Yoga gives you time to think. And updogs and downdogs get me thinking. Thinking about optimism and pessimism. Thinking about how we view the world, ourselves, and each other.
Mothers are traditionally considered nagging, restrictive, etc. by their children. All of that is true, of course, and the species benefits by the concern of the mother (and father) for the welfare of their offspring. “Look both ways before you cross the street.” “Don’t talk to strangers.” “Wear your coat.” “Be careful.” Sometimes negative sounding words are said with love and concern. On the other hand, mothers cheer their children on, applauding every step forward, marveling at their beauty and cleverness. Downdogs and updogs?
When we are an updog, we bubble humor and positive vibes, let’s say. We look to the sun as we bend upward. We’re optimistic. Then we have to do something nearly the opposite, designed to stretch an entirely different set of muscles and ligaments. The downdog brings blood to our head, focuses our attention on the ground, and might be considered the narrow, pessimistic, protective position.
Actually both positions remind me of the Village People making large letters, but that is neither here nor there. (Peter Minister gnomes below) Yoga is fun and I’m easily amused.
So, my thinking drifted towards the difference between blogs that are light and amusing and those which are serious and about subjects which are important to the future of life as we know it. Various marketing analytics have proven pretty conclusively that the most popular blogs are positive. Let’s restate that to simply upbeat and downbeat posts: updogs and downdogs. We all have enough stress in our lives, it seems, that we do not actively go seeking more. So it would appear that the best advice for bloggers and marketing folks is to emphasize the positive. Dwell on the solution, not the problem so much. And, whatever you do, do not disparage the competition. Ignore them. Point out how your product is strong in an area, not how theirs is weak. Your customers aren’t dumb, they’ll figure it out. Know what? It works.
But this is an election year. And while it’s true that gunfights and fisticuffs rarely break out on the floor of the US Congress today, the verbal equivalent is everywhere, all the time. The scandals that arise, the anger expressed on all sides are amazing to me. I’m wondering how anyone can conceivably consider THAT candidate when they are obviously a perverted, arrogant tool of corporate interests with a massive negative advertising budget. How can that be? In the political world, “going negative” is done repeatedly, because everyone believes it works in the political sphere.
Why would “going negative” work in the political sphere but not in business to business sales and marketing? Even consumer products rarely go “very” negative. A taste test, perhaps, but Tide would never say that Arm & Hammer is terrible laundry soap and just plain doesn’t work. (And it makes you fat! Actually I recall a beer company years ago that set up a hotline phone number you could call and they would say things like that about their competition. It was a hoot, but it was traded virally, under the table, not advertised. It was funny because it was snarky and underground.) That would be foolish. Hardly anybody would believe a blatant lie about a commercial product. But people will believe mudslinging charges thrown back and forth regarding political candidates, according to studies. I don’t find negative ads engaging or educational, but that’s me.
I am much more reminded of Adolf Hitler’s Big Lie Theory, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” I read that many years ago and rather hoped it was not true. But time has shown that it is, in politics. Hitler is also known for having said: “It is always more difficult to fight against faith than against knowledge.” And “The victor will never be asked if he told the truth.” Big, simple, lies, often repeated. Sounds like a description of political ads this time of year. So how is it that so many people vote against their own best interests? How do we allow some of these horrible human beings to run for office and actually elect them?
Tis a puzzlement to me. Updogs and downdogs are both designed to do us physical good. Optomistic and pessimistic blogs may not be equally successful, but they can each have been written with good intentions. Not every product review on CNET is a glowing tribute. We seem to have invested so much emotion and faith in our political views, that a party which aligns itself with one important political view of yours would appear to capture your heart without your brain considering ALL the views of that party. Belief is strong. And unquestioning.
There is a 2004 book (with an awful cover) called Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate — The Essential Guide for Progressives by George Lakoff, Howard Dean, and Don Hazen. They raised questions about how the right was so successful in framing the debate and winning the hearts and minds of Americans. Well, it seems simple enough. When you control the media, all the media, you are likely to be able to get your point of view across better and more persuasively than any other view. Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best, and Lucy were shows of another, more restrained age. I’m not arguing for their return. Far from it. In recent years I’ve enjoyed Chuck, 30 Rock, Psych, Burn Notice, Glee, and bits and pieces of other shows. I can’t abide the bad manners, anger, and side of humanity I see in so much of TV: reality TV, Fox News, and so on. These are values we’re transmitting to our children. We’re teaching them that those behaviors are acceptable…. or they wouldn’t be shown on TV as part of our commonly shared (accepted?) culture, right? Tipper Gore wanted warning labels on rough rock lyrics. The poor woman must faint dead away if she listens to what passes for some “rap music.” Why do people watch these things? Why do people listen to these things? They presumably reflect something already in their lives. Or their lives come to reflect them.
Is there a conclusion here? The same one that’s been around for hundreds if not thousands of years: we are each responsible for our vote. That people are trying to manipulate us and make finding “truth” very difficult is pretty much the human condition. The search for The Truth is an arduous, but worthy goal. I can’t help but believe that a strong vision of the future and an expression of specifics the person would fight for makes better political advertising than mudslingging. Or do I mean “better” in terms of how I would like to think of our society, as opposed to what constitutes effective political marketing? Which is why I like business to business marketing, and not political marketing. Please vote next Tuesday.