Sunday, December 12, 2004

Morning folks, I read a strange article in the Kuwait Times about bottled water..Apparently a Kuwaiti family were nearly poisoned by dirt and insects in bottled water from Saudi. The company in charge told the father to stop making such a big fuss and then when the father informed him that his child almost died, the company representative told him it would be no more than losing a dog..hhmm..really guys? Well, the family will be suing the company..

Are we really surprised that in this world we have created, profits come over people? Are we surprised that poisoned people are not as important as the bottom line? Why would we be? Is there anything on our store shelves that doesn't poison you one way or another? When companies take shorcuts, is that done for the good of the consumer or for an increase in profits? The documentary The Corporation shows you that if the the corporation were a person, it would be clinically diagnosed as a 'psychopath'..The documentary has been getting great reviews.

From crimes like Bhopal (see the post on it below), to scandals like Enron, to the poisoning of communities like Woburn, MA described in A Civil Action to all the the chemicals we eat and drink everyday..are we really surprised? The question is why we continue to allow it...or why we just sit back and say, well thats what we have, and there's no changing it..or even, "ma feenna shay, ka 3aysheen wishzeenna! there can't be any problems"..The whole idea of just looking for profit (which tends to be very limited to few people, and also short term) instead of taking into consideration the effects these products will have on our health and the environment should have become extinct by now. But because we continue to be silent, continue to make lazy choices and continue to say 'well that's the way of the world', companies, corporations and profit seekers will not have to stop doing what they are doing. I hope the case against this water company comes to something, but will it be a loud enough shout for others to hear?

To read more about the way we have poisoned ourselves read the classic Silent Spring...and Trust Us We're Experts, watch Supersize Me and read Fast Food Nation and Affluenza: The all Consuming Epidemic...

To get an idea of how corporations are making sure that nothing stands in the way of business and profits, not the environment, not human rights, not sovereignty of states, not law..see: The Yes Men---This is What Democracy Looks Like---Bretton Woods Project----Corpwatch..


nibaq said...

I always get issues when people attack big business like they are the signs of the apocolypse. Just because certain companies practices the wrong thing you make it sound like all of them are after your money and dont care if they kill you in the process.

True some companies are evil and do some bad things. But what happens to them at the end? They get closed down either by their own mispractice or government regulation.

Like that company in Saudi, if I knew the name of them I will never buy from them again and make sure everyone knows not to buy from them. Thus leading them to be out of business.

I think one of the reasons why we dont care about the chemicals around us is scientists keep confusing us. One day they say drinking X is bad for you, but then they come back and say "wait but if you drink X more than 5 times a day it is good for you". Same with cigarettes, we all know they are bad for you, yet millions of people still go buy a pack everyday.

kwtia said...

Nibaq, hi... I don't think anyone suggested anything about big business and the apocalypse. And it wasn't about big business poisoning you on purpose. It is a fact of life (this coming from someone who has worked for 'business' just like you do) that you often overlook the damage that can be done by the product you want to sell, because you are going to make a lot of money off doesn't matter that it will sit in a landfill and leach poisons for a long time or it doesn't matter if eating it causes obesity or heart problems or cholesterol or cancer..etc..that is often the result of a silent and unquestioning public, and a business culture that gets no criticism..
Companies don't get shut down as often as you suggest..And governments and big business have become so symbiotic that the former won't regulate or check on the latter unless there is an unbelievably huge scandal, and even then they get a slap on the wrist in comparison to the damage done.. Union Carbide and Dow have been in the spotlight for ages and they are still operating without apology, all the pharmaceuticals that take your money and propose a cure that is worse than the disease are still making millions, the car and oil industry is still making sure that we use gas guzzling transportation...the many Enrons of the world are still unrepentant? how often do you really find an example of ethical behaviour on the part of big business?
It's not really apocalyptic to say something is wrong and needs to be looked at. We as consumers have a duty and businesses have a duty to consider the wider implications of every choice.
The tobacco industry has taken advantage of having an addictive product to profit from..people who are addicted to poisons don't have as much of a choice as the rest of us. Where's the ethical standard there?
I recommended books and films that might just expand the's not about black and white, or being absolutely correct or absolutely wrong, but there is no harm in saying something isn't quite right with the way we consume and pollute.

kwtia said...

