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Selling Desire and Dissatisfaction: Why Advertising should be banned From Bhutan McDonald, Ross, 1961- between 2006-06 and 2006-08

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 Selling Desire and Dissatisfaction: Why Advertising
should be banned From Bhutanese Television.
Dr Ross McDonald*
Managing modern media represents a fundamental
challenge for Bhutanese government, society and culture.
As a commercialised force, modern media seeks new
markets in order to profit from them. The extent to which
any local population is genuinely enhanced in the process
is a matter of serious debate. This paper considers the
downside of commercial media and its intentions in Bhutan
by looking at the nature of commercial television and how it
might be constructively managed by Buddhist aspirations.
Central to the argument that follows is the psychological
nature of desire and dissatisfaction and how these states
are to be minimised in a Buddhist sensibility but
maximised in a commercialised one. Commercial television
is driven by a marketing agenda that seeks to embed deep-
seated desire and dissatisfaction in order that these be
profitably exploited by selling material goods that will
nullify these newly cultivated feelings of lack. From a
Buddhist perspective this can only be destructive to
positive progress when one bears in mind that the Four
Noble Truths see desire as constituting the critical
entrapment that needs to be overcome if individuals (and
society as a whole) are to be capable of meaningful
progress towards genuine feelings of fulfilment. Advertising
on television aims to undo the pull of Buddhist aspiration
and entrap populations within a delusional and harmful
materialism. The conclusion reached in this paper is that
Bhutan ought to consider an outright ban on television
Professor   at   University   of   Auckland   Business   School,
Auckland University, New Zealand, e.mail:
 advertising in the same way as it has effectively banned
billboard advertising across much ofthe country.
The banner under which we gather begs two essential questions:
what precisely will the impacts of media on Bhutanese culture
be and how might these influences be best managed in order
that they contribute effectively to the happy society that national
policy seeks? This writing will attempt to shed a little light on
these complex but essential questions through examining the
broad nature of commercial media impact particularly in the
domain of television.
Before proceeding though, I should make my working
definitions clear. Media in the context of this paper is taken to
include all major channels of technology-based communication
- television, radio, newspapers, cell-phones, magazines, the
internet etc. Taken together these are sources of information,
advice, entertainment, persuasion, titillation and profit. (The last
factor is, as we shall see, a critical component in understanding
the nature of modern media and its intentions). Culture in this
paper, is taken to represent the shared worldview a society
coheres around and in particular, the sets of moral ideals its
teachings, activities and practices arm to facilitate. As with
media, the intention of cultural arrangements is what I will
focus on as this will allow for a clear point of connection
between the indigenous doctrines of Bhutanese Buddhism and
those of an incoming commercial medium.
Aspirational Culture and the Example of Buddhism
If we choose to define culture by the ideals that He at its heart,
then we engage in an essentially aspirational analysis. In this
framework, cultures exist to facilitate the achievement of a
moral imperative which demands that we become more
humane, wise, and inclusive in spirit. The moral codifications of
 the world's great religions including Buddhism, articulate and
justify the most responsible ideals of human development.
Participatory events such as Tshechu, Pujas and Losar reinforce
these ideals through opportunities for community engagement
and participation. Acts of fasting, retreat, charitable giving,
service and the cultivation of mindfulness shape individual
aspiration and pull people towards personally realizing the
benefits of connection and contribution. In sustainable societies
the world over culture can be seen to perform this essential role.
The Nature of Buddhist Aspiration
In Buddhist culture, humanity is seen to exist on a basic
existential continuum - one defined by an essentially moral
potential. At one extreme, we can remain 'stuck' as greedy,
hateful and ignorant individuals, bereft of true happiness and
harmful to both ourselves and others. Or alternately, we can
move progressively towards the opposite pole of happiness,
generosity, loving-kindness and wisdom. The measure of a well-
led life then is the extent to which narrow selfishness can be
effectively transcended.
In Buddhism there are three fundamental entanglements that
hamper our progression and render us unhappy and harmful.
