Two weeks ago, in his NY Times piece, Mark Bittman asked “Why Do Stars Think It’s O.K. to Sell Soda?” and examined why a mega celebrity like Beyonce would shill for Pepsi:
Knowles is renting her image to a product that may one day be ranked with cigarettes as a killer we were too slow to rein in. From saying, as she once did in referring to Let’s Move, that she was “excited to be part of this effort that addresses a public health crisis,” she’s become part of an effort that promotes a public health crisis. I suppose it would be one thing if she needed the money or the exposure but she and Jay-Z are worth around $775 million.
It got me thinking–knowing what we know about the addictive properties of soda and their effect on our health, what really could motivate a celebrity (or anyone who doesn’t need the money or profile) to shill for a toxic substance? Beyonce’s an innovator, right? Shouldn’t she be bucking trends?
I chalked it up to a different world view. I reasoned that Beyonce learned somewhere that the definition of success is to acquire as much personal wealth as possible, at any expense. And I put it out of my mind.
Last Week’s Sunday Edition with Michael Enright featured an interview with Stephen Lewis, including an introduction that called him:
“arguably Canada’s most tenacious and persistent advocate for social justice”.
Believe it or not, hearing Stephen Lewis speak is even more captivating than watching Beyonce gyrate. But that’s beside the point; the intro made me realize that Stephen Lewis’ entire career has been about uncovering, articulating and addressing inequality.
How did he come by that job? Moreover, why isn’t that everyone’s job?
When Marshall McLuhan said:
“There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.”
Did he mean that some of the crew should look out for themselves at others’ expense and some of the crew should make a career out of helping others? Did he mean like a pirate crew, where the goal is booty? Or did he mean like any other crew that gets where it’s going fastest and easiest by working together?
Assuming he meant the latter, what would it take to create a system that led more people along Stephen Lewis’ path?
Better guidance counselors? Is it about our education system?
What if, instead of teaching us how things work in the current (arguably failing) consumption-driven economic model, we left school equipped to address social issues? You could still be a Lawyer, Dr, Scientist, Urban Planner, Teacher, Social Worker, or User Experience Designer or custodial artists, but you’d ply your trade with a view to address common challenges.
What if we studied Ken Burns, TEDtalks, Native Elders, Farmers, Raj Patel, Massey lectures, Manfred Max Neef, the Story of Stuff, Macklemore and the Giraffe Heroes Project? The folks whose backs are close enough to read the writing on the wall? The people who do the full cost accounting? The people who think big picture, long term, big tent?
I don’t think we all need to end up being Stephen Lewis, I’m just thinking it would be nice to net out somewhere between an understanding that ‘many hands make light work’ and ‘if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem’.
Pepsi’s newest tagline is “Live For Now.” Here’s how Pepsi’s President of Global Enjoyment Brands (??) described the new global strategy:
‘Live for Now’ embodies a mind-set that is true of Pepsi loyalists around the world, while still connecting with a large and growing number of consumers who share the same values.
Live for now. Perhaps this “mind set” is what’s keeping us from tearing our gaze from the pirate booty and addressing what’s really valuable in the long term.