Love. As Valentine's Day draws near, we are bombarded with messages of marketing. Are diamonds truly a "girl's best friend?" Is love a box of chocolates, or a dozen red roses delivered by a cute guy running around in leotards? Is it a woozy feeling that some might diagnose as a digestive disorder, or, as Eleanor Roosevelt postulated, a mental illness?
I don't know about you, but the Hollywood version of love sure hasn't shown up to sweep me off my feet to the land of live-happily-ever-after.
What is true love? What is happiness?
Daisaku Ikeda writes, "We determine our own happiness; it is not something outside of us. For instance, getting married doesn't necessarily guarantee happiness. Some people find marriage a source of suffering and frustration. There's no need to panic or rush into such things. It is important to lead your life by staying true to your personal mission, do your very best in the realm of [world peace] and become a strong and resilient person. That's the key to a life of supreme happiness."
What wise words! But Hollywood and Madison Avenue won't tell us this. It doesn't sell diamonds or chocolates or even long-stemmed roses.
As has been said many times, "The business of America is business." Through advertising, we are often manipulated to think that our deepest desires will be met, and we will fill the aching void within, if only we spend money on products, like good consumers.
Did you know that "consumerism" is a concept created by the father of propaganda, Edward Bernays? He lays it all out in his instruction manual to politicians and big business, Propaganda, published in 1928. The nephew of Sigmund Freud, he used Freud's theories about the subconscious to manipulate Americans into buying his clients' products.
Bernays' thesis is that we, the masses, do not think. We only have fears and desires. (I'm still desiring that chocolate in the photo above… How about you?) To manipulate the masses, he urges, business must identify the deepest desires and fears of the masses. With this knowledge, business can become an "invisible government" and manipulate us.
Pretty creepy stuff. But that is exactly what is behind all of these commercials tweaking our heart strings making us want to buy or receive while ignoring the realities: diamonds mined in exploitative working conditions; imported chocolates made from cocoa grown in countries that the First World has, and continues to, oppress; or agribusiness-grown roses whose pesticides contaminate the Earth.
There are other ways of expressing our affection to our Valentines than buying. What about a handmade card? A flower you grew yourself in your garden?
A home-cooked meal?
Like Daisaku Ikeda says, we create our happiness and fulfillment. We have all the happiness and love in the universe right inside of us, waiting to be tapped.
Happy Valentine's Day.