A friend of mine in Tajikistan used to consistently buy prepackaged foods for her children. Anything specifically marketed to kids caught her attention. She’d buy it – all of it, and feed it to them, even when it was more expensive than other options. So, functionally, she was raising her kids on a diet of junk food.
I do my best to let people be people. They’re allowed to make the choices they need to make, and my friends don’t need me to be hanging over them judging their choices. So for a long time I said nothing. Eventually, though, I broke down and asked. Why? Why the junk food, when fresh food was cheaper?
And she said (of course) that the food made for children was better for children. Because it was made for children. I responded with an impassioned rant about marketing and corporations and selling to people. I was very into it. I was, I felt, very convincing.
My friend (of course), didn’t believe a word of it. Alanna, she said. They make these products for children. Sure, they make money. But they feed children.
I realized she came from a village in a country where people feel responsibility to their community. She knew there are terrible people in the world – and in her own government – but she thought of them as isolated bad guys. She couldn’t conceptualize that a company made of ordinary decent people would target products to children that were bad for the kids. It just didn’t fit in her world view.
Honestly, I wish it didn’t fit into mine.
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