These are craving, ill-will and delusion. The aim of Buddhist
culture is to facilitate emancipation from these hindrances and
the suffering they spread. A Buddhist cultural arrangement
accordingly exists to reinforce this movement by weaving
together a complex fabric of teachings, public happenings and
private practices, each playing its part in validating the
authority of aspiration. In Bhutanese culture, the teachings of
the Buddha permeate public consciousness spread by kanjur
and tenjur, gomchen and gelong, jakata stories and folk tales.
Families and villages come together for ritualised celebrations
that simultaneously reinforce community and Buddhist ideals.
The annual tsechu held in dzongs all over Bhutan beautifully
brings together many of these strands. Lakhangs, chortens, mani
 stones and the sounds of chanting are constant reminders of
Buddhist aspiration throughout the country. A parallel role is
played by the painted symbolism of 'the four friends' which
appears almost universally in Bhutan to act as a gentle prompt
towards willing cooperation.
In conduct, Buddhism urges respect and care for all sentient
beings and so restraint in the name of others' thriving is a key, if
not the key tenet of Buddhist philosophy in all its many forms.
To help facilitate this, Buddhist culture blesses the taking of time
for reflection and for the cultivation of mindfulness. To live
within such an aspirational culture is to exist consciously within
an atmosphere of expectation in which tendencies towards a
narrowing exclusionary selfishness are challenged by an
authoritative call for personal improvement. In Buddhist
culture, the cultivated individual rises above narrowness and
superficiality to realize the satisfactions of a deeper
connectedness and contribution. This is the ideal towards which
all Buddhists are encouraged to aspire.
At the heart of Buddhist philosophy are the Four Noble Truths,
a practical code for living wisely and well. In these key
teachings, the Buddha identifies liberation from desire in
particular as the critical pre-requisite to realizing our potential
for simultaneous contribution and happiness. Simply put, the
Four Noble Truths state that the suffering we experience in life
has its roots in unfulfilled desire and that this suffering can be
most effectively undone by following a basic set of practices
known as the Eight-Fold Path. These represent eight basic
modes of being aimed at overcoming the constraints of craving,
ill-will and delusion and cultivating instead an essentially
appreciative and generous mode of being that makes possible
the simultaneous satisfaction of both self and others.
Overcoming desire then is central to Buddhist aspiration as it
unlocks our ascendant potential and releases us from the
suffering inherent in feelings of deficit.
 To indulge desire on the other hand, is to strengthen the pull of
a separative self and encourage its futile demands for self-
iulfillrnent. If desires are indulged then the self becomes caught
in a perpetuating cycle of non-satisfaction. The basic dynamic
that the Four Noble Truths point to is that desire and non-
iulfillrnent are inseparable co-existent states. Desires or wants
are experienced as negative states that can only be overcome by
obtaining the specific object of desire. Furthermore, craving is
fed by its own indulgence and the more one indulges it, the
more it comes to dominate our lives. Instead of the satisfaction
we think will come from giving in to craving, we end up
strengthening it and its power to overwhelm us with unhappy
feelings of deprivation. This is the paradoxical karma of greed
and the Buddhist solution involves undoing egotistical
demanding by resisting it until finally it begins to release its
delusion-forming grip on consciousness.
The mastery of attention through meditative practice in all of its
forms is key to realizing our potential in Buddhism as it opens
the conscious space within which integration and realization can
occur. To be mindful is to be conscious of the karma of desire,
wise to the subtle interconnectedness of all things and accepting
of the responsibilities that emanate from these complex truths.
In combination then, practicing awareness and consciously
generous thought, speech and action, sets us on a practical path
to realizing our simultaneous potentials for freedom, fulfillment
and positive contribution to the world around us. Buddhist
culture exists to facilitate these mature states and to challenge
the unhappy limitations of self-centered desire.
Western Aspiration and the Challenge of Market
In any analysis that seriously wishes to comprehend the impact
of media contact in Bhutan it is important to distinguish
between the aspirational aspects of Western culture and the non-
 aspirational sub-culture of the market. In general, it would be
fair to say that the aspirations of 'high' Western culture are
largely consonant with those of Buddhism. Both value freedom,
equality, justice, peace, compassion and generosity. Although
each may connote different content and emphasize contrasting
methods to attaining these ends, the fact that the ends are shared
allows for a potentially harmonious integration. Furthermore,
they share a common emphasis on achieving these ends by
cultivating wisdom and moral intention.
