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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Yucky Oatmeal Spurs Thoughts of Revolution

I had another bad experience with oatmeal.

Last time it was the Weight Control Oatmeal from Quaker Oats, which tastes like it's made with 64% instant death. (I stole the instant death thing from a Black Chandelier T-shirt.) This time I bought the Albertsons brand knock off of Quaker Oats' Strawberries and Cream instant oatmeal. I don't usually buy knock offs, because I'm a sucker for the real thing, but Quaker Oats only had packages with both Strawberry and Banana flavored oatmeal. The strawberry has no corn syrup, but the banana does, so that just wouldn't do. I didn't want to waste the 6 packets of banana.

Turns out my money would have been better spent if I had just bought the Quaker Oats and thrown the banana packets away, because I ended up throwing away 9 of the 10 Albertsons brand packets. Why? Because Albertsons makes their oatmeal with 97% instant death. Seriously, I wasn't sure if I was eating food or pure chemicals.

And this seems to be the last straw for me as far as consumer complacency goes. And for that matter, complacency as a citizen in general. What will it take so that we can trust that the food we buy will be healthy and tasty, and worth the money we spend on it? What will it take for businesses to stand by their quality guarantees not by refunding our money or giving us replacement products, but by doing things right the first time? What will it take for customer service to be more than just a joke?

I know what it will take: Fear.

Ian and I watched V for Vendetta on monday. We were three weeks late, because we had intended to watch it on the 5th in honor of Guy Faux day. The end of the year has a way of speeding up rapidly until all the days just blur together. In the movie, V says that people shouldn't be afraid of their government; the government should be afraid of its people. And this is true, because the government is supposed to operate in service of its constituents. Instead the rule seems to be for the government to trample on the shoulders of the people through its invasion of our privacy rights in the name of anti-terrorism, its moral indiscretions of every kind, its greed and high class that yields a lack of concern for the people who pay their salaries. Utter lack of respect. Complete lack of fear.

Following the movie, we saw a news story about riots in France, and I remarked to Ian, "They riot in France at least twice a year!" I was being jestful, but Ian said, "That's how they keep their government under control. They are afraid of their people." And this was a sobering and inspiring thought: the themes of V for Vendetta playing out in the real world.

The problem and the solution, therefore, lie with us. We have entitlements as citizens and consumers. We have rights, and we must enforce those rights by reclaiming power over our government and over business. And the way to reclaim the upper hand is to re-instill a healthy amount of fear in the hearts of those in charge. Fear that they will be overthrown, that their corruptions will be revealed. Fear that business will be lost and that people will recreate their own microcosm communities to subsist upon instead of depending on big business to support their livelihood.

Governments mean nothing without the people they govern, and businesses are nothing without their customers. We must remember this if we wish to stop being taken advantage of.

What, then, can we do?

We can start speaking up.

On the consumer level, we can start letting businesses know when they let us down, and not allow them to assuage us with meaningless monetary tokens. I don't want my money back on my oatmeal, or the countless other products with which I've been displeased. I want the problem to be fixed. I want food producers to start caring about what they put into the things we put in our bodies. I want them to stop cutting corners in ingredients just so that they can save money and then not pass that savings on to the consumer. I am willing to pay more for quality products. It's not enough that Albertsons puts a Quality Promise on the back of their products. They need to actually try the products, and then ask themselves if they want those products associated with their name. Because if I were Albertsons, I would be ashamed of this oatmeal.

On the governmental level, we can start voicing our opinions by caring enough to vote. And in order to do that, we have to care enough to be informed on the issues and the candidates. We have to turn our brains back on and start thinking critically. We have to refuse to allow the wool to be pulled over ours eyes and our concerns to be lulled to sleep by a feeling that we can't make a difference. We can make a difference if we make our voices heard and get involved in the process of speaking out against injustices performed upon us by the people who are supposed to be looking out for our best interests, not just their own.

These are all strong feelings to come from one packet of oatmeal. But then, it wasn't just one packet of oatmeal. It was one packet here, one can of soup there, one bad taco there, etc. It's the cops who care more about ticket quotas (i.e., anything that makes money for the state) than bagging neighborhood taggers (i.e., anything that takes money away from the state). It's the Invasion of Privacy Act (aka Patriot Act) that authorizes the government to spy on its own people under the pretense of looking for "terrorists". It's everywhere.

And it's high time we open our eyes and use our voices! Time to stop being sheep.

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Whitney said...

Viva La Revolucion! You are a great storyteller, and I completely agree that Americans need to stop sitting on our fat arses and care about what is going on! And change it! Three cheers for this blog!

Karen said...

I completely agree. I actually just wrote my very first letter of complaint to MADD. Our local mayor has had three DUI's during his term, all of which have been excused and he refuses to step down (says a lot about our crooked ass politics down here, I know). Anyway, I was furious and wrote to MADD to ask what their position was on the matter and to see if they could do anything to help. I still haven't heard back, but I'm not giving up!

Sra said...

Excellent good, Karen. I'm appalled that our officials - people who arguably ought to be held to a higher moral standard than the rest of us - often get off the hook because of their status. I don't know if we can change that about the world, but we can try.

Sra said...

Excellent good, Karen. I'm appalled that our officials - people who arguably ought to be held to a higher moral standard than the rest of us - often get off the hook because of their status. I don't know if we can change that about the world, but we can try.

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