January 9, 2017 Updated July 14, 2018Categories: Marketing & Industry
This made me think about some of the history of many chemicals over the decades that were common for many years, then later on were proven to be deadly.
One example is Asbestos. It was classified as safe... until it wasn't.
DDT was classified as safe... until it wasn't.
Thalidomide was classified as safe... until it wasn't.
Vioxx was classified as safe... until it wasn't.
If the regulating bodies that classified these chemicals as safe can make such grave, deadly errors, that they stick to for decades, that literally kill millions of people, why in the world would anyone want to trust them on the thousands of other chemicals they currently tout as safe? Or the companies that made the deadly chemicals?
Many people jump through endless hoops to justify why some ingredients should remain on the market. This stance is understandable from the perspective of the manufacturers, or those with investments in those companies. But it is not understandable from others. Yet, that is exactly what is occurring. Vast numbers of people tout the "company line" when it comes to keeping products and technology on the market.
At first glance, you may think, "Well, everyone is saying it's safe. The government, the scientists, the news. The few conspiracy theorists, and the radical environmentalists must be wrong. They're just anti business, anti progress."
Let's examine why so many are saying some things are safe. We'll use history, and some information that has since come to light, in hind sight, about some of the chemicals that are now banned.
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Records have shown that many companies knew their products were toxic, and knew the extent of the damage it would cause. But they didn't release this information. Many of them sat on this information for decades. But why would they do that? The bottom line is that it all comes down to money. They know they'll make a lot of money from the sales of the products. They have some idea of what they'll pay in fines and lawsuits in the future, whenever the truth does come out. Since they know this, it would only be logical that they will budget this into their calculations.
When we hear about these kinds of things, we kind of have a disconnect in our brain. We try to imagine ourselves running these companies, and tell ourselves that we'd never do that. But, we do need to accept the reality that people really did do this, are doing this now, and will do this in the future.
Why do we know it's on purpose? Because when these revelations come to light, we see it will have left a large paper trail. Volumes of documents will have been created on the dangers, many meetings discussing it will have created paper trails, budgets and cost assessments will reveal that the future litigation costs will have been calculated and planned for. All this does not occur without a lot of people being fully aware of what they're doing.
It may be true that life in a board room, and a corporate accounting department, and a sterile laboratory environment really does de-personalize the entire subject, and make it so people truly don't connect the real life death toll with their narrow job description. But so what? Why is that an acceptable excuse? In my mind, that is NOT an acceptable excuse. If a company works towards something they know will kill people, or hurt large amounts of people, then they are NOT to be trusted. EVER.
Why would you even consider trusting a product made by a company that has knowingly killed people, lots of people?
These companies go to great lengths to try and pacify the public, and the media, and the government regulating bodies, that they've changed their ways... until they get caught doing it again. And then the apologizing starts over again... and again... and again.
You might think I'm anti capitalist. But I'm not. I'm all for true, free market companies, supplying products people want, voluntarily (which in no way exists in the world of big business any more). But I'm also for people being liable for whatever damage they do. However, in our current system, too many laws, rules, and regulations have been put in place to protect these companies, and the actual people who contribute to these damages.
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A huge part of this is all the so called little people in a company that are aware of some of what's going on. They'll often take the stance that if something is really bad, someone along the way will stop it, or it can't be too bad if it actually makes it to the market. They'll justify what they choose to continue to do (work for the company) by saying they're just doing their job, they need to bring home a paycheck to feed their children. Again, why is this acceptable? It's not.
If you know that you work for a company that's harming people, if you want to do the right thing, you need to do two things. First, expose this. What form will that take? I don't know. But it should take SOME form. Second, they should quit their job. That is the right thing to do. It certainly is not the easiest thing to do, but it is the RIGHT thing to do.
If more people would do this, and speak about why they quit, even just with their friends and family, this would go a long way to exposing what's going on. Those people who do the right thing then become an example to others to do the same thing, to do the right thing.
It needs to become socially acceptable to take an ethical stance in who you work for. At the moment that is not the case. The rationale of "I'm just doing my job" is what's currently popular, currently acceptable.
You may say, "Well, someone else will just fill in the spot I left." Yes, that's true. So what. Just because someone else won't take an ethical stance does not mean we shouldn't. Ethical stances are not taken to be popular, they're taken because they're right. If you take an ethical stance, and speak about it to your friends, then you may influence someone else to do the same thing. You can even help them over the hurdles they'll face when they do it; you can use your lessons to make it easier, or at least for them to have some moral support.
