One of the easiest forms of gaining an edge in a competitive environment is to malign your competition. We see it in national campaigns for governmental offices as a custom. This practice drives many of the advertisements we are bombarded by in the form of taste test and product comparisons. A similar sort of form of this is executed in propaganda and extremist writings where a particular line of thinking is polarized into the “other” or the “evil”. In the marketplace, this often results in an advantage due to the need to highlight a contrasting element of one’s product or service that will allow you to not only stand out, but to stand out as better. In this sense, “better” is defined as,”something people will want to spend money on as opposed to spending money on something similar but not sold by us.”
In this same vein, we create barriers of entry by forging standards of quality. We attempt to eliminate competition by defining our product as based on qualities that are often subjective, but that define the product. When designing logos, many designers point out to their potential clients what a logo isn’t by defining the very concept of logo based on their strengths and their competition’s weaknesses. Candidates on the campaign trail often define the office they hope to be elected to as an office that demands the skills they possess and unable to be successfully commanded by someone with their opposing candidate.At the height of the red scare, Lyndon Johnson’s campaign released an advertisement that has become referred to as “The Daisy Girl”. The effectiveness of the message was in its use of a young Caucasian girl picking at the petals of a flower while counting down and her counting down splicing into the countdown of a nuclear missile deployment. As the countdown commences, the veiwer is left watching a nuclear explosion. Without speaking to any of the actual or imagined capabilities or even desires of Lyndon B. Johnson, those veiwing this are subtly being jarred into believing that he could be president the defender and protector as opposed to his competitor Barry Goldwater.
It is in this way that our system of doing things alters our perceptions of one another. We are prone to operate based on a hegemonic structured basis of thinking that presents it Self based on standards accumulated through trade and other various competitive practices. It is difficult for me to call a thinly manufactured piece of paper, constructed in such a way as to be soft to my touch as anything other than “Kleenex”. It is difficult for me to refer to any form of searching on the interwebs as other than “google”. (How many times have you told someone to “Bing” a topic?) The creation of a successful brand often results in the standardization of a particular item. This act may leave a psychological residual, namely, the belief that in order to be a certain thing, one must possess the characteristics of the most successful exemplar of that thing.
Do I, as a writer, have to have a New York Times Best selling book or a staff position at the New Yorker in order to define my Self as a ‘writer’? I also have asked my Self questions such as,”can success or a standard in a capitalist country be defined by something beyond its quarterly reports?” This is not to say that the usage of standards should be avoided, as I typically do not promote impossible tasks. Yet, I do have to force my Self to consider the standards and standard bearers I have as archetypes in my own mental space. Throughout my day, I ask my Self what is “black”, what defines “Afkan” or “Afrikan Amerikkkan” for me? I do this because so much of what we accept as par for the course of life is simply the last best effort of refining a popularly accepted defining. And that is ultimately what a ‘standard’ is. The standard is what most are using, desiring, or believing is best. This standardizing of life spills into even the most nuanced of behaviors. I was on the phone once with a sister that claims she is a feminist, (I tend to think she’s just a well-read hedonist, but whatever), and she was upset with a mutual male associate that had pronounced him Self as a “sub”(submissive man) enjoying having sex with dominant women. Her language was to the effect of,”oh, he doesn’t know what he is talking about…he can’t call him self that…and a real sub man would do this and not that…”. Exactly, this line of thought can get immature and unnecessary fairly quick! Simultaneously, I do understand that many wish to present them Selves as experts on very subjective topics that could be discussed by a myriad of individuals, thus reducing the value of “expert” status. Once again, that barrier of entry.
For many, in order to keep your attention, your spending power, and your respect: a strategy of applied insulting, belittling, and in the case of beauty standards, dehumanizing has to be ongoing. Some people just can convince you of what they are without attacking someone about what they are not.