Just reading a long but horribly fascinating article about addictive junk food. At one stage a CocaCola exec is walking through a poor part of Brazil working out how to sell more Coke to the residents when it hits him: These people need a lot of things but they don’t need a coke!
That he didn’t get that the last thing people living in desperate poverty need is a negative food source that is addictive and costs money, until that very moment, is a perfect example of what EveryVoiceCounts calls the Action-Consequence Gap. Wherever there is a big gap between actions (events, policies, decisions) and their consequences you will see destructive systems. It only took him a short time in (or near) his customers’ reality to realise (some of) the consequences of what he was doing.
The small but game-changing shift we’d like to see is for people affected by policies to have equal representation at the policy-making table. Not just a five minute ‘consultation’ but true decision-making power.
And if you catch yourself snorting ‘Ha. Yeah. Sure.’ then don’t you think it’s scary that we’ve accepted as NORMAL a world where people routinely make decisions for other people about things they have no understanding of or interest in?
One of the ways some of the Australian indigenous societies kept the Action-Consequence Gap closed was to make it a crime punishable by death, in the worst cases, to speak on behalf of someone you didn’t have permission to speak for. In fact there are a wealth of strategies to keep the Action-Consequence Gap closed if you look to the original Australians. Which might explain why many of their nations survived to become the oldest living continuous cultures on the planet while other civilisations collapsed under their own inability to plan for reality.
And if you’ve ever wondered whether to take a hard line stance about junk food with young children (or yourself!) there are two things worth remembering. The first is that those foods are designed to be addictive. Some studies have shown them to be as addictive as cocaine. When faced with a packet of chips or chocolate biscuits there are not many of us who can make smart food choices.
The second thing to remember is that junk-food companies know their most lucrative markets are the ‘heavy users’ so they work hard at increasing consumption. Creating brand new consumers is much harder and the pay-off is much smaller so most junk-food marketing is precisely targeted at mid-heavy users. People who rarely encounter junk-food will barely even register its marketing. So the easiest way to immunise your children against this drug is to keep them out of the market altogether so that the advertising never targets them.
You know they’re going to end up ‘dabbling’ with it sooner or later but with some wise guidance and plenty of open, informative conversations as they grow up, hopefully they’ll never get hooked on the hard stuff.
Take a read. My prediction is that we’re going to have to end up plain-packaging junk like with cigarettes and housing it in a different retail outlet like we do with alcohol. And sooner or later when you see a toddler swigging a coke there will be calls to the Family Services.