Coca-Cola must surely represent the ultimate in corporate hypocrisy. It’s an addictive toxic substance which rewarded its makers with $48 billion in revenue in 2012. And while it sounds like the ultimate US enterprise success story, it’s only known positive use is as a degreaser.
Unsurprisingly, the Coca-Cola honchos believe they are entitled to waste without responsibility. With their mates Schweppes and Lion, they recently took the Northern Territory – ie the people – to court over an environmental incentive that reduced the amount of empty bottles ending up in landfill, drains or oceans.
The effect of sugar and caffeine addiction can be extreme: a thirty- year-old New Zealand mother of eight, Natasha Harris, died from drinking too much Coke, The Age reported on February 12. ‘Evidence at her inquest showed she drank up to 10 litres of “classic” Coke every day – equal to more than twice the recommended safe daily limit of caffeine,andalmostonekilogramofsugar.’ Thecoronerfoundthatshe died from cardiac arrhythmia, most likely caused from the high levels of caffeine. ‘She suffered from a myriad of medical conditions, including a racing heart and “absent teeth”, which her family says had rotted out from Coke consumption.’
Additionally, controversial artificial sweetener aspartame is found in Diet Coke and Coke Zero, as well as many other soft drinks.
Lastly, the India Resource Center has kept a spotlight on Coke’s groundwater extraction and heavy metal polluting practices that affects surrounding villages. Such as Mehdiganj in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
On March 7 the centre claimed that Coca-Cola ‘applied to the central and state government to increase its groundwater usage from the current 50,000 cubic metres annually to 250,000 cubic metres annually’.
It’s no wonder the Coke corporate record leaves a sour taste in the mouth, driving protesters to leave ‘out of order’ signs on the company’s vending machines. Sugar addiction, as with oil, is part of a diet which is making the planet sick.
Given the upcoming Nimbin Aquarius Festival celebrations in May, it’s a good opportunity to point out the importance of counter culture.
While not particularly a popular notion these days, it is perhaps the most valuable tool a society has. As Frank Zappa once said, ‘Without deviation from the norm, “progress” is not possible.’
Counter culture is mostly known for the 60s hedonistic drug- taking, which spurred psychedelic music, free loving, mismatched colourful clothing and infrequent personal hygiene practices.
But it’s so much more because it challenged the narrative of imperialism, which includes slavery and warfare. Counterculture can also summon that disgusting word intellectualism, the antithesis of slavery and warfare. And anything with the word counter in it obviously means the opposite. Activist Howard Zinn once said, ‘Historically, the most terrible things – war, genocide, and slavery – have resulted not from disobedience, but from obedience.’
Counter culture’s history includes the The Age of Enlightenment (1650 to 1700), Romanticism (1790 to 1840), Bohemianism (1850 to 1910), the Beat Generation (1944 to 1964) and Hippies (1964 to 1974).
And counter culture’s influences were usually fleeting: after the Vietnam war ended in 1972, almost all hippy baby boomers discarded the tie dye for a suit and embraced their planet-wrecking ego.
Counter culture is important because it helped to liberate gay rights, among many other things. Oscar Wilde’s 1895 trial and imprisonment for ‘gross indecency’ seems ludicrous now. With any luck the imprisonment of US private Bradley Manning for spreading transparency via WikiLeaks will seem just as stupid in 100 years.
As for the counterculture of the present, some current Echo staff were present at the Aquarius Festival all those years ago, as were many who still live in this shire. Activist Harsha Prabhu’s efforts to immortalise this region and festival through a book should be wholeheartedly applauded and supported.
It was an important event that generated a significant blip of consciousness forty years ago in May.