Insecure Societies and Hermits - by Alan Watts

“They are not working class people; they are people who dropped out of college because they saw it was stupid. And they are that sort of people, some might call them beatniks. But you see the city doesn’t like it, because they aren’t owning the right sort of cars, therefore the local car salesman isn’t doing business through them. They don’t have lawns and so nobody can sell them lawnmowers. They hardly use dishwashers, appliances of that kind, they don’t need them. And also they wear blue jeans and things like that, and so the local dress shops feel a bit put out having these people around. And they live very simply. Well you must not do that; you have got to live in a complicated way. You have got to have the kind of car you know that identifies you as a person of substance and status and all that.So there’s a great problem here in our society. Now why is there this problem?There’s always a very inconsiderable minority of these non-joiners or people who check out of the game. But you will find that insecure societies are the most intolerant of those who are non-joiners. They are so unsure of the validity of their game rules that they say everyone must play. Now that’s a double-bind. You can’t say to a person you must play because what you’re saying is – you are required todo something which will be acceptable only if you do it voluntarily.So everyone must play is the rule in the United States. And it’s the rule in almost allRepublican governments; I mean republican in the sense of democratic. They are very uneasy because everybody’s responsible. You may try not to be and avoid it,and say oh let the senators take care of it or the president. But theoretically everyone is responsible; now that’s terrifying. See its more like when you know what’s right, there is an aristocracy, the clergy, and they know what’s to be done and they are used to ruling. But now it’s in your hands, and you say well what are we going to do? Well I think this way and he thinks that way, and so we’re all unsettled. And therefore we become more and more conformist. Individualism,rugged individualism always leads to conformism, because people get scared. And so they herd together, then compound it with industrial society – mass production,etc. They all wear the same clothes, and they are sensible clothes that don’t show the dirt too much and we get dollar and drabber. 

So the reason for this in a way is because Democracy as we have tried it - started out on the wrong foot. You see in the scripture, the Christian scriptures, it says everybody is equal in the sight of god. Now that’s a mystical utterance. That means that from the standpoint of God, all people are divine, and are playing their true function. And that is something that is true on a certain plane of consciousness. But come down a step and try to apply the mystical insight in the practical affairs of everyday life and what do you get. You get a parody of mysticism. You get the idea not that everybody is equal in the sight of god, but that all people are equally inferior. That’s why all bureaucracies are rude; why the police are rude, and why you are made to wait in lines, and all that sort of person. Because everybody’s a crook, everybody’s equally inferior; you see that becomes the parody of democracy.And that kind of society – watch out for it. It turns in a quick click into fascism, because of its terror of the outsider. Now a free and easy society loves outsiders. In fact it’s a little bad for the outsiders’ integrity, because he becomes holy man. And people make Salaams and give him food and they really take care of the outsider. Because they know that man is doing for us what we haven’t got the guts to do. That outside that lives up in the mountains up at the highest peak of human evolution. His consciousness is one with the divine. And great just that there is someone like that around; makes you feel a little better. He has realized, he knows what it’s all about. And so we need a number of those people. Even though they don’t join our game they tell us, you see, what you’re doing is only a game. It’s ok I’m not going to condemn you, it’s only a game and we up on that mountaintop are watching you, we love you, we have compassion for you – but excuse please we aren’t going to join. So that gives community great strength, because it tells the government in no uncertain terms,that there is something more than government.

Bumper Sticker by Tim Lahan


Murfreesboro, TN. December 28, 2013.


New Orleans, LA. May 9, 2014.

Is this ad some kind of trick?No. But it could have been. And at exactly that point rests a do or die decision for American business. We in advertising, together with our clients, have all the power and skill to trick people. Or so we think. But we’re wrong. We can’t fool any of the people any of the time. There is indeed a twelve-year-old mentality in this country; every six-year-old has one. We are a nation of smart people. And most smart people ignore most advertising because most advertising ignores smart people. Instead we talk to each other. We debate endlessly about the medium and the message. Nonsense. In advertising, the message itself is the message. A blank page and a blank television screen are one and the same. And above all, the messages we put on those pages and on those television screens must be the truth. For if we play tricks with the truth, we die.

Now. The other side of the coin. Telling the truth about a product demands a product that’s worth telling the truth about. Sadly, so many products aren’t. So many products don’t do anything better. Or anything different. So many don’t work quite right. Or don’t last. Or simply don’t matter. If we also play this trick, we also die. Because advertising only helps a bad product fail faster. No donkey chases the carrot forever. He catches on. And quits. That’s the lesson to remember. Unless we do, we die. Unless we change, the tidal wave of consumer indifference will wallop into the mountain of advertising and manufacturing drivel. That day we die. We’ll die in our marketplace. On our shelves. In our gleaming packages of empty promises. Not with a bang. Not with a whimper. But by our own skilled hands.