The Dove contradiction

The renowned 20th century historians Will and Ariel Durant wrote in their book The Lessons of History that "the state has our instincts without our restraints".

By this they meant the fundamental nature of states (aka countries, nations) differs little from that of the human beings which form them.

States, like every living organism on earth, struggle for survival, competing with other states for resources, space and growth, except nowadays they largely strive for economic expansion, rather than geographic because the latter tends to start wars.

"The causes of war are the same as the causes of competition among individuals: acquisitiveness, pugnacity, and pride; the desire for food, land, materials, fuels, mastery.

"The state has our instincts without our restraints. The individual submits to restraints laid upon him by morals and laws, and agrees to replace combat with conference, because the state guarantees him basic protection in his life, property, and legal rights."

In the days before law enforcement and social justice, however, the Durants argue "pugnacity, brutality, greed, and sexual readiness were advantages in the struggle for existence".

"Probably every vice was once a virtue i.e., a quality making for the survival of the individual, the family, or the group. Man's sins may be the relics of his rise rather than the stigmata of his fall".

I'd argue you could say the same thing of corporations as the Durants do of states and individuals.

Corporations will largely submit to laws only when they have to; they are pugnacious, ruthless instead of brutal, greedy, and their sexual readiness translates as a constant need for growth.


This is why it's naive to think of any corporation as your friend and why I treat the majority of their communication (advertising) with the skepticism I would a stranger offering to sell me something.

If you accept that corporations manifest the character traits of the humans that compose them, is it also fair to say the converse? That the individuals who work for corporations manifest their employers' characteristics?

I can't help wonder what the obvious cognitive dissonance of so many big corporations says of us as individual humans.

The current campaign by Dove imploring women to love themselves just the way they are is the latest example of the hypocrisy the brand's parent company Unilever delivers on a daily basis.

Dove tells us "women are their own worst beauty critics" and to not be so hard on themselves, while another of their brands, Lynx, reduces women to the sum total of their physical beauty.

You have to wonder what's going on in the heads of the bosses at Unilever, how they resolve communicating two such conflicting points of view, until you realise its something almost every one of us does to some degree.

Men will ogle school girls but decry someone who does the same to their daughter. A vegan will condemn deforestation caused by the cattle industry, but not soya beans. Harry Healthfood won't buy chocolate because of the effect of cocoa production on third world peoples, then tuck into a bowl of quinoa. People will quote the "science" of global warming but ignore same about genetically modified food and vaccination.

Sure, some of this is done out of pure ignorance but I'd argue most people prefer this ignorance because to live in full awareness of one's choices and their consequences means confronting an odious, enduring fact about humanity.

The vast majority of us will put our own pleasure before a stranger's survival.

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