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Conscious Consumerism


Don’t you just love commercials? (Not.) We must admit, though, that modern advertising is doing a bang-up job of shaping the way our culture views almost everything. Why, it’s even making food poisoning acceptable.

Remember that old commercial featuring the predictably perfect young woman in her positively perfect kitchen with her looks-like-a-nice-guy husband and a couple of really cute kids? She pleasantly declares that the mild case of flu they thought they had last week might actually have been food poisoning. She then breezily explains that now that she knows you can get e.coli or salmonella from meat and chicken, she can protect her family by performing something akin to a surgical scrub with this new anti-bacterial product. And, she vows, she will perform this ritual any time she handles meat, chicken, or anything that may have come in contact with the aforementioned hazards.

The thing I find most disturbing about the commercial is her nonchalant acceptance of our American food suppliers’ “Let them eat feces” attitude.

There's another old spot that shows two women giddily discovering a new cleaner to get the “stuff” off their broccoli. They never once question why the stuff is on their broccoli in the first place — stuff that Nature didn’t put there. They simply accept that this stuff isn’t really good for them and find redemption in a bottle of new stuff that gets the other stuff off.

Color me simplistic, but wouldn’t it be easier and healthier to maintain decent standards of raising, feeding, and (if you must), slaughtering animals for food? And wouldn’t it be easier to never apply the stuff-that-must-be-removed to the broccoli? Am I alone in my disgust that food packages now carry warning labels?

How on Earth did this situation become, in any way, acceptable?

If you watch any TV, you must have noticed that we’re getting wake-up calls from all corners of our lives. We are being warned of unsafe food supplies, unsafe drinking water, unsafe air… Good grief! Food, water, and air have become hazardous. Yet, visit any grocery store and at some point, you will encounter the dazed, glazed expressions of mesmerized consumers — people who support the very industries that have made it more dangerous to touch meat than to skip washing after a potty break. Not only that, you will also find consumers who have and will vote for legislators that (in the alleged name of down-sizing government) advocate de-regulation of industries that have proven they cannot and will not regulate themselves.

So what does this dialog have to do with commercials? Well, the freedom to consume carries responsibilities. These responsibilities include having a clue as to what you’re putting in that shopping cart; knowing the real price of the item on the shelf (including the cost to your health, the environment and other humans); ascertaining whether you’ve been sold a bill of goods by an advertiser; and having a ball-park figure as to which and how many politicians the profits from your purchases purchased.

Whether you like it or not, consuming is a powerful political statement and carries real political ramifications. Your buying habits shape our society as certainly as do your votes (or lack thereof). As I see it, a consumer has only two choices: You can be an educated, conscious consumer; or you can set your brain on “auto” and allow some ad team you’ve never met make your decisions for you.

Either way, you’re getting exactly what you pay for.

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