Many of us are extraordinarily privileged.
We live in wealthy country, enjoy the fruits of technology, and live longer and healthier than ever. Unlike the less privileged, most of us don’t have to fear lack of food, lack of clean water, lack of access to healthcare. Perhaps there is a need for human beings to fear something, because the privileged, who have almost nothing to fear, are incredibly fearful, and that is reflected in the popularity of “natural” health.
Almost all of “natural” health, from refusing vaccination, to gobbling supplements, to belief in nonsense like homeopathy and chiropractic, to horror of genetically modified food (GMOs) is based on unreasoning fear of corporate terrorism.
Simply put, many privileged Americans are irrationally afraid that corporations are out to kill them. And as a result, they obsess over their privileged worries while letting the less privileged go without adequate food, clean water and access to health care that the same corporations can and do provide.
That’s not to deny that there have been instances in which large corporations cheerfully put profit before human lives. The auto industry provides numerous examples (from the exploding Pinto of the 1970’s to the contemporary willingness of General Motors to allow faulty ignition switches in their cars) of deadly corporate greed, deciding that it was “too expensive” to fix fatal errors and letting innocent people die as a result.
And who can forget Big Tobacco that to this day sells a product that kills millions, and for many years tried hide the fact that their product is deadly.
However, among the privileged, the cynicism over egregious episodes of corporate malfeasance has metastasized to an unreasoning belief that anything produced by corporations is harmful, accompanied by an extraordinary credulousness in accepting nonsense peddled by those who vilify corporations.
Unfortunately, as is often the case, the obsessions of the privileged harm the less privileged.
Vaccine refusal is an obvious example. The privileged depend on the vaccinated to protect them, while posing a deadly threat to children who are too small or too sick to be vaccinated.
Many anti-vax activists are quite forthright in their absurd belief that Big Government and Big Pharma have joined forces to create an autism epidemic. Even more distastefully, they are brutally honest about their willingness to sacrifice other people’s children to deadly diseases in order to ease their prodigious fear of pharmaceutical companies.
The opposition to GMOs is a more far reaching example. You don’t have to be a population scientist to know that around the world, too many people are starving to death for lack of food, or suffering profound effects from lack of important nutrients. GMOs offer the chance for greater harvest yields, as well as nutritionally superior products that can combat nutritional deficiencies. Those of us who have more than enough food should welcome these products for the immense benefits they offer to those who currently starve.
Instead, the privileged, motivated by unreasoning fears of corporate terrorism, are attempting to place restrictions on GMOs that will reduce the ability of the poor and destitute to grow these products to feed their own children, and to sell the products worldwide to alleviate their desperate poverty.
Similarly, lactivists have turned their disgust with formula companies who have promoted formula in countries that lack clean water supplies into an unreasoning fear of formula. The original boycotts of formula manufacturers may have limited their marketing in underdeveloped countries, but it did nothing to improve the water supply (which was the real problem) and nothing to help malnourished women who can’t produce enough breastmilk. They have transmuted their disapproval of formula manufacturers into disapproval of formula, a product that has saved countless infant lives in the past and continue to do so to this very day, while simultaneously ignoring the structural barriers to breastfeeding among the poor.
It’s hardly surprising that the preoccupations of the privileged become the preoccupations of society. Who is more likely to get the attention of the powers that be: a wealthy white suburban mother with a college degree and irrational fear of corporate terrorism, or a poor woman of color who is being torn apart by watching her babies die from malnutrition or vaccine preventable diseases?
So the preoccupations of the privileged (“There’s no pumpkin in pumpkin spice latte!”; “Vaccines are harmful; I read it on the internet so it must be true!”) take center stage while the under privileged are left to starve, suffer easily preventable diseases and die, and no one lifts a finger.
Money talks and the money of privileged Americans speaks much louder than cries of the bereaved destitute.
It has ever been thus. And it has ever been selfish, self-serving and unethical.