Advertisers have unprecedented access to data with which they target consumers with poor impulse control, says columnist (Stock photo)

Advertisers have unprecedented access to data with which they target consumers with poor impulse control, says columnist (Stock photo)

OPINION: Consumers with poor impulse control being targeted

Advertisers have unprecedented access to data, notes columnist

BY MARJORIE STEWART

The Dunedin study has added to knowledge of innate human characteristics. Health and development researchers found that the trait predicting a successful life is self-control, that people with low impulse control rarely achieve success, but that self-control can be taught. Unfortunately, we live in a global culture permitting advertising pressures to target low impulse control. Social media advertising is now so pervasive that, combined with data mining to fine-tune individual and group preferences, low impulse control is manipulated ruthlessly. The smart cellphone which enables people without a great deal of wealth to enter the global virtual world is used to elicit compliance with advertisers’ goals to maximize profit.

Decadence (falling down, lack of self-control) is promoted as the height of pleasure and the pursuit of pleasure is embedded in that maddeningly inane word ‘pamper,’ meaning over-indulge. The virtual world of the smart phone seems to be turning vulnerable users into pawns of the corporate economy, rather than providing opportunities to improve self control and reduce low-impulse activity. Even the noble concept of human rights has been co-opted into the language of entitlement. But we are discovering very fast that humans do not have rights to tilt the balance of the planet merely in order to increase our numbers for the increased profits of a few pampered holders of wealth and their myrmidons.

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Amidst the babble of fake news and cancel culture the UN, the institution created for “the maintenance of international peace and security” has bungled preparations for a 2021 UN Food Systems Summit in July by omitting peasant and Indigenous farmers and permitting agribusiness and high-tech leaders (including the tiresome Bill Gates) to plan food system improvement.

The International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) a prestigious and independent panel of experts with a mission to promote transition to sustainable food systems around the world, called out the imbalance immediately, citing “closed-door negotiations between the UN and the World Economic Forum” and asking whether “the real goal of the summit is to manufacture a new consensus, to put business-led solutions back in the driving seat, and to shift the locus of food systems governance away” [from its own Food and Agriculture Organization].

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IPES Food is holding its nose and participating in hurried repairs to the process while remaining publicly skeptical. We have to admire people with long and impeccable track records of public service stepping into this mess. Olivier De Schutter (IPES-Food co-chairperson, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, formerly 16 years special rapporteur on the right to food) has accepted a co-lead position in Action Track 3 aiming “to deliver critical inputs on sustainable and resilient food systems.”

Perla Alvarez Britez, representative of La Via Campesina, voice of over 200 million peasant producers, called upon UN member states “to protect this UN space from corporate capture and to ensure that the right holders, such as peasants, Indigenous peoples, and other people working in rural areas, are put at the core of the summit.”

Marjorie Stewart is past chairperson of the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at marjorieandalstewart@gmail.com.

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