Sharp Sticks and Sad Shooters: The Socio Cultural Theory Part 1

Posted: March 25, 2014 in Socio Cultural Theory
Tags: , , ,

I was sitting in a waiting room when I consciously realized, for the first time, how sinister and manipulative advertising can be. The catalyst of this realization happened to be a magazine for bow hunters. I don’t remember which one and I indeed expect they are all essentially the same.

I am familiar with archery, somewhat. I own a 1953 Fred Bear recurve, a beautiful piece of work which has well stood the test of time and has certainly slain an animal or two in its day. Modern bow hunting pays little attention to traditional equipment. Quality recurves are in fact still manufactured and often comparable in price to the modernized, ultra sleek compound models which are popular these days. That’s no more of a surprise than the idea that both classes of bow perform in a way which is also quite comparable. The fact is, man has been tying a string to two ends of a sapling and slinging barbed sticks toward their dinner for centuries, at least. The effectiveness of the tool is evidenced by the existence of our species.

Let’s dwell on the implications of that thought for just a moment…

Man has hunted for centuries without composite carbon fiber compound bows, titanium alloy broad heads mounted on carbon shafts, laser sighting systems, real-tree camo print aluminum quivers, trigger-release devices with para cord lanyards, $1100 price tags… No. Mostly, we’ve survived with the stick and strip of deer gut model. Not only that, but we’ve done it without a formalized system of understanding the basic principles of physics and engineering that exists today. The fact is, no one really needs that shit.

Nevertheless, an entire industry has emerged around what used to be a simple practice and engaging this industry can get downright pricey. Consider a bow, what it is, and where it comes from.

First of all, expect to pay $500-1000. For a custom recurve, you pay a guy called a bowyer. He hand selects the wood and may even locally source it at little cost. He shapes, bends and polishes it. He crafts a string especially for the bow. Then he tests it. The price of the bow is based upon its creators time, expense, knowledge and energy and is determined by the bowyer. A name-brand compound bow will cost roughly the same but the process is different entirely. Many parts are sourced and virtually all parts are factory made by “craftsmen” whose wage and creativity are tightly controlled by the boundaries of the company’s manufacturing process. For example, the pulleys used on a compound bow might be mass produced in a factory in Malaysia and the string might be made in China. Even if the carbon limbs are handmade in America, it all occurs within the parameters of industry standard and everything, right down to the wages of the workers is tightly controlled in order to achieve the highest profit margins. With a custom handmade bow, the user pays the maker directly for the time and energy used to make the bow. With a mass produced bow, the consumer pays the industry. The investors and money-men behind the industry take a solid chunk of profit and divvy what’s left out to those who supplied the energy and time necessary for the creation process. The investors did, well, nothing and take most of the profit (hold that thought-I will address mining of and underselling of human energy at great length in later posts). It doesn’t surprise me that corporately produced media, such as a bow hunting magazine, would avoid encouraging the use of anything other than a corporately produced product. There is no incentive for a big name magazine to feature a small local bowyer making exceptional products when you consider what that persons potential contribution to corporate profit margins would ever amount to. On the contrary, industry can benefit from limiting the popular exposure of such individuals and products. That would certainly explain why two avid twenty-something bow hunters I met one day had never actually seen a handmade wood recurve bow up close and had no idea that people still used them.

It makes me wonder how to get an otherwise reasonable and intelligent person to part with two or three or four weeks salary for a mass produced, over priced tool which, historically, needs to be nothing more than an ash sapling and a dried piece of deer gut, both of which are free.

Industry uses advertising to convince us that we need things that we don’t, everybody knows that. Advertisers create media like the bow hunting magazine I picked up from a waiting room coffee table. No surprise there.

But what happens next? What does the media actually do to get a guy to buy such a toy?

