The inability to choose sides: a function of upbringing or time spent in Adland?

February 15, 2012

I have trouble choosing sides.

Democrat or Republican? Liberal or Conservative? Cubs or White Sox? I know with whom I am supposed to side with based on where and how I was brought up. But that doesn’t make it any easier for me to fall in line. Frankly, it often makes it harder. I see the strength and weakness in opposing groups. I identify with both, for better and for worse.

For example: I want to help others (liberal) but I also want to help myself (conservative). I want to fight evil (conservative) but I don’t want to fight (liberal). When what is right is forced upon me it becomes wrong. When wrong is explained to me it becomes right. I veer from either political party not just cynically but because I see the virtue in both sides along with the hypocrisy. And there’s plenty to go around.

So, what’s a girl to do? On a personal level, I’d like to think I know right from wrong. But when I step outside myself and look at something from another person’s perspective I often alter my view. For better and for worse, I remain open minded.

Part of my problem –if it is a problem- is that I don’t belong to any one community, save for the human race. And even then I wonder (a joke people). My father is Jewish. My mother is Catholic. Neither practices either faith. My father was born on the south side of Chicago. Yet, we lived on the north side. And I lived with my mother, who is from Bordeaux, France. Not a lot of continuity there.

I grew up a tier or two below middle class. Now I reside a tier or two above it. I am from Chicago and I love this place. But I hate it, too. Chicago’s massive corruption and beauty are inextricably linked. This is a Democratic city and for the life of me I don’t know if that’s good or bad. Take our Mayor’s Daley. They were awesome and terrible at the same time. I would vote for them, partly knowing I shouldn’t. I feel the same way about our President.

Maybe my profession reveals answers. As a copywriter I am tasked with finding the virtue in everything: cereal, fast food, cigarettes, booze, cars, and corporations. Look at that list. Every category is controversial. But not when you’re writing copy. Spirits are authentic, smooth and mellow. Cars are sleek, fast and state-of-the-art. Corporations do so much good in the world! The company that spilled millions of tons of oil into the sea is helping millions of people get back with their lives. And so on…

The ranks of Adland may be filled with left-leaning hipsters but our creed is dogmatically right wing. Advertising flaunts capitalism. Advertising is capitalism. By definition. But then what are we who practice it? To write copy for a multi-conglomerate by day and support the Occupy movement at night (for example) is hypocritical. For me, it smacks of leading a double life. Like when Newt shrieks family values and bangs his assistant.

Choosing sides means accepting hypocrisy. I vote for Obama but I want Congress to veto his taxing and spending. I write copy for fast food but believe we are a nation that eats too much of it.

In the end, I am careful taking sides. I can only pray to do the next right thing, whether I know what that is or not.


12 Responses to “The inability to choose sides: a function of upbringing or time spent in Adland?”

  1. One of the conditions of life as a human is ambivalence: two-sidedness. Some are unresolvable. As a copywriter, like you, I have developed the ability to tell anyone’s story (but I will not lie, as you will not, I’m sure).

    Yet I find your political ambivalence, despite the clear hypocrisy that is evident in all human endeavors, to be a failure to listen to your heart. I am completely confident that it knows how you should vote. The head’s just getting in the way.

    Because, truly, all votes are against our own self-interest. On one hand, we pay more taxes. On the other, we privilege those who are significantly richer than us. (Even than you.) Neither decision is clean.

    But it can be clear. Because I’m positive you feel, emotionally, one way or the other.

  2. And as we who are in advertising all know, every decision is emotional first, and then supported with a rational argument.

  3. Interesting post. I understand keeping an open mind, but giving the current state of the economy I cannot vote for Obama. Greece is crumbling due to socialist policies. I want to help people, but I believe the welfare state has become overrun with those who could help themselves but won’t. We are creating a culture of dependency. That is the biggest problem I see in America. You need to earn a living. This is why I strive every day to make myself better. My generation was given false hope by those who claimed if you get an education you will get a job. Sorry, I received an advertising degree, your profession, but did not get a job upon graduating. The years fallowing my graduation I learned more than my time spent at school. Academia is not the magic ticket to success. Success is attained through hard work. Luckily I have a no quit attitude and I am making life work for the time being. I have started my own small business and I am pursuing a masters degree, hoping one day to attain a job with a salary or grow my business and hire people. I am also voting republican.

    • SRP said

      Nice essay, John. Thank you for sharing it. Though my blog is not political by nature your POV is most welcome. And you’re right a “good education” has been devalued in the “real world” but it’s still critical in so many ways…

      • Thanks, I will try to chime in on your non political posts as well, because I do enjoy them. Politics just gets me riled up. I find your blog refreshing.

  4. Bryan said

    I’m glad I’m not the only “conflictionist” I know. There I said it.

  5. I’m a right-leaning libertarian and absolutely appalled at the statist monstrosity the Left has become. But I am also tolerant, and I genuinely want to understand the perspective of differing viewpoints. For that reason, I study left-wing ideology and I know more about it than many people who actually believe in it. This practice is absolutely related to my job as a writer and an ad creative. To be effective, we have to get in the headspace of our audience. Creatives without intellectual empathy become one-trick ponies. Which is fine if that works for them but I feel our clients and our work deserves better.

    PS: It’s none of my business, but are you really going to pull the lever for O again? How much more ineptitude and Marxist class warfare can our country survive?


  6. Bill said

    Quick query: with a Jewish father and Catholic mother, did you bring an attorney with you when you went to confession? 🙂

  7. Robert Manley said

    You bring up a good point, Steffan.This either/or mentality in the U.S. is absurd. A country of 300 million+ having only two viable political parties is insane. Most of us are a mix of these ideologies, or an aberration of one or the other.

    Just imagine if there were five, or even ten, credible parties? It would force people to engage in more critical thought. At the moment, most of us default to what’s familiar, or we’re just voting against someone.

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