Saturday, December 3, 2016

You know what marketers say about a life unexamined

I sometimes get paid tiny amounts of money to answer marketing surveys. To me, it's a duty to fuck with marketers and keep them on their toes and prove to them there are people out there who will never fall for any of their bullshit. And sometimes you run into these delightful forms that make you question everything you think you know about the structure of reality and stuff, like today's survey about my use of fake meat in cooking. (I try to limit my meat intake but I do that by leaving meat out, not replacing it with more expensive fake stuff. There was no place in the 25+ page survey for me to say this.)

In between questions about brand name awareness (none), what colors I associate with vegetarian food packaging (none) and how much I agree or disagree about everything from the danger of gene modification (none) to the importance in upholding food traditions (none), there was a question that read,

Rank your top five out of the following groups of concepts:
  1. Results, success, commencement
  2. Independence, freedom, self-sufficiency
  3. Modesty, hometown, tradition
  4. Security, harmony, safety
  5. Trendmaking, uniqueness, attraction
  6. Responsibility, discipline, order
  7. Flexibility, openness, innovation
  8. Competence, knowledge, information
  9. Superiority, regard, power
  10. Friendship, confidence, trust
  11. Imagination, humor, ease
  12. Justice, morality, honesty
  13. Adventure, passion, fascination
  14. Health, vitality, durability
I'm like, okay, 10, 11, 12, 13 and then 7. If you put a gun to my head maybe I'd have to reconsider that order, and 2, 5 and 14 may have a place there as well. It's not that hard to figure out. But why? Why group those concepts? Why list those groups? Did a neural net construct this survey, is it the product of some inhuman hand with access to a dictionary but no concept of meaning? It's like, well.

It's in fact like this dream I had when I was about six years old. On my way to school, I walked through this little residential neighborhood that was like another world. Instead of the concrete monoliths where I lived, with space for playgrounds in between them, there were these tiny fairy tale houses littering narrow winding streets dwarfed between many large thorny hedges. So I dreamed about a wild, winding, churning, mist-covered hedge maze with secret gardens hiding cottages with witches and fairy godmothers living in them. A little dangerous, but mostly strange and wonderful. A storybook world of infinite adventure. You may see some traces of this here and there in my work if you look real hard.

But this most powerful, transformative childhood trauma doesn't usually come up in my daily life. I felt a little of it watching Inside Out. I think that was the last time, until now.

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