Thursday, 22 December 2016

Gellner's Ironic Cultures Illustrated By Volkswagen Advert

The sociologist Ernest Gellner wrote a very good book called The Legitimation of Belief, and one of the many ideas in it that stuck with me was that of an “Ironic Culture”. He used this to describe the way that the middle-classes were embracing Eastern spirituality, various forms of mysticism and guru-based ways of living and thinking about the world, but when they broke a leg, they went straight to hospital and had X-rays, antibiotics and whatever else. When it mattered, they went to western rationalism and its by-products (science, modern medicine, engineering). All the spiritual stuff was there to provide a little cultural colour. It wasn’t really what they believed, it was an ironic costume.

Multi-culturalism is an ironic culture. The Good White People think that the West should welcome people from antagonistic cultures with open arms, but while the may have mutli-culti Saturday Nights, they marry assortively with other Good White People, work in organisations where the entry qualifications are attainable only by adopting White European personal values such as study, practice, self-control, and deferred gratification. So although the Good People say they are all for multi-culural life, and eat in Vietnamese, Pakistani, Ethiopian and Malaysian restaurants to prove it, their real lives are white, white, white all the way through.

And here’s Gellner’s idea illustrated as only a good advertising agency could. It shows why someone would want to believe all that hippy claptrap, and how they rely on technology when it matters, and even the love-hate relationship with that technology.

You may have seen the ad in your local independent cinema, but if you don't have a local independent cinema, watch it now. Or anyway. I love it.

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