A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
The human race is heading for extinction. No, guess again: it’s not climate change – not yet anyway. It’s much more basic than that. We stink. We absolutely reek of chemicals. Every day, we pour, spray and smear huge amounts of artificial smells on our bodies. If that isn’t bad enough, we fill the air around us with a chemical cocktail, as well. We’ve become obsessed with odor, and we attack it like it’s Satan’s grandson. However, in our zeal to defeat aroma, we’re cloaking ourselves in a chemical cloud capable of defoliating Denmark. Our noses haven’t worked properly in decades, and our poor lungs can’t even gasp for help anymore. Most importantly, we’re losing our original human scent, and this will be our demise.
I know it’s hard to believe in a world filled with Driven, Hidden Fantasy and Hugo Boss, but we humans have our own smell – individually — just like cats, dogs or elephants. It’s a perfectly agreeable odor that is simply Mother Nature’s way of recognizing her kids with the lights off. We don’t smell it consciously anymore because we’re a gillion generations out of the caves. Basically, we haven’t needed to distinguish our buddy Cro-Magnon Carl from the local sabre tooth man-eater for many millennia — so we don’t. But it’s still there, all the same. Ask any couple who’ve been together for any length of time and they will tell you their partner/husband/wife/lover has a distinct smell. It’s recognizable on the pillow, on their clothes or in a room. It’s identifiable. This smell is extremely important. It’s how animals find and keep sexual partners.
In our oh-so-sophisticated contemporary society, we don’t want to believe we’re still just really smart animals. We think we’re halfway to the gods or something, and ordinary human activity is dirty, dangerous and offensive. Just take a look at how we go after bacteria. We’re willing to flush tons of life destroying chemicals into our water supply and massacre whole species of fish just so our children don’t touch anything that isn’t double-dipped in Lysol. We treat smell the same way (worse, actually.) We’ve convinced ourselves we smell bad, and not just occasionally – all the time.
Take a walk through any shopping mall and count the number of places that sell fragrance of one kind or another and not just perfume — any fragrance. The only places that don’t are A & W, the bank and the guy selling lottery tickets. There are entire stores devoted to smell and that’s just human smell. Other stores have departments for kitchen, bathroom and household odors. Still others have a whole aisle for air fresheners, and some have little mini-sections strictly for pets. This is outrageous. Clothing stores have tables for celebrity perfumes, hardware stores sell AXE and gas stations sell travel size deodorant – just in case. In case of what? It’s a gas station! It smells like gas!
We don’t generally notice the amount of retail space given over to the war on smell — simply because it’s everywhere. However, the real problem is, it’s chemical warfare! Most of the perfumes, deodorants, soaps, body sprays etc sold, are not naturally derived from the lavender plants of Provence lovingly crushed by the local peasants. Trust me: 99% of the stuff we use every day is concocted by scientists in a laboratory. And get this — it’s a secret laboratory — because the makers of all those perfumes, deodorants, soaps, body sprays etc. are not obligated by law to list their ingredients on the label. These are unknown chemicals folks, in strange and unique combinations, and we’re putting them on our skin — which, by the way, is porous. Unless you’re Robert Downey Jr. from Iron Man II your body is absorbing those chemicals like a brand-new loofah.
The other side of the coin is that some of those chemicals remain on our skin and attack the sensory organs of the people around us. Try walking through the perfume department of The Bay (no offence, it was the only name I could come up with) and you can taste the fumes in the air. Or ride in an elevator with a Radioactive AXE Man, and somewhere around the 25th floor, you’re going to need oxygen. I have no fear of industrial air pollution because we are breathing the chemical waste of Obsession, Heat, Glow, Unforgiven and a thousand more – up-close-and-personal — every moment of the day. No wonder there’s a pandemic of asthma and respiratory illness in our society. Our lungs simply weren’t made to absorb this amount of crap. These days, people who quit smoking just come out about even.
Eventually, between the amount of fragrances we use to disguise our natural scent and the damage we’ve already done to our noses, lips and tongues, we’re not going to be able to smell each other anymore. We’ll all smell the same. This is not a good thing. Any anthropologist, biologist or zoologist will tell you that animals, including humans, depend on smell. It’s the most intimate of the senses, and it’s essential — not only for reproduction but also for natural selection within the species. If we’re not careful, we’re going to become a-scentual. After that, it’s a straight slide to extinction.