Even though on Boket and on a mission… Keith’s memory of the newspaper ad with the famous actor flogging expensive watches still lingered. So did the bad aftertaste of the Murdochs at the Common’s Select Committee – like mean baddies from a Frank Capra movie.  Oh yeah, and the revelations of their cosy Christmas lunches with the Tory Old Etonian PM and his obsequious predecessors.

He’d stopped over on his way to Boket…Hong Kong is semiotic addiction run wild. Prada the biggest new listing on the HKEx . Seemingly obscure Swiss watch brands adorn trams and billboards with taglines referring to ‘depuis 1786’ etc. $60,000 time pieces adorn the mandarins of new China.

Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei, is adept at using signs and symbols – the juxtaposition of iconic Coca Cola lettering hand painted onto a Ming like vase…the iconography of Chairman Mao jumbled by means of winged, flying Mao’s that are like abstract and faintly disturbing angels. Pop Art meets the little red book.

Hermes’ Hong Kong store front featuring the most dour, ordinary looking clothes and accessories of exorbitant cost. Value magnified by the semiotics of the context and brand. If the same items were in a different context, what then would be their value? An interesting experiment would be to do precisely this – to take the dour clothes, remove the labels and scatter the items among rows of other clothes in something like our Australian op shops. Any takers, folks?

Branding is akin to alchemy. The transformation of the mundane into that must have object of desire. Almost like we’re programmed to form more and more material attachments. Are we so lacking in identity that we need the object of desire to tell us who we are, to define our identity? The response may be, “oh but it’s harmless”;  “we all like nice things”…people should be free to… blah, blah, blah”. Fair enough, up to a point, but this shouldn’t prevent us from examining our own semiotic addictions and attachments.

The French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, wrote of developmental stages from infant to ‘adult’: need, demand and finally…desire. Semiotic addiction perhaps functions in reverse.

Commercial forces are permitted to influence and ultimately alter our behaviour for commercial gain. This is the intent behind many of our semiotic addictions. Propaganda has an intrinsic motivation and intent too. It actually intends to be mind altering. Its elements can be subtle and nuanced if taken at face value, rather than from a more mindful perspective. The late 80’s Reagan era crack cocaine boom coincided with the post Carter assault of market fundamentalism – accompanied by Milton Friedman’s spooky and blinkered “Freedom to Choose” Is market fundamentalism a ‘choice’ to us, its subjects? Where is the freedom to choose in a fully compliant, conformist consumerist existence? Where is freedom to choose for the homeless, the addicted and the imprisoned?

The evidence is definitely in re the awful correlation of high $GDP and epidemic rates of depression. Social isolation viewed from virtually any econometric model is found to be as toxic as smoking 20 a day.

Anyway, back to the Kikimongulat compound….