The sinister side of Times Square

20151224_213032Times Square is one of the most iconic locations in New York. I was there recently, standing amongst crowds so thick that police officers needed to be present at all traffic lights to ensure that the people didn’t mob the intersections and block all the cars.

The vibe was electric: noise; colour; excitement; thousands flocking to see this image of iconic America. As I stood there, I was struck by a sense of comic irony, which soon turned in to a kind of grave wariness. Times Square is more representative of America and the west than I had realized, and in a rather sinister way.

It stands, gloating, in one of the greatest cities in the world, as a shrine to capitalism and consumerism. As I gazed up at the bright lights, I asked myself suddenly, ‘What am I here to see?’

Thousands flock daily to Times Square to look at advertisements.

That’s all it is. Dozens of luminous billboards, sky high, telling us what we need and who we should be. And it’s a tourist magnet.

I think lots of us like to believe that we’re somehow above and immune to the advertising machine, but Times Square, to me, proves that we’re not. And the scariest thing? We waltz on in, take our selfie, and walk out… claiming all the time that we are not a pawn in the very hand that just moved us.

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Are you really anti-abortion, or are you just trying to sell products?

Dear Elevit,

I was surprised the other day, as I was watching TV, to come across your advertisement for Elevit with Iodine.

So much of what we see in the media plays down the value of life in the womb, and it does so because that’s what people want. They want to feel like abortion is okay. They want to feel like it’s not really a person in there, that it is scientifically ‘just tissue’ and that they, therefore, have the right to choose what happens to their body. They want to feel that way, because life is tough, and sometimes things happen, and they want a way out that doesn’t come laden with guilt and shame.

So that’s normally what they give us.

Which is why, Elevit, I was surprised by your ad. This is how it began: “When you’re trying to get pregnant, by the time you find out you are, a little person is already coming to life…”

Hang on. ‘Before you know you’re pregnant.’ So that’s within, what, the first six weeks since conception? And you’re saying it’s already a little person? That’s a big call Elevit, a big call.

And I’d commend you, except I’m wondering this: Do you really believe that, or are you just trying to sell tablets to women who are ‘trying to get pregnant?’

Because sometimes I wonder whether we change the meaning of the word ‘person’ and ‘life’ to suit our agenda. And that’s not cool with me.