Market culture on the other hand is an entirely different beast.
In it, the high ideals of Western culture as a whole are deemed
irrelevant as effective means to progress. Founding its faith in
the de-personalized mechanisms of the marketplace, a different
character type is idealized - a morally unimproved one free to
enact an exclusionary self-interest. In the sub-culture of the
market, collectively positive outcomes are believed to be most
effectively obtained by abandoning the improvement of selfish
intentions as a central cultural strategy. In this collapsing of
aspiration, moral maturity is undermined and here we find the
fundamental challenge that market culture poses for many
traditional cultures worldwide.
Throughout Western history, the market has been viewed with
clear caution, due in large part to its de-moralizing potential.
Inflating, lending and leveraging, conquering exploiting and
gouging all constitute legitimate parts of the great battle for
material gain. Unrestrained, the drive for profit polarizes as
advantage is used to force an indecent distribution of material
burdens and benefits. The intention to personally gain while
ignoring the interconnected costs to others constitutes the
destructive market mindset that any aspirational culture tries to
counter. In the West, the Church contained moneyed
aggressiveness for centuries under threats of immediate and
permanent spiritual exile before passing responsibility into the
hands of democratic government and its secular forces of law.
 Neither aspirational form has however, been able to hold back
the market's inexorable rise to dominance.
The critical ideological liberation break for market culture came
with the 18th century Enlightenment and the rational articulation
of a self-correcting market mechanism. The notion of a market
mechanism, as most will know, was most completely
formulated by Adam Smith (and later narrowed and hardened
by purists like Hayek and Friedman). Zealously expanded, its
assumptions provide the perfect cover for market culture to
break free of cultural/moral oversight as its mechanisms are
deemed to be necessarily benign. In market culture then, the
market assumes its own ultimate authority - one with little need
for external control, moral or otherwise.
In the broader atmosphere of the European culture in which the
market was conceived, personal improvement through the
cultivation of moral character was still seen to be the
foundational requirement for any broader social progress. Thus,
as in Buddhism, civic virtues like wisdom, compassion and
generosity were to be institutionally encouraged to as great an
extent as possible. But in his seminal market text, 'The Wealth of
Nations', Smith proposed a contrary economic mechanism that
would produce collective benefit without the need for pro-civic
intention or the cultivation of moral character. It was the 'free
market', a domain of economic activity liberated from
traditional cultural constraints. Narrow selfishness, and not
generosity drive the market to unintentionally produce the
greatest benefit for the greatest number. Thus, for market
culture, good intentions are unnecessary and so have imperative
status in providing for the common welfare. Progress should be
measured not by the improving moral intentions that may
underlie it, but rather by the improving outcomes of action
alone - quarterly profits, annual sales, market share, economic
growth and GNP in particular. In the market fundamentalists'
world exclusive intentions become alchemically transformed
 into inclusive outcomes by the magic of an 'Invisible Hand'.
Thus, goes the argument, if market-based selfishness is so
necessarily beneficial, it should, by rights, be liberated from the
compromising oversight of an unnecessary and indeed
obstructive cultural idealism.
As wielded by the ideologues of the free market, this argument
has unstitched cultural fabrics on a global scale. This is a critical
point to bear in mind when thinking of media and its specific
influence on Bhutanese culture. For as we shall see, incoming
media has been systematically colonized by a market culture
that is singularly opposed not only to Buddhist ideals but to
moral ideals in general as 'imposed' guides to market conduct.
The spread of market culture and of its ability to undo
traditional societies is an astonishing historical phenomenon.
Market forces have liberated themselves from the shackles of
cultures, kings and governments. They have broken through
layers of social and economic protection to assume the mantle of
righteous hegemony in the contemporary global order. Ever
since the rationalist formulation of a market with a mind of its
own, economic liberalism has forced its advance under the twin
principles of historical inevitability and amoral individualism.
At the tip of this advancing force these have become fused into a
cynical belief in an inevitably amoral individualism. At this point,
aspiration is deemed not only difficult but downright dangerous
as it literally ceases to exist as a rational option.
