Go Guzzle Your Obesity, er, Soda
A couple days ago I took to Facebook with a post about a controversy where I live -- a few students at BYU, a Mormon-owned university, “demanding” the right to drink caffeinated soda. Only rarely on Facebook do I use the rhetorical tool of sarcasm, but this moment was appropriate. I wrote:
“BYU students demand diabetes. Give us addiction! Give us obesity! Give us diabetes! We demand the right to surrender our personal health to this company's billion dollar advertising campaign!!”
A couple of people posted replies that concerned me. I want to address them.
First, I was accused of logical fallacy -- caffeine does not cause diabetes. Wrong. Caffeine is perhaps more causal to the soda-diabetes link than sugar because caffeine is the addictive agent.
Now that I’ve used the words “causal” and “fallacy”, I’m sure my dumb readers have dropped off. So, let us who are still here begin our real conversation. The second comment that caused me pause was by a dear friend, Jenifer Lee. She addressed me personally, which I expect and appreciate from my friends. She wrote:
“Caleb, you sure do worry about other people's bad habits a lot!”
The implied message is that I should turn my attention to myself, that I should not cast stones because my house is glass. Unarguable. Most people would bow and accept this condemnation. Not me. Because Jenifer got it wrong this time. There is a difference between judgement -- which is not helpful -- and discernment, which is desperately needed.
Judgement is taking action to condemn another person without moral authority, usually for selfish reasons -- classic Faulknerian sound and fury, or personal or public entertainment (arguing outside of your sphere of influence, natch/RIP Stephen Covey).
Using discernment, in the public post-it-on-Facebook sense of the word, means to bring attention to a malignant, often shrouded, root motive. Here we have a group of students arguing for their drug dealer. They lack discernment. They appear to believe they are arguing for personal freedom. But they have not yet understood the difference between freedom and liberty. Because of their error, they are in fact arguing for their own personal suffering. And mine.
Which brings me to four reasons why my opinion matters.
1. MY CASH. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there is an alarming spike in children developing type-2 diabetes, which historically has appeared in adults over 40, not children. The reason we have this sudden crop of diseased kids? Obesity. Economists warn this trend has ALREADY spiked all our health care costs. It is no secret that the eating habits of children -- including soda addiction -- are most influenced by parents. When you are guzzling soda, you and your children’s ill health is costing me cash.
2. SOCRATIC CONVERSATION. Perhaps Jenifer’s words were meant to shut me down, which is a large part of why I’m not shutting up. Open discussion about critical public issues is the only known cure for stupidity. Facebook is the only free Socratic forum I am aware of. So I use it.
3. I’M AN ALUMNUS. Enough said.
4. MORAL AUTHORITY. In philosophy, this concept describes why most people never challenge the people around them to do better. It is the concept that Jenifer was mistakenly attempting to use against me. But I wasn’t judging. I was promoting discernment. And I can, because I am one of the few people left in the U.S. who simply don’t drink soda because it is bad for you. Because I practice what I preach, I have moral authority on this issue. Most of us (me most of all) have little moral authority. (Which is why more men don’t speak out against porn, but that is a subject for another day.) Our general lack of moral authority as a nation is exactly the reason that, when we do have it, we should use it -- publicly -- to promote discernment.
So here I go again. There is a multi-billion dollar industry at work to influence people -- especially young people -- to drink soda. These people do not have your health in mind. They want money. They don’t care about your diabetes. Soda triggers obesity. Practice discernment. -Caleb