On to the Next Party...
New Years, like Thanksgiving, gets short shrift because of its proximity to Christmas and its dearth of merchandising opportunities – unless you're selling champagne or noisemakers.

That's a shame, because New Years Eve combines some of my favorite activities: drunken revelry, kissing strangers, and fresh starts. For a fresh start, many of us make resolutions. As we all know, two of the most popular resolutions are to lose weight or to stop smoking. Perhaps both.

This renewed interest in personal responsibility brought about by the clean slate of a New Year reminds me of something I learned in the Psychology of Advertising class I took in college.

Every student in the Marketing Communication program was required to take the class, and I am very grateful that I was. The teacher was a woman with a Masters in Psychology who had used her knowledge on behalf of the advertising industry, then felt so dirty that she decided to do penance teaching college students.

We learned many of the mind games employed by advertisers, both overt and subtle. One of the subtle tactics was one not used in direct advertising, but in "public relations" stories fed to and regurgitated by the media. It was used to avoid corporate clean ups by convincing the public that they were equally to blame.

The example she used was the waste disposal issue of the late 1980's and early 1990's. While the bulk of the refuse was generated by industry, people were urged to recycle, and told about how long it took for disposable diapers to break down, and other ways that we, the people, were to blame for garbage.

Now, of course, what they said was true. But they just left out the part about industrial waste. Think about this for a minute; how many news stories have a familiar ring? Greenhouse gases? If you drive, you're responsible. Obesity? Well, you put the food in your mouth, didn't you? Smoking? Please, idiot. Didn't you read the package?

Of course people should accept personal responsibility for their impact on themselves and on the planet. But if you notice, these pushes for personal responsibility are always followed by quiet changes by corporations. Has anyone besides me noticed that food companies are cutting back on hydrolized fats and corn syrup because they contribute to obesity and adversely affect blood sugar levels? That cigarette companies were found to have made their tobacco more addictive than had Mother Nature? But by the time these stories come out, people have already accepted their part of the blame, and the effect of these stories is blunted. People don't get as angry because they're "partners in crime" at that point.

I'm not suggesting that we forgo holding ourselves accountable and blame all of our ills on the corporate monsters we've created. I'm saying we should be vigilant, and demand more information about we buy and consume, so that when we do act like stupid assholes we do so of our own accord.

For example, we've been told for the last decade that we have created resistant bacteria by washing our hands with anti-bacterial soap and demanding antibiotics from doctors whenever we have a sniffle. Now it turns out that the antibiotics fed to livestock and injected into dairy cows are really to blame for most of the situation. As consumers, we should have the right and responsibility to find out what animals have been treated and whether or not we want to eat them. That's how to create corporate responsibility, by using consumer demand. Without the necessary information available to consumers prior to, not after purchasing, it's not really a free market economy.
Name: Übermilf
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