In recent decades across both the over-developed and underdeveloped worlds, market culture has advanced with great pace.
Free market capitalism has effectively erased communism from
the ideological map as it has spread consumer culture deep into
Eastern Europe and Asia. The restraints of Keynesianism have
been largely defeated and with them the credibility of major
central government control of most national economies.
Nationalized   industries   have   been   privatized,   barriers   to
 ownership, imports, capital markets, land and labour torn down
as government has retreated leaving societies to be arranged by
market agendas. Although market sovereignty has and is being
challenged in many parts of the world - perhaps most notably in
Latin America and the Arab world, elsewhere the inevitability of
market culture and of competitive individualism seems to be
increasingly accepted. The commercialized media has played a
critical role in securing these victories - operating as a channel
through which non-aspirational identities are advertised and
idealized. With media's capture by the intent and ideology of
gain, it has been transformed into a critical source of pro-market
socialization. It achieves this by incessantly encouraging a
delusional solution to the sufferings inherent in the human
Discerning Impact - Commercial Television in Bhutan
To consider the total impact of commercial media on Bhutanese
culture would be to attempt an almost impossible task given the
infinite variety of forms and content involved. Media technology
has developed at a remarkable speed over the past few decades
bringing wholly new potentials for entertainment, intrusion and
influence. Cell-phones have metamorphosed from being limited
communications devices into multi-media interfaces capable of
receiving not only still images and text but streamed TV and
Movie clips. The internet has opened up endless possibilities for
interaction and consumption. Computer games absorb hours of
teenage attention combining advertising, action and
addictiveness. Modern media is a shifting scene of immense
complexity and in order to avoid the generalities that would be
inherent in attempting to capture all aspects of media influence,
I will from this point on limit my focus to commercial television
and its role in market culture. Although more limited in scope,
this will allow for a clearer analysis, and one capable of
producing specific policy recommendations In looking at
television consumption there are two dimensions of influence
that deserve particular attention; the effects of absorption in the
 medium per se, and the impacts of the commercial content that
is actively delivered through the medium. The potential
harmfulness of television can then be usefully considered in
terms of its intention to capture attention and cultivate desire.
The Capture of Attention
The primary impact of commercial media is the absorption of
attention it induces. In the case of television in particular, vast
amounts of audience time are devoted to passive consumption
wherever it spreads. Active talk and family interaction wither as
television absorbs attention. Meal-time conversation vanishes,
quiet time is obliterated and community contribution drops off
precipitously (see McDonald 2004, for a summary of this
literature). Television and other major media arm to absorb
attention utterly, drawing it away from other interests and to the
extent that it succeeds, it acts as a powerful agent of
This disconnection operates in a number of spheres. Media
absorption distances the self from social and physical
surroundings as attention and awareness are captured by a
small screen. It disconnects us from immediate others as we
reduce interdependent interaction. It disconnects us from the
general cultural atmosphere of aspiration as we remove
ourselves into a non-participatory isolation from community.
And most of all, media consumption, particularly in high doses,
acts to disconnect us from ourselves.
As a person's attention is relentlessly drawn into a
commercialized media world, it is for that time at least,
effectively lost to any integrative capacity for realization. The
competitive drive to capture as much attention as possible
pushes mass media, and television in particular, towards split-
second sensationalism- more explosive effects, more
traumatizing violence (real and unreal), more explicit surgery,
more alluring sexuality delivered with ever-more punch and
 rapidity. Thus absorbed and focussed, awareness cannot
connect self with others, nor with surroundings, nor with the
deeper levels of one's own being. Television absorption
obliterates reflective consciousness and in so-doing eradicates
the broad awareness necessary for realizing the truth and value
of interdependence.
(If one doubts that the above is true, I would encourage them to
conduct some simple experiments. Try having a meaningful
conversation with someone while the television is on at normal
viewing volume. How often is your attention drawn away and
the holistic quality of the flow of conversation fragmented or
lost? Or try meditating with the television on. Can you control
attention and focus it in ways that are not constantly shattered
by televisions insistent drawing of attention into itself?).
