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The Dove contradiction

Conflicting messages.

Conflicting messages.

The renowned 20th century historians Will and Ariel Durant wrote in their book The Lessons of History that "the state has our instincts without our restraints".

By this they meant the fundamental nature of states (aka countries, nations) differs little from that of the human beings which form them.

States, like every living organism on earth, struggle for survival, competing with other states for resources, space and growth, except nowadays they largely strive for economic expansion, rather than geographic because the latter tends to start wars.

"The causes of war are the same as the causes of competition among individuals: acquisitiveness, pugnacity, and pride; the desire for food, land, materials, fuels, mastery.

"The state has our instincts without our restraints. The individual submits to restraints laid upon him by morals and laws, and agrees to replace combat with conference, because the state guarantees him basic protection in his life, property, and legal rights."

In the days before law enforcement and social justice, however, the Durants argue "pugnacity, brutality, greed, and sexual readiness were advantages in the struggle for existence".

"Probably every vice was once a virtue i.e., a quality making for the survival of the individual, the family, or the group. Man's sins may be the relics of his rise rather than the stigmata of his fall".

I'd argue you could say the same thing of corporations as the Durants do of states and individuals.

Corporations will largely submit to laws only when they have to; they are pugnacious, ruthless instead of brutal, greedy, and their sexual readiness translates as a constant need for growth.

This is why it's naive to think of any corporation as your friend and why I treat the majority of their communication (advertising) with the skepticism I would a stranger offering to sell me something.

If you accept that corporations manifest the character traits of the humans that compose them, is it also fair to say the converse? That the individuals who work for corporations manifest their employers' characteristics?

I can't help wonder what the obvious cognitive dissonance of so many big corporations says of us as individual humans.

The current campaign by Dove imploring women to love themselves just the way they are is the latest example of the hypocrisy the brand's parent company Unilever delivers on a daily basis.

Dove tells us "women are their own worst beauty critics" and to not be so hard on themselves, while another of their brands, Lynx, reduces women to the sum total of their physical beauty.

You have to wonder what's going on in the heads of the bosses at Unilever, how they resolve communicating two such conflicting points of view, until you realise its something almost every one of us does to some degree.

Men will ogle school girls but decry someone who does the same to their daughter. A vegan will condemn deforestation caused by the cattle industry, but not soya beans. Harry Healthfood won't buy chocolate because of the effect of cocoa production on third world peoples, then tuck into a bowl of quinoa. People will quote the "science" of global warming but ignore same about genetically modified food and vaccination.

Sure, some of this is done out of pure ignorance but I'd argue most people prefer this ignorance because to live in full awareness of one's choices and their consequences means confronting an odious, enduring fact about humanity.

The vast majority of us will put our own pleasure before a stranger's survival.

You can follow Sam on Twitter here. His email address is here.

37 comments

  • Yeah Sam,
    Fair cop
    But we're trying aren't we?
    Soon as you realise you're wrong, you change, until you are proven wrong again.
    Ad infinitum.
    All sciency like.
    Well at least you change if it doesn't mean too much discomfort or loss.
    Congrats on the previous comments too.
    Everyone's a ...

    Commenter
    Dino not to be confused with
    Location
    With Ya
    Date and time
    April 18, 2013, 6:10PM
    • "Men will ogle school girls but decry someone who does the same to their daughter."

      please exclude me, as a man i find that statement disturbing, and yes i do have a daughter just finished school, knowing such people exist in a first world country such as ours makes it doubly disturbing.

      Commenter
      Victorious Painter
      Date and time
      April 18, 2013, 6:33PM
      • Yes indeed. I find it more than a little disturbing too.

        Commenter
        Lynne
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        April 19, 2013, 12:40AM
      • I'm not sure what you're opting out of here, VP - ogling younger women or ogling schoolgirls specifically. Because I think most fathers would agree the age of their daughter isn't even the primary "ick factor" here. They don't want anyone, of any age, ogling their daughter.

        And if that's the case then how does a man handle the drive he himself has to appreciate a fine looking woman he passes on the street, etc., even if she is not underage?

        Commenter
        TK
        Date and time
        April 19, 2013, 3:16AM
      • @TK, I opt out of ogling significantly younger women including schoolgirls, actually I opt out of ogling altogether irrespective of age, and no I don’t approve of anyone doing it to my daughter either.
        Appreciating a fine looking woman does not require ogling, it can be done respectfully, personally at mid/upper 40’s I have no appreciation for any woman sub 35 or so, maybe I just don’t overvalue physical appearances as much as some appear to do.
        BTW, woman do it as well, my favourite is when walking towards something with a reflection and notice someone behind you displaying ample “appreciation”, I often do a quick head turn with a short smirk, the embarrassment is priceless.

        Commenter
        Victorious Painter
        Date and time
        April 19, 2013, 8:39AM
      • Might be time to get your head out of your back side and embrace the real world. Guys ogle your daughter everyday, just like you ogle other women/girls (but don't dare admit it).

        Commenter
        Scoby
        Date and time
        April 23, 2013, 9:08AM
      • @scoby
        i know guys ogle my daughter all the time, she's genetically lucky, doesn't mean i have to like it.
        me, nope, how can i? with my head up my backside and all?

        Commenter
        Victorious Painter
        Date and time
        April 23, 2013, 1:05PM
    • Every person that has a self righteous conviction about a particular category are very unlikely to be able to be completely free of not being a part of the cause. Your statement below is a good example:

      "Harry Healthfood won't buy chocolate because of the effect of cocoa production on third world peoples, then tuck into a bowl of quinoa."

      Other examples would be anti-coal protesters who use steel products or products produced by steel manufacturing devices everyday (Necessary use of metallurgical coal in steel), anti- foresting protesters who living in wood framed housing. Etc.

      What I genuinely cannot stand, is the self righteous person who must judge everyone around them with an attitude of a higher moral standing. If you live in a first world nation, you are not innocent, you have in someway exploited someone, somehow and somewhere.

      Ultimately, it needs to come back to individuals making changes where they can.

      Commenter
      Coal Baron
      Date and time
      April 18, 2013, 7:53PM
      • So it's my fault the Bolivian government can't step in to make sure their people have a full belly?

        That's what we'd demand from our government if such a situation occurred here. If not, given the Australian character, we'd murder them. Well I like to think so.

        Commenter
        Meh
        Date and time
        April 18, 2013, 8:44PM
        • Companies only exist to make money. They develop products/services based on research that indicates enough people are willing to pay for said product/service to make it profitable. They will even use loss-leader products/services to draw people in to more profitable items.

          People participate in this to the extent we are employed by these companies so that we can feed, house and clothe ourselves. I always have a silent chuckle at companies that say they try to employ people that embody their "core values". I'm only there for the pay-cheque. I don't give a stuff about their CSR program or their environmental footprint. Just pay me.

          But it works on some people. Typically the type of person with the designer vegan jeans and 17" Macbook Pro and lensless glass.

          This all sounds like we've built an overly complex society but I don't think we're going back to tribal hunter-gathering any time soon.

          Commenter
          Bender
          Date and time
          April 18, 2013, 11:25PM

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