By Roland Watson
August 2002

Something we’ll never hear:

Interviewer: Why won’t you take the sponsorship and advertising money that’s been offered to you?

Tiger Woods: I don’t want to be beholden to anyone. I don’t want my identity linked to any corporation or institution, certainly for a check. I’ll support charities for free, of course, but to support a product, never. You become one yourself.

Even more, I detest the whole idea, to be a symbol, of something bigger than golf. I enjoy the game, but that’s all it is. To let myself be used, to promote an elitist and unsustainable way of life, which is based on a set of values that I personally do not share – that I actually disagree with – is unacceptable. Even for riches beyond your wildest dreams. I don’t want to be a billionaire, and I certainly don’t want to be a prostitute. I want to be equal. I am an Asian African American, or a Black Asian, whatever you want to call me. My ancestors have struggled for centuries to be equal. It is disrespectful to them to put myself above others, to sponsor and symbolize a system that prizes inequality above all.

A product is something that is manufactured and consumed. Further, the amount of manufacturing required may vary. In the case of a person, the transformation of a person into a public consumable, this is dependent on talent. If an individual has little talent, he or she must undergo extensive training. But, for those individuals who have so little talent that no amount of training will suffice, secondary manufacturing is required, meaning promotion and advertising. This is the only way the public can be persuaded to consume.

One can conclude, then, that Britney required much more secondary manufacturing than Tiger.

Individuals can also be products if they are used as symbols – if they are made into symbols, packaged a certain way – again, through advertising. Tiger and Britney are cultural symbols, but the question is, of what? The advertising tells us that they symbolize excellence, something for which we all should strive, but this is a lie. They actually symbolize superficiality, the deification of sports and celebrities, consumption (beginning with of Nike and Pepsi), global standardization and sameness – meaning the death of diversity, and, above all else, competition and the creation of never ending inequality.

For prostitution, sex has nothing to do with it. A prostitute is someone who sells him or herself, but in a very specific way. If you sell your skills and effort, as, for example, an employee, you are not a prostitute. But, if you yield your independence, if you willingly grant your subservience and do anything that is demanded of you, without regard to its ethical status and also how it may conflict with your personal goals and motivations, then you are.

If you think of yourself as having a career, rather than a life, then you have prostituted yourself to the modern social system, probably without even realizing it.

The worst prostitutes, although a better characterization is “pimp,” are those individuals like Tiger and Britney who allow themselves to be used to promote such an unethical system. They are paid enormous sums to encourage the public to accept this form of domination. They put an attractive and entertaining face on it. Tiger and Britney are not products, or prostitutes, but products, and prostitutes, and pimps.

Of course, that’s probably not how they see it. They are merely striving to survive, as best they can, in the system to which they were born. And what’s wrong with the system, anyway? The modern system is actually the ideal: Democracy combined with Capitalism. How can you argue with that?

We do have democracy, representative democracy, which is almost self-rule, but not quite. And it’s not that bad, as long as you ignore the fact that ninety five percent of the elected leaders worldwide come from the social elite – they were able to get their positions using advantages that the vast majority of the people do not have; and that they are corrupt – they abuse their power in one way or another. And capitalism, the belief in “free” enterprise, where you work for yourself and pull yourself up by your bootstraps, also seems a noble ideal until you recognize that it inevitably engenders a three-tiered class system that is anything but a meritocracy.

No, our system is really one of institutional domination over the general public, with the institutions owned and/or controlled by the people at the highest levels of the aforementioned class structure.

The system demands your participation – it would have you believe that you cannot opt out; your loyalty – you must support it even when it makes your life hell (although you may try to deny it, in such moments you cannot ignore the fact that you do have a life, not only a job); and, ultimately, your subservience (your being). It exists not to assist you as you navigate the risks and rewards of life, but instead to use you to fulfill its own ends, knowing full well that this will make your life hell.

The surprise, though, is that you can opt out. You are free to choose what to do, with your life. You do not have to be a product or a prostitute or a slave. This choice is easily within your power. All you have to do is shut out the brainwashing, to say to yourself, and others, I won’t buy Tiger, or Nike, or Britney, or Pepsi, or anything that they represent.

© Roland O. Watson 2001-3