Chapter 45: ZOOMING TOWARD OBLIVION
Kaslo, B.C. Thursday April 7, 2011
There can be something rather noble and reassuring about an aged face, full of character, well wrinkled, and composed. Even in films, where typically we see celebrations of youth, vigor and power, sometimes the archetype of aged wisdom is also portrayed and celebrated, as for instance in the role of a revered Aboriginal chief or a wise European grandmother, a person rich in sun-burnished wrinkles. An aging female celebrity once observed “I don’t want any makeup artist or photographer altering so much as a single wrinkle or blemish on my body. I’ve paid dearly for every one.”
But sadly, in Canada today, we have a burgeoning commercial enterprise that is primarily devoted to selling to retirees of rather comfortable means not wrinkles, not wisdom, but selling instead unrealistic hopes, hopes for enduring youthfulness, for enduring vigor (both physical and sexual), and for enduring power (both political and social). More particularly, retirees are being sold hopes for enduring happiness, happiness that is to be achieved by means of an increasing consumption of both goods and services. One prominent mouthpiece for promoting such hopes is the Canadian publication named Zoomer magazine. This magazine is but one of many arms of a business empire called ZoomerMedia.
Another arm of ZoomerMedia is called CARP. CARP was once known as the Canadian Association of Retired Persons. Formerly CARP was an “Association,” but today it stands transformed into a different kind of marketing vehicle, news about which is primarily communicated through Zoomer magazine. Retirees in Canada are specifically being encouraged, though CARP, to become consumer-zoomers. In this newest incarnation of CARP, it now appears that consumer retirees may simply have become the consumed.
CARP is still portrayed as a non-profit political lobbying organization for seniors, and technically that might be true. But CARP does have expenses, and it appears from the pages in Zoomer magazine that many of CARP’s revenues go to pay to ZoomerMedia, and to its well-connected friends, comfortable fees for their varied commercial, political, and publication services. Perhaps that is part of the reason that CARP now exhibits an increased need to market itself as earnestly as Zoomer magazine works to market itself.
Another of the many arms of ZoomerMedia is one that is called ZoomerCard.ca. In early issues of Zoomer magazine this entity purchased full-page advertisements for its “Platinum Plus” ZOOMER MasterCard. One such advertisement featured a lovely coquette of uncertain seniority (perhaps age 50, perhaps not) comfortably seated cross-legged on a plush red couch while gazing directly at the viewer, sharing both her winning smile and her winning cleavage. Beside her, in a large font, were printed the words: “Now it’s all about / Me.” And just below the super-sized word “me” appeared a large MasterCard with the massive word “ZOOMER” emblazoned from side to side. Ensnared inside the second letter “O” in “ZOOMER” could be seen the sketch of a carp. (The metaphor, sadly, was perfect.)
In this advertisement, in undisguised form, was revealed what the new Zoomer movement seems to concentrate most upon, namely on my “Me,” my proud status, my proud health, my proclaimed agelessness, my ability to command copious resources and comforts. Unreflective and unapologetic pride is exhibited and encouraged here. And thus, it seems to me, the Zoomer movement celebrates some socially troubling forms of egotism, ostentation, and denial.
About 30% of each Zoomer magazine is filled with distinctly high-end advertising directed to financially comfortable seniors. Another 30% of the magazine contains feature copy that praises selected destinations and products and lifestyles that suggest the promise of an increase in wealth or comfort to those retirees who already command large helpings of both. Another 20% of the magazine is generally devoted to polishing the brands of celebrities who usually seem to have some new book or record or product that you should buy to increase your sense of superior discrimination and worth as a senior sophistocrat. Much of the remainder of each Zoomer magazine is devoted to reminding readers of, and then reassuring them about, fearful subjects, such as one’s eventual death, or illness, or perhaps poverty. More frequently however, these articles are about means for avoiding those fearful events that portend terrible embarrassment or the loss of some prized Zoomer traits, particularly traits such as attractiveness and sexual prowess.
For those who admire or profit from this approach to life, Zoomerism may be seen as a fine thing. But for those who cannot admire this full-court marketing press it can be painful and worrying to observe. Is “enough” never enough for Zoomers? One might easily imagine it is not. Is more Shopping and more Travel and more Dining the road to happiness for each of us? One might easily conclude that it is. Are we never to become comfortable with wrinkles or quieted appetites or the other imagined “failings” of old age? Apparently not soon if we buy into the Zoomer philosophy of Me.
Zoomerism shows itself as a philosophy of excess: Excess in the service of increasing acquisitions, acquisitions in the service of continued “growth”. But yesterday’s livable world is fast disappearing in an excess of excesses: excessive population, excessive greenhouse gasses, excessive waste, even excessive financial inequality and privilege. Reflection suggests that the all-too-likely price tag for more of such excesses might well become oblivion.
Retirement offers us our last best time for reflection. It is also the last best time for gratitude, for giving back, and giving away. It is certainly a time for reading. But alas, reading Zoomer magazine and its self-proclaimed “Zoomer philosophy,” may have just the wrong effect on those members of CARP who might otherwise be helped to slow down.
Oblivion should not be rushed. Nothing should.
© J. Barnard Gilmore