'politically correct', can be considered right regardless of it's factual accuracy merely by the absence of criticism, sometimes, as in the case of Stalinist Russia or Nazi Germany criticism being violently suppressed but more often drowned out by the infatuation of the masses.

[3]  'Joseph Goebbels' Principles of Propaganda', by Leonard W. Doob