By the way, if anyone finds the name of that water company pass it on, I am joining Nibaq on this boycott..

nibaq said...

After posting my comment I found this article about consumerism and people that people just love to buy:

It just shows how we are just buying machines.

I was at the WTO protest in Seattle and after seeing the people who showed up and were carrying signs and shouting slogans yet really didn't know what they were talking about. Also I recall it was just before Christmas shopping and thinking to myself tomorrow they will all be back here shopping like nothing happened yesterday.

And your right the government needs to enforce the regulation they setup. Yet at the end of the day the consumer is going to buy.

I been listening to VOA on 96.9 when they were talking about the Union Carbide thing and how DOW chemicals needs to do something about it. Yet DOW baught Carbide after that what happened, so they have nothing to do with it. And in my opinion is the Indian governments fault, they signed a deal with Carbide releasing them of any further litigation including getting 450million in the bank.

kwtia said...

Nibaq, I think perhaps we continue to consume the way we do because that's how our world has been set up, but as they say 'another world is possible'..I am sure people at the Seattle protests were of all stripes, some there just for the hell of it but many others were there because they are people that are really affected by the decisions made by the WTO, and others who were really sincere about their critique of corporate globalization..They did not all go with the same agenda, what united them is their feeling that things need to change and that was one of the theaters for that reform..I also know people who were there, some not usually activists, other who continue to lead simple conscious lifestyles, others still who were transformed into advocates for social justice because of their presence there.
And with regard to the article saying people are anti-consumer and yet still consuming, we should keep in mind that it is a small minority of the world that actually does consume on a large scale..the people with the dollars and the time..and yes, we know that humans like to consume, why not sell something ethical/safe/biodegradable/natural to them? What's the problem there? No one suggested you should look to fight club or American Beauty for tips on anti-consummerism, only the writers did that so that they could make a circular argument..I do think that they are right to suggest legislative action to curb the madness, but I think it is possible and necessary to work on a society wide scale, change our habits, think about things more law will affect people who don't understand why it's passed and what use it is..Both the buyer and the seller need incentives to won't do that singlehandedly..
You can still make ethical choices even if it means you are still consuming. If I buy something that does less damage, and I need that thing, I am not making the same choice as buying something harmful which i may or may not need.
Consuming consciously is not as bad as consuming, in mass quantities, things we are going to throw away in a few hours or days or months..there are alternatives..and we can be happy with less. I know from personal experience...No one is perfect but we can try, can't we?I don't think we are all going to be able to suddenly start growing our own food, wearing hemp sacks and living in mud huts anytime soon..but we can do the things we are capable of.
Dow was not responsible for the leak, up until the point it bought a company that is wanted in Indian courts for criminal trial..when you buy a company you get the good and the bad that comes with it.
here is some info on that:
"Although as recently as July 21, 2004, the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Bhopal dragged Dow into the criminal case by asking Dow's Indian subsidiary to answer summons in the pending criminal case against Union Carbide, Dow continues to misrepresent the liability that it faces.

Dow Chemical has argued that the 1989 Bhopal settlement resolved all liabilities, and has claimed that any liabilities that might remain would still belong to Carbide. [21] However, the settlement dealt solely with disaster-related damages sustained by Bhopal residents, not the environmental liabilities and pollution associated with the routine operation of the factory. On March 17, 2004 the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in the United States sanctioned further property damage, environmental remediation, and personal injury claims against Union Carbide in a lower court, while in a June 28, 2004 official letter, the Indian Government asked the court to hold Carbide liable for environmental remediation at the site. These liabilities became the property of the Dow Corporation, following its 2001 purchase of Union Carbide. [22] "

Thanks for the info the questioning and the site..Take good care