Monday, January 28, 2013

Back in the 70’s when I lived in Los Angeles, I had a very good friend who was a creative director at a big advertising agency.  She sat around with a bunch of “brainiacs” and came up with catchy slogans and phrases that would promote their client’s products.  One of her major accounts was Libby’s, the canned fruit and vegetable business that was very well known then and now.  Libby’s was having a problem.  Their canned corn, potatoes and carrots were flying off the shelves, but there was something about peas that people seemed to reject.  Canned peas just sat on the counters and it was my friend’s mission to bring peas to the forefront of the consumer’s minds and make them inviting to eat.  She came up with what I thought was a fantastic ad campaign, especially given the time period, the music, the Vietnam war and everything else that was happening in the 60’s and 70’s.  Her catchphrase was this; “Give Peas a Chance”.  

Now I don’t know if that would actually have made people want to put down their cans of beans and corn to consume peas instead, but I personally thought that it was a stroke of genius.  It was like being at the right place at the right time.  She captured an essence that was so apropos for the era that it seemed to me it was a no-brainer.  There’s your campaign.  Job done ... but it wasn’t.  

The powers that decided such matters hesitated, hemmed and hawed about the inferred word “Peace”.  They felt that it was unattainable, thus the consumer would be less likely to buy something that was an illusive dream.  A “nice” thought for sure and they admired the sentiment but that was as far as it went.  They looked at their bottom line and did not think that peace was a way to sell peas.  Instead they went with something that the general public could more readily accept.  Peace was too intellectual, too big an idea to wrap one’s brain around.  

In a roundabout way this all came to mind again as I was sitting in a movie theater in Florida a few days ago.  I was visiting a town that was made up of mostly retirees, elderly people, grandmothers and grandfathers.  We were relaxed in our chairs, patiently waiting for the film to begin while listening to classical music that was being piped through the speakers.  The lights went down as I munched on my popcorn and we all looked forward to the feature, but it seemed that there were other plans afoot.  

For a full twenty minutes before the feature presentation, we were saturated with a barrage of previews for new, upcoming films.  It is hard for me to find the words to describe what the audience and I were subjected to because it wasn’t so much what we saw, but instead it was about the intent.  The intent was to instill fear.  Though the actors and story lines changed with each film trailer we watched, the message was consistent and clear; be afraid.  Of what, I don’t know, but terror was being piped into that theater at a high volume, the classical music but a faded memory.  

Apprehension was being spewed out like glitter from the movie screen, settling down upon us like falling dust.  It was as if a concentrated and highly orchestrated PSYOP’s unit was being let loose on the audience to hammer away at our objective reasoning and emotions.  We were being invaded by an unwanted intruder with a key and permission slip to search out our vulnerabilities and to unlock each of our hidden Pandora’s boxes.  The theater had been taken over by the dark in more ways than one.  

I personally could see it for what it was, a game of control not unlike the evening news or the headlines that scream terror at every opportunity that is given.  I’m sure that there were others too that understood that we were being manipulated to believe that fear is more possible than peace.  Someone’s agenda was being promoted in a world where terror reigned.  Terror and all the cottage industries that have sprung up around anxiety are profitable but, damn it!  Even in a movie theater?!  Someone was trying to push us down a dark alley with creatures of the night who were ready to pounce.  

I was bored and irritated at the visuals being thrust upon us as we, the captive audience, were being violated by the unrelenting onslaught of psychological and physical aggression being displayed in all their glory on a fifty foot high piece of canvas.  Battle fatigue was setting in.  If I was home I would have flipped the channel, though you’d be hard pressed to even find me in front of a television.  As well, I started to wonder what was going through the heads and hearts of the elderly people that sat there in silence.  Were they possibly thinking of their children and grandchildren?  Were they worried as to what might become of them?  Were they scared for their loved ones and their mere survival?  It didn’t seem fair, older people having to fight for a slice of civility on a quiet day out.  

So my thought is this; I, for one, am going to give peace a chance.  I am going to be that silly person that speaks of love and tranquility when others speak of fear, the idealist smiling for light and balance on this planet.  And I know I’m not alone in my desires.  I’m going to look upon this campaign of fear for what it is, a distorted view and a perversion of the only reality that truly exists, which is the expression of love.  A peaceable kingdom.  What a lovely, silly thought.

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