THEY used to sell us aspiration - bigger mortgages, an en-suite bathroom, designer kettles, sports cars.
Now, the credit crunch has taken those rose-tinted glasses away from our faces. Aspiration - what aspiration? Austerity means working longer hours just to tread water financially. And we realise just how crazy those days of make-over lives and make-over TV were. Just what sort of treadmill we were all on to buy STUFF.
Bingeing on designer clothes and chef's ready meals? We now know there's a real price to pay. Things can only get better for a short while.
What worries me, though, is what's replacing it. The new message being sold to us by the murkier elements of society.
That fear is the new aspiration. You might not ever be able to afford to buy that dream home now, but you can hate those less fortunate than yourself, those who are different in some way.
Channel that frustrated, thwarted aspiration into blame.
Which is why the Mail on Sunday's "expose" of the people who go to foodbanks makes my skin crawl.
Dear God, people might actually be going to foodbanks more than once! How dare people be needy for more than the allotted "worthy" poor period.
How dare they still have the "trappings of employment" like Sky TV and a smart phone having just been made redundant?
How dare charities who want to help people not act like the Security Service and vet those who come to them as properly worthy?
Of course, they must be feckless, these foodbank users, mustn't they?
Because if they are not, what we have here is a real problem driven by the economics in which we now find ourselves. While unemployment may be down and wages are finally set to outstrip inflation, it's hard to argue that most people in this country are more prosperous.
Because many employed people now have more than one part-time job, working long hours, where once they had one.
Because wages have been frozen or cut in real terms for the best part of a decade.
Because people feel unable to pay into pension pots because they need to pay for the upkeep of their families.
Last week, we reported that 16,455 adults and children in Gwent have been forced to turn to one charity’s food banks in the last year, more than triple the amount from the year previous.
The figures released by the Trussell Trust show the thousands who received food support from Trussell Trust food banks in the last 12 months compared to 4,314 in April 2012-March 2013.
Torfaen reported the highest rate of users with 5,346 people receiving emergency food in April 2013-March 2014. The eight Trussell Trust food banks in Gwent provide three days’ nutritionally balanced food to people in crisis. At least 90 per cent of food given out by the food banks is donated by the public.
In the last year, new food banks have opened in Newport and Monmouth, which account for the huge increase in figures
It's telling that in his Easter sermon, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said today: "In this country, even as the economy improves there is weeping in broken families, in people ashamed to seek help from foodbanks, or frightened by debt. "
It doesn't take a genius to work out that foodbanks are needed or why they are needed.
Still, demonising the poor is a lot easier than taking a look at the large corporations not paying their fair whack of tax, isn't it?
A nice, soft target without the ability to retain expensive lawyers or lobbyists.
What gives me hope is that within hours of the delightful treatment of the Trussell Trust by the attack dogs of the right wing Press, the charity reportedly saw a more than six-fold increase in the number of donations on its Just Giving page.
Before the first donations yesterday with comments specifically referencing the Mail, there had only been around 250 public donations since the page launched in late January this year.
That number increased to over 1,500 by mid afternoon today.
I am glad it is clear that a large section of us do not sit there poring over and agreeing with this venemous stuff while we tuck into our Easter eggs.