Corporations hire public relations experts to help them deny responsibility for what they’re really doing. This is euphemistically called “spin.” The American Dairy Council is an umbrella organization for dairies who want to take control of any possible controversy that might arise from the business of feeding growth-hormone-augmented food intended for baby cows to humans. All during the eighties, celebrities would pose for photos wearing milk mustaches with the caption “Milk, it does a body good!” underneath. Except for the fact that it was lie, it felt like public service. The celebrities pictured probably felt good about what they were doing, even though I’m sure they got paid for the endorsement.
Most cardiac disease (number one killer of Americans) is food-borne. It comes from what we eat. The Japanese think Americans stink because we smell like dairy. Like sour milk. The rate of coronary disease among Japanese is much lower than it is among Americans.
Letting corporations decide what we eat is only a fraction of what we let them control. Even though their first loyalty is to their shareholders, we pretend that this is somehow a benevolent setup, that much good comes from a free market and capitalism. Except that it’s often a lie. More often than not, the fox is guarding the hen house.
I live in Thailand and have been coming here for ten years. During that time I have noticed a sudden thickening of the average Thai school child. They were all pretty svelte when I showed up in 2010, but now, thanks to KFC, Pizza Hut, Burger King, McDonalds, Dairy Queen and soft drinks, every fifth Thai child is downright chunky.
HOW MUCH WILL THIS MATTER IN THE LONG RUN?
From our current perspective there is, of course, no way to answer this question. The present moment may contain the stuff that shifts the entire course of history. These words I write may influence someone to go on to do great or terrible things. If this were a podcast, someone listening to my monotonous voice reading it might fall asleep while driving and take out a family of twelve just starting out on vacation.
The main way we influence each other is through acts of kindness. They are remembered long after everything else has faded. Money transacted, misinformation corrected, opinions shared…nothing holds a candle to kindness.
The best news is that everyone, everywhere at any time is capable of acting kindly. No official permission is needed. No mission statement needs to be formulated, no certifications granted.
Kindness and humility rule long after pomposity and arrogance have exhausted themselves in public. The Quakers used to have a suggestion: look for the sweetness in every situation and watch it grow in front of your eyes.
There aren’t as many Quakers nowadays as there used to be.
The food industry finds that selling processed foods is much more profitable than selling natural or whole foods. Take, for example, shelf life. Natural food oils only last a few months before turning rancid. About fifty years ago, scientists found that by heating grain or nut based oils to high temperatures in the presence of a catalyst, they could be converted to polyunsaturated oils, with a virtually infinite shelf life. Unfortunately, this pretty much meant turning them into plastics. The body recognizes such treated oils as a foreign invaders, and coats the veins and arteries with cholesterol to protect them from these polyunsaturated oil molecules. The biggest killer of most people in our country is heart disease. These coronary diseases are largely food-born. They come from our diet.
Most people are now aware of the sugar industry’s successful lobbying with the FDA to blame fat rather than sugar for most disease. We also know that high fructose corn syrup under whatever name they’re currently using to fool the public is a major contributor to obesity and diabetes. In the 1970’s when cyclamates were found to cause cancer, the FDA approved aspartame, a non-caloric sweetener it had already banned. We have Donald Rumsfeld to thank for that. They keep changing aspartame’s name too, in order to fool us.
It’s hard not to conclude that the FDA is more disposed to protecting the interests of giant food conglomerates than the health of the general public. One would have to bend over backwards to reach a different conclusion. Compared to actual starvation, chronic, expensive supermarket malnutrition seems a Cadillac problem. Starvation and rickets, scurvy and anemia are not a problem for most people living in food-secure environments, but diabetes, heart disease and cancer certainly are, and these are largely brought to us by the food we eat. Our giant food conglomerates have put shareholder profit ahead of public health. The regulatory agencies we depend upon to protect us have failed to do their job.
How often do I get lucky and not realize it? How often am I gypped out of success I rightfully earned? Probably not very often. Maybe I’m swimming in a sea of good fortune and don’t realize it. For all I know, I could have been born with a golden spoon in my mouth and simply assumed that everyone else had one, too.
I certainly haven’t worked as hard as have many, nor suffered as deeply as some. I’m wise enough to look back on my life and conclude that most of my problems have been of my own making. I’ve rarely been a victim of another person’s malfeasance.
Oh sure I’ve been lied to, robbed, betrayed, but not very often. I stopped lending money to people quite a while ago. In my defense, I recently learned to say “let me get back to you on that” when pressured to make a snap decision. That line alone has saved me thousands of dollars and hours of agony.