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JB: And how do you think we got this way?

RUSHKOFF: By design. In the late 40s after World War II, we needed a way for the economy to expand, so what we did was create a consumer culture. Men returned to the factories and worked, while women returned to the home to take care of the children. Advertising and marketing catered to the needs of women and children. When they couldn't cater to a need, they created one. By the 1970s, when women went to work themselves, consumer culture became all about kids — rock music and records and toys and electronics ­ all items and lifestyles that appealed to either children or the child in the man or woman. We've succeeded at that. Now when a person becomes successful what they want to do is buy into childhood and get some expensive toys in order to fulfill those same, media-generated childhood urges. Our commercials make this explicit.

We also live in a culture where we want to be infantilized. I was recently in a State where people buy their liquor in "package stores" ­ from State cops. Okay, why is that? Because in America we have laws to protect us from our own vices. We feel we can be trusted to behave as adults. But what does this really accomplish? When you buy your liquor from a cop, and you have restrictions about how you're supposed to use it, then you are relieved of all responsibility for how you behave. That's why we have a nation filled with drunks. Watch "COPS" and you can see one result of infantilizing policies.

We still yearn for parents as we always have. The movie "Elizabeth", about Queen Elizabeth, reminded me about western civilization's transition from looking at God and Virgin Mary and Jesus and as our parent figures, to looking towards the monarchy for this same comfort. Elizabeth enacted this transition. What we did in America was to enact a new transition, which was from the monarchy, or the presidency, as our parental figure, to corporations and brands. Our transference is now projected onto brands — we look to them and to companies to provide the reassurance we want.

The strained effort by America to mourn for Kennedy in the fashion that England mourned for Diana looks like an effort to regain some of what felt like a healthier form of transference than what we have now — transference to non-personified entities — which I think is more frightening because we suspect that these entities don't have our best interest at heart. They don't even have hearts.

JB: And the non-personified entities are treated a lot better than people.

RUSHKOFF: If a corporation releases tons and tons of pollutants somewhere, killing thousands of people, no human being is going to be held accountable, and the corporation is going to pay fines that actually mean nothing to it as an entity. Meanwhile kids are tattooing the Nike Swoosh onto their arms because it gives them a feeling of kinship and identity. It gives them such a sense of belonging.

JB: I have never met a corporate logo I liked. The "brand" is one of the worst ideas of the 20th century.

RUSHKOFF: It's about metaphor. At every stage of the development of language we create a metaphor. When that metaphor dies ­ when we forget its original meaning ­ it becomes the component part of a new language system. Ancient people developed little symbols, glyphs, like a picture of a bull, or a picture of a house or a picture of water, and that's the way our written languages developed. Eventually we stopped seeing glyphs as representational pictures and saw them as symbols for noises.

So the aleph which is the picture of the bull becomes the letter A, or beta which is the picture of a house, becomes a B, we use it for the sound b, and then we create new words out of it. So our new words are really collections of dead metaphors. I think our language and our symbol systems, end up swallowing up the old ones so that we can conduct a denser style of communication.

Talk to teachers about the way kids are doing math now in school. Instead of doing arithmetic, they use a calculator for doing arithmetic and then, hopefully, do a more complex set of equations over it. But arithmetic as something they relate to directly disappears. Arithmetic is this thing the calculator does while they work with a larger system. Or look at the way young people watch television or listen to music. Songs become "samples" in new compositions, and scenes become "cuts" in an MTV video. The juxtaposition of images or sounds tells what we can call a kind of a meta-story on top of the original component parts.