Gramsci was Right on Turning Left
Gramsci and His Theory
Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) was an Italian Socialist/Marxist philosopher and politician. He wrote “In the new order, socialism will triumph by first capturing the culture via infiltration of schools, universities, churches and the media”.
He was among the first to recognise the oppressed would not “rise and seize the levers of economic power”, as Marx had predicted. In developed countries, there was not an underclass living in abject poverty. Revolutions happened hundreds of years ago, or in tin pot dictatorships, not developed countries where the standard of living was good and masses of armed people roaming the streets is inconceivable.
He was extremely perceptive in noting it was the culture that would have to be changed. And change it has over the past decade or more.
The 2008 GFC and resulting Quantitative Easing were, in hindsight, landmark events that opened the way for the push for change. Quantitative Easing, the lending of money at extremely low, or even zero interest to get investment flowing again after the GFC played a role. One needed to have asset backing (wealth) to take advantage of this and in a simplistic interpretation the “rich got richer and the poor got poorer”.
The lead up to GFC highlighted what can go wrong when capitalism and greed is left to run unchecked. I am sure many will have seen the movie” Wall Street” and the character who was the epitome of what was happening before the 1987 crash, Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas, sprouting his famous line “Greed is Good”.
But it wasn’t only the filthy rich taking advantage of the economic situation. The “Greed is Good” philosophy ran across all but the poorest groups. Everyone wanted in. But when the shit hit the fan, the “system” took the blame, even though greed had no socio-economic boundaries.
Sewing the Seeds of Socialism
By 2008, the fall of the Berlin wall was almost 20 years old and hence people had forgotten what it was like behind the Iron Curtain. The miserable lives that all but a tiny number of the elites lived. The drab grey apartment buildings, the square ugly cars that broke down every 100km, the long ques for luxury items such as meat and eggs.
And of course, the total eradication of freedom of speech and a ban on any gathering of more than a small number of people.
To the West, the horrors of a Socialist system were evident, and no sane person wanted such a system to replace democracy.
The term used today is “Democratic Socialism”. Yeah, like “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”. (North Korea, that shinning beacon of freedom and compassion).
Of all the murdering despots of the 20th century, one was Nazi, the rest were Socialist. Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Castro, Chávez were all are all equal to Hitler when it came to atrocities. In fact, Stalin murdered many times the number of people than Hitler. But his legacy has been sanitised by today’s leftists.
Progressive Versus Conservative
Today, the terms “Progressive” and “Conservative” are part of the lexicon. The former implying one is forward thinking, the latter implication is of someone who is stuck in the past, unable to move with the times. (Progressive versus Conservative. Obvious which has a more appealing image.)
Of course, it is not so simple. People can determine whether a new idea or concept has merit and worthy of adoption. There is not some type of divide that differentiates the Progressives from the Conservatives. People move seamlessly between being Conservative on some issue e.g. believing children require discipline and routines when developing and Progressive in others e.g. Marriage Equality.
The Slow Decay
The 2008 GFC provided the fuel, social media the social megaphone. The vocal minority have always been in existence. But the volume has increased exponentially and so many are falling for their narrative. GetUp! works on emotion and bullshit, but you must dip you lid to their effectiveness in selling fraudulent messages. Their hypocrisy is breath taking, taking commissions from industries they berate, but again, very clever and effective.
So much of what they say is either a twist on the truth (the best lies are those that have an element of truth) or are outright lies.
GetUp! are but one of so many minority groups with megaphones.
We now see Kindergarten teachers having their children make signs saying, “No Children in Detention” and other political statements. Teachers have a primary responsibility to teach, not indoctrinate children with their political beliefs.
In 2017, The United Nations Children’s Fund placed Australia 39th out of 41 nations in educational outcomes (we beat Romania and Turkey).
We have grown fat and lazy. “The Price of Freedom is Eternal Vigilance”. Though there is debate over who coined it, it has never been more relevant.
Where Does Advertising Sit?
