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organic tobacco …

September 19, 2010

I was watching an old Seth Godin talk on TED this week about things in our societies that are broken. One phrase stuck in my mind – “organic tobacco”. A phrase that, while it might be the truth, is also a lie. It annoys me that we as a population cannot be trusted to see behind the truth to the lie that lurks beneath, so the producers are required to add this warning to their packaging:

No additives in our tobacco does NOT mean a safer cigarette.

Philip Adams has explored just what people are allowed to call “fresh” in an episode of Late Night Live and it has very little to do with the characteristics you would expect fresh food to have. Then there is all the talk about “fresh orange juice” containing juice that is over twelve months old. People who use the word fresh in questionable circumstances are counting on the fact that we will not question the truth of the word.

More recently I read Sweet Poison: Why Sugar is Making Us Fat by David Gillespie which has made me question what lies beneath a number of truths like:

100% natural
no artificial sweeteners
natural alternative to cane sugar

All of a sudden the warning on organic tobacco doesn’t seem so stupid.

It is clear that something is broken. Seth Godin guessed at a couple of reasons why so many things are broken:

not my job
selfish jerks
I didn’t know
the world changed
broken on purpose

A lot of the time I think you can put it down to ‘ the world has changed’. For a while there I will accept that you could argue ‘I didn’t know’ about tobacco. As that position is no longer defensible you move into the realm of selfish jerks who keep things broken on purpose to protect their own interests. David Gillespie will tell you that about sugar (sucrose) and Norman Doidge will tell you that about the way we have been told to view our own brains for the last few centuries.

The first one on the list is the one I find hardest to deal with because it is the one that seeks to absolve me of my personal responsibility:

I know it is broken but …  it is not my job to fix it.

Or the more subtle version:

I know it is broken but …  I haven’t been given the power to do anything about it.

Both true. Both lies. Beneath them lurks something which is for me a little closer to the bone:

I know it is broken but … I am afraid.

That might be the truth. But that still doesn’t explain why most of us actively choose not to do anything about it. We seem content to continue buying our own manifestation of organic tobacco.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Megan permalink
    September 19, 2010 11:37 pm

    Ah Paul, how right you are once again. I am in israel, on “HaAretz” the country/land given to them by God – and it is covered in trash, everyone drinks from plastic, the water rarely drunk by the people who prefer to drink cola and eat highly processed foods. I looked, disgusted that the foods our children have been offered, only to reflect that really it is the same at home – it just looks a little different – and we really don’t buy it much.

    My point? I want to influence but am afraid to offend… But subtlety just is just not cutting it! I take my mother’s words to heart – that to not speak out about the wrongs in the world, is to agree with them.

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