In absorbing awareness so completely, the popular media and
particularly television direct the viewer away from directly
experiencing the profound satisfactions inherent in contribution
and connection. The resulting 'emptiness' becomes the fertile
ground in which material greed thrives. For the Buddhist
scholar David Loy, consumerist market culture represents a
failed lack project', an ultimately futile attempt to find meaning
and fulfillment through material accumulation. The stuck
individual of the marketer's dream, cannot be fulfilled as they
fail to realize the karma of desire. As such, they provide the
perfect medium for market manipulation.
In Buddhism, cultivating an integrative awareness is central to
all practice. Attuned awareness allows us to integrate emotions,
rationality and insight as we realize their dynamics and co-
relations. Awareness of others' troubles and joys allows us to
connect generously and compassionately with them and to
identify common interests. Awareness of our involvement in the
natural fabric brings appreciation and a sense of respect and
restraint. As consciousness expands to become more inclusive
 and integrative, it becomes healthier, happier and more helpful
to the general cause of genuine human aspiration. With
broadened awareness comes the possibility of realizing the joy
of interconnection and with this felt involvement comes the
ability to respond in generous, compassionate and wise ways.
For Buddhists, the cultivation of these skilful means reflects the
growing capacity for profound happiness. However, in market
culture, commercial media arms to undermine this foundational
process by drawing awareness away from realizing integration,
collective involvement and appreciation.
Thus, any for-profit medium like television is inherently
problematic for Buddhist aspirations insofar as it arms to export
awareness from its immediate context. The total effect of hours
of attentional absorption particularly in television and the
internet are not fully documented but certainly in the process of
consumption vast swathes of attention are turned over to a
dulling and disconnecting escapism. In this privatized
consciousness the individual becomes increasingly disoriented
and prone to feelings of lack. This deliberately cultivated state of
unsatisfactory emptiness holds the key to market expansion as it
prepares the psychological grounding for a highly profitable
delusion, that the problem of existential lack can be solved most
efficiently through indulging an ever-expanding materialism.
The Cultivation of Desire
As market culture has emerged victorious from the aspirational
project that spawned it, it has spread to capture major media as
a strategic necessity. Television was formerly controlled by and
large by a more edifying and civilizing imperative than mere
profit-maximization. State television along with radio generally
originated in a context of an aspirational national project. From
Europe to North America, from the Antipodes to Asia, pubic
television was founded to broadcast an edifying mix of
entertainment, arts, education, children's programming, politics
and news. In the decisive market victories of the 1970's and 80's
 however, the mass media was largely handed over to profit-
seeking business and with it, to the ideology of market culture.
In the process advertising hours and content have intensified
markedly. Thus, in New Zealand where I live for example,
advert-free days and times have disappeared as market owned
media have come to devote up to a quarter of all television time
to direct marketing manipulation.
Transfixed by the small screen, heavy consumers are prone to
delusionary deception, particularly given the exact precision of
the 'campaigns' and 'weapons' employed by today's marketing
corporations. Material goods are inserted in the happiest of
scenes, they are constantly associated with success, power,
admiration, love, ease and self-esteem. In the process of
applying this basically behaviourist law of association, the true
routes to these outcomes are obscured and replaced by new
associations between material consumption and personal
realization. Direct marketing influence represents an intentional
blurring of the true connection between the ends of aspiration
and the immaterial means by which these can be best achieved.
In the delusional world of the market, there is no need for hard
aspiration and the inconvenience of challenging one's appetites
if true happiness is to be secured.
Instead, the individual is constantly cajoled into believing that
essential satisfaction necessarily involves the consumption of
mediating material goods and services. However, it has been
amply demonstrated that beyond a very basic level of material
satisfaction, increased consumption is subject to the law of
strictly diminishing returns. Thus, beyond a very limited point,
happiness comes not from more material consumption but from
the cultivation of relationship, community involvement and a
sense of higher purpose and meaning. Endlessly expanding
consumption in the marketplace then is of strictly limited value
in forging a happy and sustainable society (see McDonald 2003,
for a review of relevant literature).
