Thoughts on Commercially-Created Culture

After watching “The Gods Must Be Crazy,” I had a pervasive thought about the concept of commercially-created culture versus organically-created culture. Outside of the arts, it is difficult in modern times to conceptualize culture within the American melting pot. When we think of our everyday lives, we think of the commercial services and technologies that surround us. We also think of our pastimes and activities that have been heavily saturated by advertising and marketing. In the absence of commercialism, what would be of our consumer electronic use? What would we be spending our time consuming? In the absence of product placements in movies, commercially funded movies, political or media propaganda-laced infotainment, and music pushed by big record labels, what would the American culture actually look like?

In this bushman culture, there is no crime, no police, no theft, no concept of evil. It is believed that everything is available for a purpose. Punishment and crime doesn’t exist in their culture.  Even their hunting seems particularly humane: they don’t savagely kill beyond their needs. They first tranquilize the target, apologize and explain their reasoning, and then kill. There is also no concept of personal ownership in their culture.

In contrast, our society seems much different. Our priorities are different – manmade, almost. One of the first scenes of the film that depicts the modern world is a woman who has curlers in her hair. She gets in to her car and drives erratically on the road, one block down to the mailbox. She then drops mail in the box from her car, and then reverses and speeds her car back to her driveway. There is an element of vanity, waste, and lack of respect for natural resources and the safety of others in her implicit and explicit actions.

Additionally, our society seems fairly invaded by commercial interests and absorbed by material culture. Deep thinking regarding ethics seems to be forgotten among the masses. It seems to have been relegated to a few – people in judicial power, academics, religious folk, and the like. They become philosophical discussions that revolve around sharing and forcing opinions upon one another, rather than using ethics to examine, explore, and solve our man-made problems. This is a huge contrast to the bushman culture. One of the problems I originally had about this movie was that it seemed to depict an amazing culture in such a way that they lacked culture. They were described as primitive and simple.

Once the Coca-Cola bottle was introduced to the bushman, it introduced a fake sense of what culture was actually about. The brand culture that Coca-Cola reflects are marketing stories, and brand attributes that customers apply to the brand. These are commercially-fueled stories that have permeated what semblance we have of a culture.  Our culture has allowed political and commercial interests to become the mainstay of our thoughts and practices, rather than being the ones to fuel and shape that conversation. There are a lot of counter-culture movements but they seem to lack the cohesion and adoption needed to make a true shift in the way we think and perceive the world.