I’m watching a documentary by Mark Thomas about Coca Cola, detailing the many human rights abuses committed both by it and in its name. None of this is news to me – it’s something I’ve known for about three years now. To a very large extent the documentary’s covering old ground which ‘The Corporation’ investigated so well in 2003, about the ways in which giant corporations frequently abuse the poor and environment around the world. But for me it’s opened a larger question: why? Why do we fuel this?
I mean I know the way in which right wing guerilla groups target union members at Coke bottling plants in Colombia for assassination. I know the ways in which, because it takes 2 litres of water to make one litre of Coke, water tables get pilfered and run dry in rural India. Yet as I write I’m drinking 2 of those litres, directly contributing to at least one of those abuses. It’s without question an illness of our times, something growing into an outright disorder – we are so detached from the consequences of our behaviour as consumers, that abuses at the edges of our world are growing. We’re outraged by them, but we find it next to impossible to alter our behaviour to change them. What then of global warming? What of people trafficking? What of the ever decreasing age of pornography?
I’m not trying to sound like an outraged blogger, more pondering what clearly is the biggest issue of our time, which our politicians fundamentally ignore. A new politics is needed to cope with it, bizarrely without doubt a politics of the individual. Yet with the forms with which we become aware of and interact with the objects of our consumption ever more distancing us from the realities of their creation, how on earth can we get there? Coke may be a bad thing, but my senses say it isn’t. Am I being fooled by a cynical attempt to fool my senses by marketing and ingredients (cf. McDonalds), or am I the fool?