I was hovering around the Indian classical music section at some South Asian music store in Artesia. Browsing through the titles, I sensed the irony in my search for traditional, time ridden, classical compositions while some recent Bollywood hit for the week was resonating loudly throughout the store. Of course, the Bollywood song was rather catchy, so I hummed along, being the fickle fool that I am. After a couple of minutes of searching and humming, a South Asian individual approached me.
â€œHave we met before?â€ mentioned this individual in a slight South Asian accent.
â€œNo I donâ€™t think so,â€ I replied hastily, as my mind adjusted to this unexpected circumstance.
â€œOh, but you look very familiar. I think Iâ€™ve seen you work at USC,â€ he said.
â€œWell, I donâ€™t have a job, so Iâ€™m pretty sure we havenâ€™t met,â€ I said laughingly.
After the usual exchange of pleasantries such as our names, where we were from, what we were doing with our lives, his wife and kids, etc., he gave me his business card and mentioned we should get together at the Hare Krishna temple located near my apartment. And then it came. The underlying motive for our meeting.
I have heard of this marketing ploy before. One phrase – E-commerce gimmick. Essentially, one joins the company and initiates a website to sell every-day household products to consumers through an online distribution format. But even more than this, the real emphasis is on inducing as many individuals as possible to do the same exact thing, so the originator can make a percentage of the othersâ€™ profits. Bottom line: big bucks through the manipulation of people.
There was no way I was going to do this bullshit. But you know what, what the heck, I donâ€™t have a job and I need something to do. I told him that I wasnâ€™t going to join but Iâ€™d attend the seminar. He probably presumed that I would be sold on my listening to the speaker. Everybody was entitled to their own opinion. Besides, I was getting tired of reading as much as I was and I had an insatiable desire to challenge myself mentally in an another regard. The way I saw it, it was a great test to see if I could deceive people from recognizing how much of an idiot I really was.
On the day of the seminar, I was sitting towards the front of the stage at the end of the third row. I was shocked to see that there were over a hundred individuals attending this seminar. My mind wandered to some forsaken space of the now forgotten. Interrupted, I saw the main speaker approaching the stage and he began his marketing pitch right away. I had heard all of this before stuff about starting your own business, making a lot of money to buy expensive cars and houses, buying yourself time to play golf and spend time with your family. How money will alleviate all your worries.
I donâ€™t remember much of the sales speech because my mind was on the individuals listening. I surveyed the room around me. What was attracting these people to desire such excess monetary income? To support oneself and to provide for a family are valid reasons I suppose. But more than that? Everybodyâ€™s eyes shot wide open when the speaker relayed all the stereotypical fantasies of expensive cars and households. I really wanted to figure this out.
Perhaps it was this need to attain a higher status symbol instilled by society and culture around us. A sense of ego Iâ€™m sure, must play a part as individuals try to ascertain heaps of wealth to feel â€œsuperiorâ€ to those around them. Alternatively, is it this desire to feel accepted by those individuals around them? Having multitudes of spare time on my hand, the book situated on my â€œdeskâ€ (miniscule plastic filing cabinet) recently was Ian Suttieâ€™s, â€œThe Origins of Love and Hate.â€ The book was a psychoanalytic one in nature, refuting the basic precepts of Sigmund Freudâ€™s theories regarding the emphasis on individualistic egos and sexual instincts. In the book, one observation by Suttie revolves around the harmonious exchange between the mother and infant as the mother loves the infant unconditionally and the infant, who thus far is incapable of developing a sense of self and is born into this world as a dependent, shares similar sentiments with the mother. Fundamentally, the ideas of give and take, and therefore greed and expectations, are indistinguishable in this nurturing interaction. Suttie provides the argument that our aim throughout life is to re-discover this harmonious exchange, be it with friends, the opposite sex or the people around us. Moreover, he feels that this worldâ€™s jealousy, anger, hatred and fear, all derive from a â€œseparation-anxietyâ€ related to failed attempts at gaining this relationship of compassion. More along the lines of the seminar I was attending, Suttie writes:
â€œâ€¦It is possible that we seek to influence, impress or please other people for the sake of demonstrating to ourselves that we are loved. In other words we seek power as a means to love (through neurotic anxiety), not as a means to power.â€
Gain power to receive love. The theory makes plenty of sense I figured. It definitely identifies the root source of peopleâ€™s frustrations with anger, fear and hatred. Additionally, it also pinpoints peopleâ€™s efforts to attain a superficial sense of compassion through a dependency on alcohol, drugs, sex, etc. It definitely made quite a bit of sense in my present situation with all these individuals gawking at the dreams of earning big money. I was thinking too much. I figured the hell with it. Whatever makes these people happy. It wasnâ€™t like I was perfect or anything.
I took another glance around me. This time I contemplated over how every single one of us was trying to make it through this world. This gift called life. Every single one of us had an alternate view of how the world works around them. Every single one of us had their own philosophy as to why things are the way they are. I imagined to myself that I could probably learn a lot from these individualsâ€™ experiences and perspectives. But then, reality kicked in, and I realized that this was not the kind of social situation to be asking such clichÃ©d questions as, â€œWhat is the meaning of life?â€ and/or â€œDo you believe in God?â€ Oh well. I decided to contemplate about something else.
I thought about the guy who invited me to this seminar. Talk about an enormous disconnect in my dialogue with this guy. I had met his family and I was thinking to myself how amazing it was for this man and his wife to be working so hard to provide for their five year old daughter and their soon to be born son. I had mentioned to the guy that his family was lucky to have a good father/husband, communicating to him a lot of situations of abuse and homelessness I had come across in my minimal endeavors in the community service arena. Of course, his thoughts of me were embracing the perception of how much money this guy could pull in to my bank account? Whatever. I guess he has to provide for his family.
The speaker completed his pitch. Subsequently, â€œsuccessfulâ€ individuals (the people pulling in a lot of cash) who had reached â€œplatinumâ€ or above were presented to the onlookers. They all mentioned their names/occupations and how Quixtar changed their lives. In my simplistic mind, the entire seminar proceeded in this manner:
Do these things so you can be rich.
Do these things so you can spend more time on vacations.
Do these things so you can influence over a lot of people by making them buy stuff they really donâ€™t need.
Do these things so you can be part of the â€œinâ€ group.
This was like a damn cult. It was all good. As long as they donâ€™t keep pestering me to join their little â€œclubâ€, it didnâ€™t matter.
Leaving the seminar after saying a few good-byes, I thought to myself that I should really start getting busy again. Maybe I should look for a job.