Coca-Cola has been a very good friend of mine for a very long time. Whenever I want it, it's there - refreshing and fizzy and delicious. I've never experienced a moral crisis when drinking Coke simply because a) I never bothered to question the corporation or read anything concerning them; and b) their advertising is so damn good they had me convinced that they wander the earth doing benevolent good works - sponsoring schools, playing with villagers etc etc. And the Olympics, of course.But lately I've been reading "Belching Out the Devil: Global Adventures with Coca-Cola" by Mark Thomas, and I have to say it's got me thinking.
It's kind of an expose with funny anecdotal asides - but the message does hit home: Coke stomps around doing what it wants, and doesn't really pause to care for the people or environment it is effecting. Ruining and depleting water supplies for some of the worlds poorest people in El Salvador and India, and preventing its employees from joining trade unions in Turkey and Columbia. To name but a few examples really. I am trying not to buy Mark's tale hook, line and sinker - he obviously thinks he's a bit of a funny bastard and the book is full of witty observations and snarky rhetorical questions (it is pretty funny in places though). I get the impression that although the book is well researched and properly referenced, Mr Thomas has both an agenda and a particular hatred for the Coca-Cola Company - and the story seems a touch one-sided. What little rebuttal there was from Coca-Cola is treated with derision and a smirk. But all that aside, it's clear that Coke either couldn't be arsed proving him wrong, or simply couldn't. And in any case the evidence is overwhelming: Coca-Cola has some business practices that are, to put it mildly, down right nasty.
So I've decided no more Coke products for me. I think the big question is how long will this last? will my moral fortitude outlast my thirst? will the Coke advertising machine wear me down in the end? If I'm making a stand on this, am I obliged to boycott products from Nestle and Pepsico (among others) too?