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Lions Roar : Nov 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2007 37 ism, involving sophisticated advertising that has become very good at manipulat- ing our attention. Today the big economic problem is not production but keeping us convinced that the solution to our dukkha (dissatisfaction) is our next purchase. According to pioneering advertising executive Leo Burnett, good advertising does more than circulate information: “It penetrates the public mind with desire and belief.” So Ivan Illich pointed out, “in a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves, the prisoners of ad- diction and the prisoners of envy.” Either way, one’s attention is captured. Recently it has become more evident that attention is the basic commodity to be exploited. Ben Franklin’s old adage needs to be updated: not time is money but attention is money. According to Jona- than Rowe, the basic economic resource of the new economy is “mindshare,” to use the new idiom. A turning point in the development of capitalism was “the enclosures,” when people were forced out of their traditional villages because land- lords could make more money using their land raising sheep. In his Adbuster article “Carpe Callosum” (“Seize the Brain”), Rowe discusses “the ultimate enclosure— the enclosure of the cognitive commons, the ambient mental atmosphere of daily life,” a rapid development now so per- vasive that it has become like the air we breathe unnoticed. Children are especially vulnerable, so while half of four-year-old children do not know their own name, two-thirds of three-year-olds recognize the golden arches of McDonald’s. In the past one could often ignore ads, but enclosure of the cognitive commons means they now confront us wherever our attention turns. Unless we’re meditating in a Himalayan cave, we have to process thousands of commercial messages every How can we be deconditioned from attention traps, both individual and collective? NOV 18-39.indd 37 NOV 18-39.indd 37 8/29/07 2:05:54 PM 8/29/07 2:05:54 PM