 In Buddhism, to buy into the temptations of materialist desire is
to fall into a lack of true perspective and thus to act out of
ignorance. As previously discussed, indulging desire does not
lead to its cessation but to its inflammation. Desire is akin to a
mosquito bite in its response to attention. If one gives into
individualized material desire, one falls into a perpetual state of
desire, an insatiable feeling of hunger or of lack. This is the basic
state of suffering that concerned the Buddha and its cessation
was seen to He in becoming aware of desire's limitations and
freeing oneseH from its limiting karma. Advertising, the force
that runs commercial media, seeks to embed these limitations in
order that they be profitably exploited.
Considered in combination with the attentional effects of
commerciaHzed media, the fundamental chaUenge posed by
television can be seen in relatively stark outline. PotentiaUy it is
a powerful medium for embedding desire and fracturing
attentional mastery. But in seeing this, how is Bhutan expected
to respond given its interest in cultivating widespread
happiness? In particular, what might government do to ensure
the corrupting aspects of major media are countered in the name
of maintaining the genuine progress that underHes the true
attainment of a GNH dream? The fact of the matter is that if
media poHcy is not carefully crafted, the authority of Buddhist
aspirations wiH be rapidly undermined as many individuals
(and particularly the younger generation) abandon themselves
to finding false purpose in the market's immediate indulgences.
Media poHcy wiH I beHeve, be a critical test of the meaning of
'good governance' in Bhutan.
Good Governance and Controlling Cultural Corruption
in Bhutan
I have argued before that good governance in the context of
Buddhist culture can only be defined by Buddhist ideals (see
McDonald, 2005). Thus, if we place the impacts on attention and
 desire within the clarifying frame of Buddhist analysis, the
nature of good governance becomes clear in outline at least.
Good governance exercises in facilitating the attainment of
widespread wisdom, generosity and compassion through
protecting the authority of these ideals. Inherent in this
protection must an aspect of due diligence through which
society is protected from the most egregious attempts to
undermine the imperative status of these ideals. In the case of
incoming market-driven media, such a rear-guard action is
necessary given the aggressiveness of the intrusion. The
ruthlessness of market expansion is revealed in its symboHc
representations of "conquering" or "penetrating" markets, of
"target populations", "victorious campaigns" and other such
violent conceptions. In the modern age, protecting a cultural
worldview from aggressive corruption has become the
necessary counterpart to continuing to teach and practice the
more deeply rooted ideals of tradition.
So what specificaUy might good governance in the realm of the
media involve in a Buddhist context? First of aU, it should be
clear that the justification for controlling commerciaHzed media
Hes in directly addressing the propriety of its underlying
intentions. Marketing media intends to cultivate delusion and do
this through a fundamental process of disconnecting the
individual from interconnected involvement. A market society is
exposed to potent psychological manipulation intended to instill
feeHngs of material frustration. Given limited resources, the
cultivation of further greed in the contemporary world order is
moraUy problematic to say the least and a fundamental restraint
is required if justice and sustainabiHty are to be estabHshed in
the long term. A restriction on the cultivation of greed is clearly
wise and is ultimately an expression of inclusive compassion for
those excluded by the current economic order. Indeed, what are
the next generation of Bhutanese to be left with if the current
generation cannot maintain restraint? In the realm of television
at least, Bhutanese officials would be exercising constructive
 authority if they were to institute a ban on broadcasted
advertising through television.
If direct marketing were to be removed from television it would
return the medium to a much more justifiable status. There is no
need to have broadcasting dominated by profiteering motives
and if these were tamed television and indeed aU media, could
play a more constructive part in shaping the public mind. In fact
to purge it of this rude tendency would be to re-approach the
ideal market-society balance the original Enlightenment
experiment aimed for.
In the original outline of the marketplace, it was conceived as a
contributory arena within which people's genuine needs and
desires are serviced. Central to it's legitimacy is the notion of the
sovereign and rational consumer - a type that is clear about
what wiH improve their weU-being and one whose desires have
been seH-generated. In this conception, the free individual freely
engages in exchange, whoUy uncorrupted by any larger
institutional manipulation. And while market culture has
become highly sensitized to the 'illegitimate' meddlings of
church and state, it has maintained a self-serving blindness to
it's own profound shaping of the pubHc mind. Marketing
deHvered through the commerciaHzed media enforces one of the
most finely-honed forms of sociaHzation that has been brought
to bear on any human coUective. It can cultivate feelings of guilt,
fear, inclusion and failure as effectively as any organized
reHgion and in seeking to embed manufactured desire in the
pubHc mind, marketing culture criticaUy oversteps the
boundaries of it's own seH-defined legitimacy.
