by Linda Eve Diamond
(Swans - September 26, 2005) Talking heads feed us so many lines we can't swallow as their words fill our mouths. When news turned to dogma no one told us, so we've been singing their headlines as gospel. Then you'll hear some talking head and say he's so on target, right in line with your views, but whose line is it? Sometimes you may wonder, but we hear so much about so little it's hard to find head space for wondering.
But who are you to fire a line of questions? You have no platform. If you want one, get in line. It's a free country; speak your mind. But the line leads up and down an Escher staircase where you ascend only to find yourself at the bottom again. You're free to speak on a soapbox in your living room but the media is spoken for. So just get comfy and sit still. You're the target: you're the target audience. You've been studied, watched, surveyed, polled, and spied on all, they say, to serve you better.
You're also free to drive a Hummer to buy Diet Coke, restructured food, and a list of pills without even stopping to wonder if any of it makes sense. We're slaves to addictions, desires, debts, and successes; a fine line wavers between servitude and freedom. We're slaves to the servants we elect to serve us.
So we crave their food and, oh, how we crave the happiness products can buy. A woman is sold beauty in boxes of face paint and sprays; she can buy body parts and have her face sculpted with cookie-cutter knives. A man can invest in being loved, too, with some sculpting, a fancy car and some hair. When packaging is pretty enough it's so tempting to buy we may even forget to peek inside. There's a line at every store in the mall. Buy love, get fulfillment -- half off.
It's all about things -- innocuous things, moderately useful things, obliquely important things, beautiful things, and dangerous things, too. Dangerous food, toxic breasts, and deadly diet pills, but aren't we pretty things? Product lines can save you from wrinkling, crying, thinking, dying, or being just plain ugly. Food can make us happy and booze can make us fun; we never see bloated drunks on billboards or that sexy model kneeling by the bowl. It's no wonder I believe I can eat enough to fill my soul.
We drive from point A to point B where we consume then go home. As we drive, news pitches and ad broadcasts penetrate our brains. You don't even notice when a billboard takes the space where you were about to imagine something fantastic but, instead, you think of car insurance.
We talk about thinking outside the box and drawing outside the lines, but we mostly pretty much toe the line. We don't always care how much yarn they spin; just give us a great bottom line. Sell us shirts that say "freedom"; tell us our diseases are prestigious because poor countries don't get them; tell us our nation cares for the world; tell us how to scorn dissenters who step out of line. The lines are tangling in our heads; they're yarns knitting themselves while we sleep into patterns shaped like logos and flags. They're stitching the words: "God Bless America," where we might have thought, instead, "God Bless the World."