For all his elegant cool, Don Draper is also a philandering drunk who has no idea who he even is half the time. The story fluctuates between his efforts to change and his ignorance of his wrongs.
Making behavioural changes is different for everybody. Don Draper goes swimming and writes a journal, Transition groups try to live with less dependency on fossil fuels, and most people who want to do something about climate change make adjustments to their lives by shopping locally and reducing, re-using and recycling.
Consumption along with the desire it creates, frame our outlook (at least in the West) without us realising half the time. It is the lens through which we see the world most of the time; observing the world in terms of its potential to benefit ourselves, often through purchasing things.
It then becomes easy to understand how that desire is at the centre of consumer economies. All the credit crunch, recession, and climate change clatterings in the news media around the world all stem from a silent, invisible psychological origin that grows within us all.
Followers of Ayn Rand would even lift it up onto a pedestal and call it ‘enlightened self-interest’. But for many (especially outside of the Western world) there’s nothing enlightening about being deluded and at the whim of a silent, invisible ego that is goaded by people like Don Draper into consuming more and more in the faint hope of sating manipulated desire, or for a moment’s perceived happiness from having bought something.
And yet that is what our whole way of life, our economy and our socialisation rests upon. That psychological trick as it were, whereby PR companies, ad men and marketers have latched onto the mind and even the outskirts of the soul in order to get our money and make us work for more.
Spend, spend, spend to keep the machine working. Governments say they want to tackle climate change and social justice but at the same time they urge us to carry on consuming – the very thing that has caused our societies to be socially and environmentally unsustainable.
We are trapped, as Tim Jackson says, on a hedonic treadmill. Mad Men shows us getting on it to begin the run, and so far we are still on it.
We are encouraged by economies of consumption to take our problems and concerns and to ‘toast’ them with that good old ad man trick which has kept us smoking for so long.