Yoga mats and other potentially life threatening items – Part 1

A historical relic dating back to “the really old days”.

Back in the really old days – I mean a long time ago, way, way, back…..oh, come on, make an effort with your imagination, I’m not talking about before you could get internet on your mobile phone,  I’m talking about way back in medieval times. Right?

Ok, so: way back then, there was no such thing as advertising as we now know it. Yes, it’s true. In those long ago days, now called the Prehysteric era, people did not get to read ridiculous claims plastered across their products. That is also because, in those long ago days, they didn’t have packaged products! Believe it or not, back in the Dark Ages, if they wanted milk on their Bircher muesli, they had to get up out of their Jason Recliner (known in those days as a sack, or if you had the luxury version, a pile of sweet-smelling hay), trudge out to something called a field, slosh through a lot of poo, and get milk by squeezing the warm, pink teats on a smelly, farting, milk-generating receptacle known as a “cow”.

Getting milk in the old days: opening a carton is so much easier

If they wanted an egg for their ceasar salad, they had to get up again from the comfort of their lounge room (known in those days as the dirt floor of the one-roomed hut where the whole family slept, ate and had their annual bath), and enter a smelly enclosure full of poo, and cackling, egg-producing-creatures known as chickens.

If they wanted to watch the latest series of Underbelly on dvd, there was nowhere to go, so they had to make do with walking through a lot of poo to the local village square to watch a beheading instead.

To sum up, back then there was a lot of poo, but no advertising.

One of the reasons that the advertising industry had not yet taken off at this point was that very few people could actually read. That’s why they had town criers, who walked around announcing things that today we would find out on Twitter – eg, that the grocer has reduced the price of strawberries, that the farmer’s cow fell down the well, or that a local celebrity has just checked into a detox clinic, known back then as a “convent”.

In these long ago days, another thing that did not yet exist was the notion of public liability, and fear of being subject to litigation when someone else has an accident on your property or using a product that you manufactured. So another thing they missed out on was having warnings plastered all over everything. Which is ironic, when you think about the level of danger in the life of the average person back in the Dark ages, compared to now,  in the Fluroescent Light ages.

They could have done with a few warnings to increase their life expectancy back then. Eg, “Hamm the Butchers Finest Cut of Beef. Warning: No responsibility is taken for any disease that develops if meat is kept at room temperature for the next 4 months. If you experience illness or death after eating, don’t call us.”  Or, “Dr Ghoulish, Surgeon. Warning: amputation of gangrenous limbs is done without anaesthetic and will cause enough pain to render you unconscious. It will be done with an unsterilised blade, and therefore will most likely cause infection and possibly death. And if that doesn’t kill you, you also risk bleeding to death as we haven’t developed any means of stopping bleeding other than dirty bandages. Please sign below to indemnify the doctor of all responsibility in the case of any such outcomes.”

A beheading, captured on the CCTV of the time

Ah yes, life was a bit of a gamble in those days, eh? Whizz forward 1000 years or so, to 2011. BAM!  Our edible products can be refrigerated, infections can be treated with antibiotics that make amputations far less likely to be required, but any surgery in a Western country these days is done in sterile conditions under general anaesthetic. Our life expectancies have doubled. Our modern, safe, well-cushioned lives are chock full of packaged products, and on almost all of them, claims about the positive effects that the product will produce in you and/or your life, counter-balanced by over-the-top health and safety warnings, come crashing together in a particularly modern mix of overblown expectation about how perfect life SHOULD be, coupled with anxiety about the dangers of every little goddam thing.

It’s not a huge leap to see that as symbolic of life in a modern consumerist society. On the one hand, we all strive to achieve everything we are told we should be able to achieve (which is basically “anything that we want”) and on the other, the very advertising and imagery that reinforces that supposedly democratic message also undermines our confidence by reminding us how far we fall short of the ideal. That’s how this consumerist culture perpetuates itself – by ensuring that people feel enough anxiety to always need to buy/work/earn/invest/save more.

Anyway, I seem to have taken an unusual route to get to this point. Believe it or not, this entire post was inspired by the packaging on a yoga mat I bought the other day! I was amused by the ridiculous mixture of claims and warnings that one harmless little yoga mat had plastered all over it. (Well, all over the packaging it came in). When I began this post, I had a different direction in mind, but it began to change direction and I think I will end it here on this anti-consumerist rant, as this is already long enough.

I wonder how many posts one yoga mat can inspire.

(Note: inspiring creative writing was not one of the claims on the yoga-mat box.)

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2 Comments

  1. Somehow I think there are people who would still go watch beheadings if possible. I sense a new reality show in the works.

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    • It would make tv ratings go through the roof! Perhaps it could be the final elimination round on Masterchef- that needs a boost, apparently.

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