Cash for Gold


Every day I walk past these three "Cash for Gold" employees. Poor souls whose job it is to stand in the middle of St. George's Mall Street with chest-sized billboards hung around their necks.

Yesterday, just as I was pitying them, I looked down and I noticed as if for the first time how I was wearing a Nike t-shirt. I really saw it. And the message embedded itself deep, deep within my mind, much deeper than if someone had screamed it across the marketplace. We are creatures of vision after all.

The message was this: "You're mobile advertising."
I couldn't shake this insight, and on the train ride home I noticed all the eyes bouncing off my t-shirt. Drawn there by - just what, exactly? The cool? The bright red color? The brainwashing?

And I realized then, sick to my stomach, how wearing branded t-shirts is like making yourself a walking billboard, no different from those Cash for Gold guys. The only difference being that they're getting paid to advertise, and I was conned into paying my own money to be an unwitting advertiser for a corporate interest.

Standing there on that packed train, standing there face to face with the Truth, it was like surfacing from some deep hypnosis.

So, I did what you do, and I pondered further.
I realized how so many of these t-shirt 'designs' aren't really designs at all, they're just a plain color with a corporate logo printed across them (like the one I was wearing).

Dictionary definition of the word Design

And man oh man do you have to pay a lot of money to get your hands on one of those designs (as I did). You've got to to work to buy and to don a, well, a propaganda suit (as I was doing). To be seen in a Nike t-shirt.
Sucker, I thought. Victim to the siren's song. That's what I was, and that's exactly what sits behind every set of marketers' eyes. Grinning invisible coercion. Mindless propagation.

Nike, Olympus, Hollywood, Starbucks...the symbology and etymology of so many of these ubiquitous brands is rather unsettling. But only if you stop to ponder it, if you read a few Wikipedia pages, if you make a few associations. Only if you think it means something.

Take Nike for instance. It means "victory" in ancient Greek. Victory over what?

A 'nike' is, in mythology, the winged (pagan Greek) goddess of victory. So if a Christian wears a Nike product...well, that's just confusing. The (pagan) Roman equivalent was Victoria (so that's where that name comes from). She's the sister of Kratos (symbolizing strength), Bia (symbolizing force), and Zelus (symbolizing zeal a.k.a the crazy religious fervor that might cause somebody to, say, blow themselves up).
A quick Wikipedia search reveals that the ancient Nike is the daughter of Pallas and the goddess Styx. Pallas is the Titan god of warcraft. Styx is both a deity and river, forming the boundary between the earth and the underworld.
The underworld, a.k.a. Hades. Like where Satan hangs out.

The word is of uncertain etymology, and has a long, dark history dating back thousands of years. Why choose such a name to name a clothing company? What idea is it buying into, exactly?

But that's just Nike. There's still Olympus. Hollywood. Starbucks.

I love Starbucks. I love caffeine. I love this drug, this addictive chemical, coffee. It's so warm and dark and inviting.
Why choose such a symbol? I’m just saying.


I’m just saying.
 
An illustration of the mythological Greek siren




I'm just saying.


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