Advertising interacts with our identities, particularly our self-perceptions as well as how we think others perceive us. The imagery and photography in the magazine followed a fairly rigid theme. There were images of products all by themselves, lots of those, but there was also a concentration of “trophy photos.” In trophy photos, a hunter typically poses kneeling next to a large dead animal. The animals head will be lifted and displayed by the hunter and the weapon will be prominently featured in the picture, often resting across the dead carcass. Strangely, there are never arrows sticking out of the animals. I suspect certain groups of individuals might rifle shoot a large animal and then move it several times and pose multiple hunters and multiple weapons. More buck for the bang, so to speak, when it comes to advertising photography, but that’s just my theory.

So what does this imagery have to do with perception and how does it make a person buy an $1100 hunk of plastic and why is that bad? Let’s get right down to the brass tacks.

One thing that is happening is modeling. Modeling is effective because it’s how we learn to be who we are. It’s monkey-see monkey-do. Ultimately our personalities are formulated through the mimicry of various sets of behavioral traits that suit our individual biological needs and tendencies…mostly. For example, a person who purposefully reads a bow hunting magazine might easily carry a desire to be the guy holding up the dead antelope head. That imagery represents a role that that individual may desire to play as a part of his chosen identity. Seeing himself in the picture, however, involves the presence of not only himself and the carcass, but also the bow…the composite carbon compound bow with the sighting system and integrated quiver stacked with state of the art titanium tipped armor piercing arrows. It’s a subtle trick, but it works. Do it enough times and it becomes the standard. The word iconic comes to mind.

In 2014 we find the popular standard of measurement to be success with a technologically superior plastic. Did I mention the two pups at the hunting store actually sneered a little and asked if it would actually take down a deer? The problem with externally applied cultural standards is that human beings exist as individuals with varying strengths and weaknesses which seem never to measure up when applied to a common scale. This system of behavior provides sufficient heat necessary for the incubation of inadequacy in the human mind.

The idea is to create a standard through such iconography as “trophy photos” that the average person can never achieve. How many hunters, in this economy, can afford to fly to northern Alaska to shoot a record mountain goat on a snow capped mountainside? Not that many, I promise. That shit is expensive. What is more affordable, and easier to put on a lower limit credit card, is a bad ass compound bow. The one in the photo maybe. Problem solved, right? Nope. The man with the bow is only part of the picture. The trophy and the mountainside, for many, will remain a blur of inadequacy. Consider the long term effects, however minor, upon a persons self-esteem. I won’t elaborate at present, but consider them and compound them with every other consumer-corporate advertising interaction that a person experiences.

Creating a culture of inadequacy to feed upon is a function of a trauma-based brainwashing/reprogramming system. Evidence of its use exists across our culture, most notably within the military training programs, cults and other religious institutions and on a more grass-roots level, abusive relationships. The idea is to imprint the perception of inadequacy within the human being in such a way that it becomes beholden to a third party for redemption from this inadequacy.

Apply that to the bow hunting magazine. Think back to the drill sergeants methods in Full Metal Jacket. If you haven’t seen it, watch it. Think about how cults and pimps prey upon people. If you’re unaware, youtube is full of documentaries. Next consider all the blogs from victims of sociopaths who have been beaten down physically and emotionally in order that they may be fed upon. And stop there.

That’s what it’s all about. In each example, only the identity of the predator changes. The behavior and the methods are the same, as are the outcomes. My postulation, is that elements of sociopathic psychology exist widely across the spectrum of our culture and that human beings, on a macro level, are being manipulated and victimized by this system and for some reason, go along with it happily. I wonder how the increased usage of anti-anxiety meds play into that…but that’s a question for another day.

For today, consider this an introduction of a discussion of what I think I might call Socio Cultural Theory…yeah…I’ll go with that. Let’s give it an abstract too and say “…elements of human culture established intentionally and perpetuated for the purpose of one party harvesting the energies of another party through the utilization of various methods of psychological manipulation…” In normal speak, let’s say I plan to do some serious shit talking about a bunch damned dirty savages that feed off of the rest of us because they’re too good to live in shit and too lazy to work a shovel.

After all, it takes one to know one.

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