What is pollution?
In the 14th century, pollution had an exclusively spiritual and immaterial meaning. Back then, to pollute meant to desecrate or contaminate what is sacred, such as one's soul or moral sensibility. Not until the late 19th century did pollution take on the scientific and materialist connotation it has today.
Tragically, with the changing meaning of ‘pollution,’ we've become increasingly concerned about contamination of our external, natural environment, while ignoring the desecration of our internal, mental environment.
Although you would never intentionally ingest poison, many of us continue to consume toxic information and visual pollution everyday, thousands of times per day.
Advertising is an info-toxin, a symbolic pollutant that targets our mental environment.
Junk food makes us obese, but junk thoughts and advertisements may harm us more. Unlike fast food, whose consumption is always intentional, fast thoughts hit us unawares.
Walking down the street, our eyes devour billboards whose carefully crafted imagery hit us on a subconscious, spiritual level. We are poisoned by each ad.
Concern over the mental environment isn’t new. Generations ago, the French writer Emile Zola wrote the satirical short story, “Death by Advertising” as a warning. It describes the swift decline of Pierre Landry, a naïve believer in the claims made by advertisers.
Throughout his life, Pierre suffered hardship because he bought whatever advertisers told him was best.
He overpaid for a paper-thin mansion on swampland, lost his hair because of a tonic and suffered health problems from popping pharmaceutical pills.
Pierre organized his bookshelves based on sales rank, reading only the newspaper reviews and the back cover of a book to discover what he ought to think about it.
Losing his ability to think critically and full of half-formed ideas inherited from the ads he saw, Pierre, poisoned by advertising, died a moron’s death.
Today, we are all Pierre Landry. Advertising has poisoned our minds, corrupted our culture and turned us away from the noble pursuits of virtue, wisdom and the stewardship of nature.
Now, we seek only the ephemeral pleasures of consumerism: new gadgets and twit thoughts.
Advertising obscures our vision, preventing us from seeing that because of our over-consumption, our civilization is marching toward ecological collapse.
Now we must gather the strength to launch an insurrection against corporate communication. Only then will a movement to protect our mental environment catch flame.