The train started rolling when I was thinking about Reagan. I was wondering about this, how one of the worse presidents of all time could be so revered. Still. Here he was, a senile blob to begin with and he’s still treated as some sort of god.
Ah ha! The bells went off: “Some sort of god.” Exactly. It’s the believer syndrome: ignore reality, go with faith. Trying to talk sense to a Reaganite makes as much sense as trying to talk a believer out of god. As they’ll carefully point out to you, it’s not a question of who Reagan really was, it’s how he’s perceived. Just as it’s not a question of whether or not god exists, it’s faith that counts. (“Keep the faith, baby; I’ve got no use for it.”)
That pushed me into thinking (again) of the tenacious hold believers have on, especially, the American body politic. What keeps fueling that?
Money. If you have a product to sell, you don’t want the person who needs your product, you want a customer who believes in your product. You need a customer to buy your product regardless of what it really does. You want to sell the perception of your product, not the function. I’m an Apple person; you’ll never squeeze me into a PC. You want your customer to have faith in your product.
The last thing you want is a skeptic, a doubting Thomas. What you strive for, therefore, is as large a body of true believers as you can find. It makes no difference what they believe in; what you want is, not what they believe in, but their capacity to believe. If they believe in one thing, they’re much more likely to accept something else on faith, too. Especially, if the first belief system endorses the second subject.
Functionally, this leads to anyone with a product (capitalism, anyone?) to sell to co-opting whoever leads the local belief system, which in America’s case means sucking up to the priests of the children of Abraham, Christians, in particular. Fortunately, those who have a product to sell, have the same goals as the leaders of the faith: money, power, young girls or boys. The usual stuff. It solves the problem of getting into bed together if you’re all in the same bed to start with. Also fortunately, both the leaders of the faith and those with a product to sell know that the belief is in a sham, which makes it doubly easy for them to work together: no one has to disguise their true intent.
If you’d like, you can think of belief systems—religions—as marketing schemes. Hey, they work.
Which brings me to shopping. People like to buy things. People like to go shopping. What for is less important than the act of shopping. People are perfectly happy to go shopping with nothing in mind that they’re looking for; they’re simply going shopping. Often as not, they’ll end out buying something they don’t need, just to justify the act of shopping. In fact, most of what they/we buy is unnecessary.
Why do we continually need the new object? Is the new that much better than the old?
I would posit that the act of buying is the reaffirmation of one’s faith; it’s an expression of kinship with one’s neighbors. It’s an expression of the herd instinct. One wants to be like everyone else; and, if everyone else is shopping, then shopping you’ll go. If everyone is going to church, then you’ll go to church. If everyone at your church is buying product X, then you’ll buy product X, too. If I’m selling product X, I want to get endorsed by that church and as many churches as I can. God says buy me. I want to tap into that herd instinct. I want my product to be above reproach. I want my product endorsed by God.
Welcome to the American political scheme.
I wouldn’t offhand say that American politics and religion walk hand-in-hand; I’d say it’s more a combination of hand-in-pocketbook and hand-in-pants. This is where the “different stokes” come in. Did the earth move for you, too?