It is mandatory for anyone in communications to be aware of the socio-political environment if you want to stay relevant. Working off major events can provide great creative cut-through. But there is a huge difference between leveraging events and doing a Nike or Gillette – Brand Purpose. (Not the place to argue the case of contextual over targeted), but if you are engaged in mass communications, you will only piss off a significant proportion of people who do not agree if you take one side on a divisive issue. That is not brave, it is bloody stupid. Your remit is to sell, build an image etc. not to push your political beliefs. People say, “the brand has to stand for something”. Absolutely correct. But stand for a commercially viable position, not moralise. Yes, business should be active in the community from which it prospers. But it has done and should continue to do so by supporting worthy, non-political causes.
Recently I wrote an article about Toxic Masculinity, inspired by the Gillette ad. I was certainly less than diplomatic on issues such as “Gender Neutrality”. Neurologists look at MRI scans of male and female brains to better understand the behaviours caused by distinct physiological differences between the two. So, anyone who believes males and females are identical may as well claim to earth is flat. There is indisputable truth males and females are different – I went to great lengths to point this out and did not imply one was better. Difference has no bearing on equality. Is a great artist better to a top physicist, or a musician superior to a surgeon? Of course not, but they do differ.
The primary purpose of the article was to stir the pot and gauge reaction. One lady (am I able to use that term, or should it be a person who has chosen to be a woman? This is the type of sarcasm I used), was highly offended, writing an article which criticised me and all I said. Good for her. That is what free speech and democracy is about – but she clearly implied I should not be able to write such things. Her attitude was her views were right and there was no place for my “dangerous” thinking i.e. censorship.
“No Platforming” is big on US campuses and is starting to happen here. If the “crowd” does not agree with what you have to say, you should not be allowed to say it.
The advertising industry is far more political than it was a decade ago. There used to be a large degree of tolerance for different views. More and more, there is peer pressure to conform to Identity Politics.
Diversity is an industry hot button. One of my closest friends, a medical specialist, is Asian. But he was born here, speaks with an Australian accent, because he is Australian. I have never had, or felt the need, to ask about his heritage i.e. are his parents and grandparents from China, Vietnam, Thailand. It is irrelevant. He is as Australian as any of my “white” friends.
It is very difficult to find reliable figures on the ethnicity of the Australian population. The best estimate I found was: English 25.9%, Australian 25.4%, Irish 7.5%, Scottish 6.4%, Italian 3.3%, German 3.2%, Chinese 3.1%, Indian 1.4%, Greek 1.4%, Dutch 1.2%, other 15.8% (includes Australian aboriginal 0.5%), unspecified 5.4%
Though a significant percentage of the population was born overseas, many of these are from European heritage. The 2 largest groups are European and Asian. The latter is like the former. Europe has many different nations and cultures, as do Asians.
If you hire purely on ability, then the staffing mix should mirror that of the population. Indigenous Australians being the exception. This is the one group that should be positively discriminated towards. They suffer far less educational opportunities, have significantly less life expectancies – the list goes on. It is a disgrace. They are the only group in society who should be offered extra opportunities.
But the rest of this rubbish about increasing diversity in advertising is just that, rubbish. Too many white males? Have a look around, there are quite a few of us.
When was the last time you took a walk through a large hospital? If recently, then you would have noticed the number of Asian doctors equals or is greater than the white doctors(male or female). James Rouse High, the selective high school which nearly always tops the state in HSC results, is dominated by Asian students. Maybe the very smart Asian students are not interested in an advertising career, choosing medicine instead. To gain a place in medicine at the University of Sydney for 2019, an ATAR result of 99.95 was required.
Maybe advertising should go after the very top Asian students. In the past 25 years we have slipped from a seat in the boardroom, to seat in the basement.
The power of persuasion is everywhere – I mentioned GetUp! earlier. A public company board would have far more interest meeting the leaders of this organisation, even though it is broadly anti-business, to gain some understanding of how they have effectively shifted mass public opinion. That used to be our job. Now, we are far more engrossed in data and media, the tools, rather than the task.
And pushing for a more diverse industry is not the answer. We should be looking to recruit the smartest of the smart and to hell with their ethnicity, sex or sexual persuasion.
Gramsci was far left, but he certainly was right