Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Monday 24 September 2012

'Be good, sweet child, and let who will be clever'

Hot on the heels of recent musings on the insult to adult consumers offered by products in primary colours comes an infuriating unsolicited mailshot from an insurance company.

"Want a sweeter deal?" it enquires, as it describes yet another financial product I don't need, "Sound tempting?"

It's not just the siren words that are irritating in the extreme, it's the accompanying illustrations; three card inserts featuring photographs of brightly coloured jelly sweets.

I'm over 40 years old and - last time I checked - in full possession of my faculties; why should I be attracted by pictures of a pile of fruit gums?

I admit I'm partial to the odd square bar of chocolate in moments of stress - which is, I supppose, quite understandable if there is any vestige of truth in the recent 'scientific findings' summarily debunked by the supremely rational Leg-Iron (in a post with the inspired title 'Chocolate - the opium of the massive'). 

I do not, however, find anything remotely appealing in the sight of a pile of possibly e-number-ridden jelly bears.

And why should I? What has persuaded a company dealing exclusively in money to go to the trouble and expense of sending me pictures of confectionery in the hope it will induce me to sign up for - of all things - health insurance?

The only answer I can come up with is the spreading infantilisation of our society. The default expectation, universally spread and promoted by the media, is that women like pretty, colourful things and men like toys and games and other reminders of their younger selves - the mailshot presumably hopes to catch both.

From the cartoon characters in television adverts to catchy slogans in bank windows, the financial sector has followed the retail one and dumbed down to a frightening extent, just as customers need more knowledge and understanding than ever before to negotiate the complicated range of products and services on offer.

And need we ask who benefits from a populace fixated on trivia and self-indulgence? The obvious answer is that the economy needs us to see life in terms of consumer treats. Mature adults plan ahead, they save money rather than spending it - or borrowing - which doesn't help at all if you see economic growth as a necessity. 'Carpe diem', chorus the media; 'it's for the common good'.

But more to the point - and more sinister - is the inevitable conclusion that an infantile population is easier to control. As long as the people concentrate on the pursuit of pleasure or the latest playground craze, our political and financial masters can carry on deceiving and exploiting us and living it up at our expense.


  1. I can recall when things like jelly beans were an almost unattainable luxury. The last one I tried a while back tasted nasty and gummed up the teeth. In the same way insurance was once highly desirable but these days is often less reliable than jelly beans made in a shed in Poland.

  2. The only answer I can come up with is the spreading infantilisation of our society.

    Or the desired spreading infantilisation of our society.

  3. An interesting point, Demetrius, especially given the mis-selling that seems to have gone on wholesale.

    Incidentally, though I haven't had a call about my 'car accident' for a while, I have been bothered a couple of times recently by people wrongly insisting I am entitled to compensation for mis-sold payment protection plans - compensation I can, it seems, claim with their help.

    JH - frightening, isn't it? I mean, they can't exactly come and round up those of us who persist in using our brains and common sense, but they can make sure we are marginalised and mistrusted by the populace in general.

    For an example, look no further that Blair's response to the death of Diana.


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