Your job is not to change the world. It's to change and improve yourself. It's to have an influence on your immediate circle of friends and family. There may be some who will have more impact, and are able to communicate what happened to a larger sphere of influence. But that shouldn't stop you from doing the right thing. You do make an impact, larger than you realize. It's all those little impacts that will add up over time.
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There's currently a bit of a myth in our society. That myth is that science is somehow pure, and will always route out the truth.
Science is simply another language. Like math is a language. It may be slightly different than, let's say, English. But really, it's just a sort of language.
Can English be classified as pure? As always being truthful? Of course not. That's a ridiculous statement. The English language can be used to hurt, lie, steal. It's simply a tool of whoever is using it. People can use it for whatever purpose they want to, good or bad (or anywhere in between).
When you apply the same rationale to science, you start to see the same logic needs to apply.
Education in the English language never covers every single possible variation of every area of thought. The same goes for science.
Science education will have whatever bias is inherent in the school teaching it. There are many assumptions that are taught that are not actual facts. Or even if some are factual, they are not complete. Since science does not know everything there is in the universe to know, it can't possibly teach everything. There will always be gaps. Those gaps may seem minor, but there are times when they turn out to be massive. But often these gaps are only realized in the future, looking back.
Science is also a massive subject, with many, many different branches. It's not possible for one person to learn everything currently known. That leads to a kind of vacuum in knowledge. What I mean by this, is that you don't know what you don't know, and how important something you don't know is. There may be some knowledge, that if you knew it, would completely change your "take" on something, and make you completely discard your current beliefs on a particular subject.
Let's apply some of this perspective to chemicals that were once touted as safe, and are now banned.
If you're a scientist, who invents a chemical, that does some particular thing, it may be understandable that you won't right away know whether it's safe or not. A pure, angelic scientist would quickly do all the research needed to show it's safe, and never proceed with much else until that was done, and then only proceed beyond that if it's truly safe.
But, since a scientist most often is an employee, or even if he's a part owner in a company, and certainly not a pure angelic being, he will have some protocol of what his next step is. At some point, early in the development of the chemical, other people in the company are notified of your discovery. The decisions of whether to proceed with further development of the product will now be mostly out of the hands of the scientist.
Now, people who have even less understanding in science, since they're executives working day to day in a board room, and not day to day in the lab, will be making decisions with information gaps. Their ethical stance, or lack of it, will also determine the course of the development of the product.
Companies are not staffed, owned and run by angels. They're staffed, run and owned by humans. Humans with varying levels of ethics, varying levels of knowledge. They all have biases. If they are ethically blind, and just out for the power and the money, they will likely surround themselves with other like minded people. And thus the companies are almost fully run by people of a like mind. To expect anything different from these companies than what they did in the past is naive.
If a company has a history of creating, developing, and releasing products that hurt people, there is no reason to think they'd do anything different in the future. Sometimes you'll hear one of these companies say they fired one or two "bad apples" who caused some particular "incident." But the fact that the entire culture in the company must be of like mind for something to stay hidden for as long as some of these things do, the entire company must have this mind set.
The bias, the science bias, will be fairly consistent throughout the company. People are brought into the company specifically because they have a similar bias. It might be that a company will know that all successful graduates out of a particular school are taught their flavor of bias as a core part of their curriculum. It may be that they'll choose people via a series of job interviews to find those with the "correct" bias they're looking for.
So, flipping a couple corporate heads, or departments, does not solve the problem.
From your perspective, you now can see why it's dangerous to put your trust in these companies. If they have made bad products in the past, they are making bad products now, and they will be making bad products in the future.
Now you know why it doesn't really matter how many people are towing the "company line." I personally will not trust these companies. I won't buy their products. EVER. Is that inconvenient? Sure it is. But so what. I've adjusted, and continue to adjust, as I learn more. There's an alternative to almost everything out there, with a bit of planning and practice. I will not contribute to my own demise by being naive, and ignorantly trusting.
I invite you to do the same. I invite you to take an ethical stance, whether it's difficult, or inconvenient.
I invite you to do the right thing.
If you're interested in more ways of looking at food differently, be sure to check out our Kick It Up section.