Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Coke, Rural Boredom and Drugs

I'm reading again "Secret Formula: How Brilliant Marketing and Relentless Salesmanship Made Coca-Cola the Best-Known Product in the World" by Fredrick Allen. I've skimmed it before, but have picked it up again, now that I've graduated from the University That Coke Built.

In fact, Southern Methodism and Coca Cola are intimately intertwined. Asa Candler, one of the first big-wigs of Coke was the brother of Warren Candler who was the first President of Candler Seminary. That's Warren's grave pictured above, in the same cemetary that holds Bishop Andrews, who originally caused the separation of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church South way back before the Civil War.

Robert Woodruff, another big-wig of Coke, is the benefactor that allowed for part of my education and the education of my peers in the UMC. Intimately intertwined.

So I'm reading the book again, and I was struck by a couple of things: First Pemberton, the man who created the Formula, was involved in all sorts of experimenting. One of the ones mentioned was the creation of an artificial food that would be a complete meal and provide all the nutrients that the body would need. I find this interesting, see that Bill and I are currently discussing "Diet in America" -- how we need to eat things that our great grandmothers would recognize as food and to move away from talking about nutrients and talk more about FOOD. The very beverage that people label as the cause of so many problems in America, cola or soda, being invented by a man who was looking for artificial food: That's funny. Ironic.

Secondly, I was pulled into this paragraph:
"The postwar, sharecropper South was a region desperate for remedies of every sort....[widespread disease, malnutrition, lack of sanitation, veterans returning with aching, lingering wounds and maladies]...On top of it all, the region's poverty and rural isolation led to a grinding, dispiriting boredom that made many Southerners susceptible to the relief found in little brown bottles that contained alcohol or laudanum and other opiates."
Well, what else is new? (That is sarcasm for the uninformed.) Very truly I tell you, there is nothing new under the sun. The rural south is still poor; I have been doing some statistical analysis of my district and I am shocked over and over again about how incredibly poor rural Georgia really is. And the fact of the matter is: they've been poor for generations, there is little to no relief agencies for them, they have lack of transportation that makes their poverty even more grinding. Instead of doping up with patent medicines today, it's meth. Easy to obtain the basic ingredients and easy to cook.

The meth problem is endemic in the rural south; the stories are heartbreaking. The damage the drug does to people, to their families and to the society in the rural south is incalculable. And it's not going to go away without real and substantive work; real and substantive change.

It is definitely not a problem that can be solved with a Coke and a smile.

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