Under assumptions of the sovereign rational consumer, the
market assumes moral value as the servant of the larger pubHc
interest. But when this state is violated, the power relationship is
reversed as society at large comes to serve the narrower interests
of   market   players.   In   free   market   theology   there   is   no
 legitimating argument to defend this reversal and hence the
common attempt on converts behaH to coUapse aU moral
analysis into the reductionist framework of a necessarily selfish
intent. Those at the forefront of advancing market culture -
marketers, defend this assault on sovereignty and rationaHty by
hiding behind a shabby defence of merely providing neutral
information for use in rational decision making. But such seH-
serving dupHcity is deceptive as any even brief consideration of
the blatant associations forged by media advertising can
instantly demonstrate. The attentions of beautiful people, the
happy families, the inspiring backdrops, the fawning friends aU
imply that the deepest satisfactions will emanate from
consuming mundane products. Such hopeless delusions
systematicaUy subvert consumer rationaHty and so compromise
the market's genuine potential to serve society and its coUective
happiness. These ideals are silently replaced by corporate
priorities of profit gained through shaping the pubHc mind to
expect the profound satisfactions that markets promise, but
cannot provide. Thus, to ban advertising from television would
be to bring the market closer to its proper place in a decent and
improving social order and it is, for reasons previously
explained, essential as a protective measure for any aspirational
culture founding its progress on the constant cultivation of seH-
There are additional benefits to the central ones that have been
argued thus far, a key one being a critical slowing in the pace of
social and market reformation. In many cases, traditional
cultural aspirations are primarily undone by the disorienting
pace of change that suddenly-opened markets experience. To
allow unrestricted access, especiaUy for media and advertising
influence, would be to open Bhutan to a powerfuUy disorienting
whirlwind of change. H this pace were slowed by silencing the
frenetic insistence of marketers, there is a very real chance that
the market as a whole could be governed in ways that contribute
considerably to national happiness. It is important to note here
 that in banning advertisings cheapening intentions, no
restrictions are placed upon the expansion of any goods or
services in the economy. These can enter and thrive as the pubHc
chooses. It is not the right of the market to function organicaUy
that is being chaUenged but rather the right of the market to
force its expansion through false association and coUective de-
moraHzation. If falsely inflated and poorly considered demand
is reduced, sensible and sustainable direction of the 'market as
servant of society' is much more likely. With it's hyper-
aggressiveness tamed the market can be absorbed within a more
responsible cultural framework - one in which happiness
ultimately Hes in realms beyond the restrictive psychology of
purely personal gain.
Television content is as we know, increasingly shaped by
commercial incentives to capture and retain attention. The
Bhutanese government like those in aU nations will need to
institute and apply a rigorous code to govern media content and
use. In more commercialized societies used to managing media
content, violent or sexuaUy expHcit programming is limited to
the later hours of the evening. Pornography and sociopathy,
gambHng and racism are monitored by censors and compHance
structures are in place to remove the most offensive
programming. These, along with a whole raft of measures need
to codified and put in place as soon as possible. In previous
writings I have suggested considering an overaU limit to hours
of broadcast in order that the essentiaUy disconnecting power of
television be restricted in a simple but effective way. AU day and
aU night broadcasting is not a right that any media company has
as a matter of course. I would again suggest that some such
restrictions be actively included in any broad review of the
media's place in a changing Bhutanese society.
In 2005, Bhutan received much positive mention in the
international press  for instituting  two  restrictions  over  the
 market. First, it banned the sale of cigarettes in the kingdom
given the health costs associated with the habit. Second, the City
authorities in Thimphu instituted a ban on biUboard and shop-
front advertising. These moves are positive examples of good
governance where the larger interests of community health or
aesthetics are maintained in the face of a potentiaUy
compromising market shift.
