Friday, December 13, 2013


                Do you ever get tired of fear? –the fear that permeates our society in just about every aspect of public life? Do you ever grow weary over the seemingly ubiquitous fear instilled into every concern from personal safety to global co-existence? Are you aware of all of the fear spread amongst us as a cancer that often results in sheer hatred? But what am I talking about?
                I intended to outline the many and various forms fear takes in our society, but… where to begin? To address the entire condition of fear is simply too vast of an undertaking for this entry. So, I will minimize the focus…
                Over the decades, as I have matured, many human reactions that used to dismay me eventually revealed themselves to be the result of fear. It took a lot of life experience along with understanding some human psychology to come to grips with this ever pervasive fear. As one who is rarely fraught with fear, the more some of these human reactions are witnessed, the more annoying those reactions are. How about an easy example? Recently, in politics, a group of… “citizens” have banded together to oppose EVERYTHING in the agenda of our first (partly) African-American president, and to do so quite loudly at times. Some have attacked town halls with loud shouting, otherwise known as… hate. And this hate is merely fear in different clothing. If one does not fear another, that person will not be hated. If one can comprehend that, one is on the path of recovery from fear. On many levels, such hate and fear lie at a very primal level of our species’ development. It is unfortunate that such “evolved” creatures cannot get past such a… “barbaric” level of development.
                What is even more unfortunate is how such fear and hate is stirred up constantly by our free market economy. Most advertising on television thrives on this. There are ads for a myriad of medicines that pronounce to be the cure for all forms of ailments. These ads feast on fear. “You should check with your doctor to see if you have this or that problem.” Fear. The most bizarre aspect of these ads are the long disclaimers at the end of the commercials stating that those very medicines may cause anything from vomiting to stroke to death. Should not those side effects be… feared?
                And then there are car commercials and shoe commercials and clothing commercials that spread the fear that you won’t “appear” correct to society. And there are foods advertised that have been processed to be “healthy” for you to eat, when they are just the opposite. If one is not aware of the dangers of consuming such “food”, it is the fear of being unhealthy that convinces the person to consume such poisons. And there are ads for retirement age Baby Boomers that try to sway investments into insurance, mortgage schemes and other ill-advised money affairs through the fear that they either need more money, need protection from money loss, etc.
                Big corporations have almost unlimited funds to instill fear through advertisements, which… leads me to the latest example of fear that has enervated me greatly. And this example is absolutely about fear. Without fear actually created by advertisements paid for by big corporations there would be no issue. Instead, well… let’s move on to the example.
                On November 5, 2013, Washington state citizens voted on, among other things, “Initiative to the Legislature 522”. This was a special measure to label genetically modified organisms(gmos) in some food products. California had a similar referendum called Proposition 37 during the 2012 election. In both states, pre-election polling showed that a vast majority, well over 60% of the populace favored GMO labeling.
                I am going to pause here. Who really would NOT want to know what is in their food? What is WRONG with knowing what is in our food? If GMOs are as harmless as the corporations claim, why not label them? Apparently, it is EXTREMELY important to those chemical companies that the people NOT be allowed to know what is in food. Thus all of the advertising propaganda they throw out to the populace to digest.
                In both states, extensive ad campaigns were put into place by Big Agriculture companies in order to dissuade the people from voting for their right to know what GMOs are in food. These ads preyed upon many fears of the public, and the ad assault was intense and relentless in the few months heading up to the election. The main points presented by the ads were the law was poorly written and that it would be very costly to consumers as well as farmers. I will come back to the “poorly written” part later.
But first, let’s bring in the real fear factor… costs would go up. There were ads with farmers stating that if the law was enacted, unnecessary labeling and monitoring programs would be put in place that would cost the state millions and individual farmers would face increased costs. Other ads stated how the cost of food would raise almost $500 a year for the average family. Fear. If there has ever been a means of getting the majority to oppose something, convince them that the government would empty out their pocket books.
But is this fear warranted? The likelihood of that is negligible. To start with the large majority that supported the law before the negative ad campaign, the support was largely over concern about the harm GMO products may have on human health and the environment. Hence, let us know what is in our food, so that we can decide what to put in our bodies. The negative ads changed this concern into one on whether such a change would be affordable. For farmers, and especially those farmers who would be mostly affected, the farmers that already receive subsidies to grow, for the most part, the GMO corn and soybean crops in question, little will change. The onus will not be on the farmer, but on the GMO corporations. It would be a different situation if the government was not already deeply involved in providing additional income to these farmers. As for the grocery store shelves, little would change. Supply and demand keeps prices relatively equivalent, and labeling GMOs would have almost no effect. And as for the labeling, this would be required of the large corporations… who already label such things in Europe. Fear. Truth? Not so much.
Then, again in both states, editorials were written in the major newspapers advising against voting for the measure. “Poorly written” are key words to look for in such disingenuous editorials. In Washington State, every major newspaper presented a similar editorial. For me, it is the similarity between the editorials in Washington as well as California that is most striking. They all copy from the same script. And who wrote that main script? Who owns those newspapers?
The main concern in the editorials is that the law is poorly written. Here is where it actually gets quite complicated, that is, how our democracy, supposedly “of the people” actually works. But allow me to explain. The issue raised is that there are a number of exemptions from the law that weakens the law, thus making it trivial. Meats, dairy and alcohol are all exempt from the law. This is one of the main lines of attack corporations like to use on such laws. If a law is not perfect, do not enact it. By that logic, there would possibly be no laws at all. Democracy works as a back and forth, and coming up with a “perfect” law is just about impossible. But some law is NEEDED. The point is… you have to start somewhere.
So, the supposedly wise editorials in the newspapers belittled the “frivolous” laws and in addition to the Big Agriculture ad campaigns, the citizens of Washington spoke… and 52% voted against the law, that is, voted not to know. In California, it was 51% who voted not to know.  Fear won out.
While such a defeat is extremely disheartening to me, it does not change what the future will bring, which is, to start, GMO labeling. Big Agriculture will continue to fight and kick and scream all the way through the future process, that is their nature… and they will not win. Nonetheless, and unfortunately, so long as the process that leads toward, to start, GMO labeling can be swayed by fear, what the citizens of the United States of America truly want will continue to be delayed… again…
Do you ever get tired of fear? I do.