It just so happens that on Sunday I’m leading our youth group on the subject of temptation. As well as thinking about suitable soundtracks for video clips (Heaven 17 anyone?) I’ve been on the look out for current articles to make the point. And hey ho, one arrives courtesy of the New Statesman. An unlikely source agreed, but what a brilliant idea: asking various individuals to name a policy they’d like to see in a manifesto for the upcoming general election. Amongst the plethora of suggestions one caught my eye, Neal Lawson’s proposal to adopt the policy of Sao Paulo to ban advertising in public places. As he points out, you make a choice whether you put on a commercial television station or buy a magazine but not if you’re walking to the office in the morning. Why should we have our senses assaulted by semi-naked women and men selling everything from deodorant to pocket Scrabble?
One of the reasons we’re in the current economic mess is that we’ve felt compelled to buy the latest sports car/Mars bar/Wonderbra. And that compulsion has come from the relentless onslaught of advertising tapping into our insecure natures that see material acquisition as salvation. Martin Smith describes this tension brilliantly:
‘Save me, save me, from the Kingdom of Comfort where I am king
From my unhealthy lust for material things’
So perhaps the removal of advertising in public places might remove one particular millstone from around the neck of contemporary society. It might mean that we feel a little more free when moving about our towns and cities. And maybe we’ll discover the urge to splurge is a little less strong.