In the book ” Collapse“, Jared Diamond outlines 12 major problems which threaten human civilization: destruction of natural habitats, depletion of wild foods (fish, etc), loss of genetic diversity, soil erosion, fossil fuel depletion, shortage of fresh water, the photosynthetic ceiling (100% use of the sun’s energy for human purposes), pollution from toxic chemicals, species transfer, global warming due to human activity, population growth and the rising per-capita impact of population. He goes on to state that “our world society is on a non-sustainable course, and any of our 12 problems of non-sustainability…would suffice to limit our lifestyle within the next several decades. They are like time bombs with fuses of less than 50 years.” No one problem stands out as greater than all of the rest. “If we solved 11 of the problems, but not the 12th, we would still be in trouble, whichever was the problem that remained unsolved. We have to solve them all.”
Big business has had the dubious distinction of taking all of these problems and accelerating them. Corporations aren’t “to blame”, necessarily, because they are simply doing what they were designed to do: convert capital, natural, human or otherwise into something useful for human beings, and to do it in the most efficient way possible. Companies are required by law to be efficient, and they have gotten so good at it that they threaten to destroy the very things they were designed to serve: human beings. It is almost like the movie “Terminator”, where men create machines that begin to operate on their own then turn on their creators.
The market is Western culture’s cosmology. In the space where symbols, archetypes and elemental energies once occupied the Western psyche, the brand has grown into the vacancy left by a shift of culture towards ever-increasing commoditization of consciousness. One does not have to look very far to observe parallels between brand-stories and core human tendencies to meet the need of myth.
The Nike swoosh is a great example of a brand that holds a key to one of these core mythological human needs. The swoosh is air. It is ethereal and quickly able to “Just Do It.” It moves effortlessly and with great power. The Nike corporation defines itself as being in service to human potential. According to Nike, “If you have a body, you are an athlete.” Basically, the story of the swoosh proclaims a universal truth: if you are breathing, you are alive, and you are wrought with physical potential through the breath, the element of air.