I beHeve that banning television advertising in Bhutan would
likewise constitute a positive example of good governance in a
Buddhist context. It, in combination with a ban on biUboard
advertising and other complimentary poHcies could
constructively contain the most impertinent intrusions of market
culture. It is abundantly clear that the market philosophy of gain
and disconnection is faUing us and that central to its faUure is an
ignorance of the fundamental importance of recognizing interdependence and the responsibilities that attend it. Sooner rather
than later, we are as a species going to have to fundamentaUy
chaUenge the logic of a seU-correcting market model given its
demonstrable failure to correct its own disastrous trajectory.
Appetites are clearly outstripping the material base of the
planetary ecosystem and as such they need to be contained.
Bhutan could set the world a positive example by actively
banishing advertising from television. It would simultaneously
demonstrate the non-inevitability of market hegemony and
provide an alternative model of more responsible development
for others. As current levels of television saturation in Bhutan
are relatively low, few major costs would be involved. The usual
arguments that if advertising is Hmited, jobs wUl be lost, simply
does not apply to Bhutan as a predominantly non-industriaHzed
society. Social change in a positive direction tends to come as a
result of inspiration, and if Bhutan were to judiciously tone
down the aggressive assault of marketing culture if might
inspire simUarly sensible and responsible moves elsewhere.
 And finaUy whUe talking of inspiration it is critical that we
remain aware of the essential nature of the Middle Path in
Buddhist culture. To balance the old and the new in constructive
ways is the chaUenge set before government in Bhutan. It
involves a walk along a razors edge of fine balance. The market
and the media will inevitably continue to enter Bhutan and to
fertiHze its existing culture. In finding the middle way though, a
certain clarity is required within which considerate and
balanced decisions can be made. Commercial media puUs
consciousness so radicaUy and effectively into itseU that it leads
us far from a middle way and beyond the balancing puU of
Buddhist aspiration. Buddhism rules out extreme methods of
involuntary force to gain adherence and if balance is to be
obtained, incoming market culture must simUarly be restrained
from its use of mass marketing weaponry to secure irrational
If good governance is defined by the cultural aspirations it seeks
to serve, then good Buddhist governance in Bhutan would
involve controlling the sociaUy destructive impacts of
advertising and excessive desire. In so-doing government would
be acting in a way conducive to happiness, by maintaining the
cultural puU towards appreciation, satisfaction, generosity,
wisdom and care, while removing much of the anti-cultural puU
towards non-appreciation, dissatisfaction, selfishness, delusion
and carelessness. Such poHcy formation would rejuvenate a
positive cycle wherein traditional wisdom, good governance
and private practice reinforce each other to secure a balanced
and responsible happiness. If on the other hand, the impacts of
market media are not brought under the authority of good
governance then a negative and unhappy cycle of deterioration
wiU almost certainly begin in which significant sectors of
Bhutanese society abandon responsibility, care and wisdom to
the detriment of on-going happiness. (See McDonald, 2005 for
more detaUed development of this cyclical model).
 The world would be a better place if wisdom, generosity and
care lay at the heart of the global order. But as market culture
continues to expand its dominion it systematicaUy collapses
personal aspiration and embeds a radicaUy less progressive
sentiment. Media poHcy in Bhutan represents a critical test of the
country's ability to protect its cultural inheritance and advance a
wiser model of development. In this paper, I have focussed on
television to illustrate the propriety of recommending that
media poHcy be governed by Buddhist ideals and
understandings. The argument however, extends in thematic
fashion to include aU incoming media intent on spreading a new
non-aspirational psychology. Bhutan's GNH framework
assumes that the satisfactions of Buddhist aspiration are
superior to those of the market - hence the elevation of GNH
above GNP as a measure of importance. Harmony, happiness
and sustainability cannot be buUt by cultivating isolation,
dissatisfaction and careless consumption and thus cannot be
secured in any society dominated by systematic marketing
suggestion and the hungry consciousness it intentionaUy breeds.
Keeping this understanding firmly in mind will go a long way
towards crafting a sensible and culturaUy consonant response
not only to the specific disruptions of television, but further, to
the broader challenge of media management in general.
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Etzioni,   Amita.   The Moral  Dimension:   Towards  a  New
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Loy,   David.   The   Great  Awakening:   A   Buddhist   Social
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