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How do they get away with it?

Big corporations daily attack our friendships, our communities and our sustainable efforts and suffer no consequences, but rather are praised

By Kevin Potvin

The television ad shows a typical small independent restaurant owner scraping the hand-painted “#1 pizza” off his window with sad resignation. It then cuts to another, a mom-and-pop neighbourhood eatery as cozy and inviting as the first, to show the dejected owner switching the light off his sign that says “world’s best pizza.”

It’s an ad for Delissio, a highly-processed and over-packaged pizza-like product manufactured by Kraft, one of the biggest food marketing companies in the world with 2006 revenues topping $34 billion. The “pizza” is manufactured in some far-off factory engineered with ingredients from similar factories around the world whose production, processing, refrigeration, storage, irradiation, and shipping represents incalculable greenhouse gas emissions and resource depletions per unit to be purchased by consumers in massive “big box” corporate warehouse stores typically by driving in cars over great distances.

There is a basic statement in the ad offensive enough: “Our engineered and processed product is better than their local and fresh product.” But there are also many not-so-hidden messages here too: neighbourhood businesses and their community-engaged owners are bad; walking to your local restaurant is bad; local fresh products are bad; while big share-holder profit-driven corporations are good; driving for food that traveled great distances itself is good; irradiated and processed factory-engineered glop is good.

Telus, the gigantic communications company, has been running radio ads that put down and cast suspicions on the value of personal friendships. These ads explicitly state that a corporate-consumer relationship is more rewarding and trustworthy than a personal friendship.

Big local car dealerships have taken to purchasing advertising right on the back of public transit buses directly insulting the very people on board the bus for choosing the low-emissions, more sustainable mode of travel.

These are but three of a multitude of examples of big corporate entities directly attacking people and the choices they make to support their local communities, engage in friendships and use public, low-impact resources.

What kind of world would we have if these corporations are successful in their advertising campaigns? A world in which there are no small independent neighbourhood businesses, no one sitting with friends for face-to-face conversation, and no public transit systems, among other things. Instead, they envision a dystopia where we all gather pre-packaged food products at massive warehouses to eat alone at home out of the microwave door, where we all sit alone text messaging over electronic devices, and where we all coop up inside our own secure and atomized bubbles of steel and glass from which we flip birds at each other rushing around to get our pre-packaged food and electronic devices.

Yet there isn’t a human on the planet who thinks eating out of a plastic-wrap and cardboard box alone in front of the microwave is superior to eating with friends at a cozy neighbourhood restaurant, and there isn’t anyone who thinks public transit should be mothballed and buses sold for scrap. Everybody likes the neighbourhood eatery, chatting with friends, and public transit (at least for others to use).

Yet these are the things these companies say should all be thrown out of business. Yet if anyone suggested in these pages or anywhere else that all corporate food manufacturing corporations should be thrown out of business, that all corporate communications devices should be drowned, and that all car makers and dealers should be closed, they’d be labeled a wild radical, a menace to society. But every day, this is exactly the message delivered by corporate giants the other way around, and for this they are celebrated and feted, invited to discussions with political leaders, their managers rewarded with stellar contracts.

These people daily insist that all neighbourhood restaurants should take down their signs, turn off their lights, and shut down for good, and that all public transit should be stopped in its tracks and scrapped, and they are confronted with no reaction at all for any of these highly offensive and clearly unpopular messages. On the contrary, media companies, themselves big profit-driven corporations, fall over each other to deliver better service and results for these advertisers that try with such great effort to spread their message of social and environmental destruction.

Someone tries to destroy communities, rip up friendships, and plunder the shared environment, and it’s all the power to them, but someone chucks one rock through one of their windows, and it’s riot police and tear gas all around.

~Hey, The Republic is a great paper that could use your support.

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