My big fat guilt trip

So I made a poet feel guilty about drinking Coke. I made a citizen activist grimace in admitting he goes to Starbucks. I preach to strangers about shopping at Wal-Mart.

My name is Deidre. I am smug. I’m a hypocrite.

You don’t have to be Catholic to grovel under the weight of unkept rules, ideals that dictate what you wear, where you shop and what food you eat. You just have to care enough about certain issues.

I was eating some lovely flautas at a small Mexican restaurant in Cancun during a trip there nearly two weeks ago. I was talking with Harvey Bale of Geneva, Switzerland, who represented the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association at the recent (and failed) WTO ministerial meetings.

We were talking about the models of the world and how difficult it is to impose one model of the world (say capitalist corporate agribusiness) on another (like a small community farm culture).

There’d been shouting across the street at a hotel next door to the Convention Center in Cancun, where the WTO talks were going on. A few demonstrators with signs appeared.

The signs called for fair trade and decried Wal-Mart.

“I guess they don’t like Wal-Mart,” Bale said.

I walked over to talk to the protesters. They did not express merely the many gripes they have with the evil, profit-mongering Wal-Mart. They were also upset at many within their own ranks of anti-globalization folk. They whined: “We see other activists popping into Wal-Mart to pick up stuff they forgot at home.”

I was amused at first. What, not enough to just say Wal-Mart is bad? You have to castigate people who are essentially your friends and allies?

We impose our vision on others.

Thinking about it, though, I realized that I do this all the time.

Example: I joined in when an acquaintance picked on her kind-hearted poet friend who was drinking a carbonated beverage.

“You shouldn’t be drinking Coke while the boycott’s still going on,” she said.

“There’s a boycott?” he asked.

“Yeah, remember Colombia—workers at a Coke plant are trying to unionize, and they’re being beaten up by thugs they say are hired by Coke?”

“To bust up the union,” I added. Maybe I even raised my eyebrows a bit. All self-righteous-like.

The poet’s hand curled around the label, as if to hide it.

“I won’t drink any more Coke, I promise.”

I replayed this episode in my head later, as I sipped0 a Diet Coke.

I’m worse when it comes to Starbucks. You should hear me go on about how the evil coffee giant runs small coffee shops out of business. How it pays pennies per pound of coffee to indigent Third World farming folk, then turn around and sells that coffee to you for $4 a cup.

“I don’t care if a caramel macchiato is your dream drink,” I’ll say. “They’re poisoning the planet!” I fail to mention the coffee giant now offers at least one (hey, it’s a start) blend of “fair trade” coffee. I don’t note that I’ve sampled the evil brew more than once.

When Sam Dehne (see RN&R News,) met with me recently, he apologized to me for drinking Starbucks coffee. So did at least one voter in the RN&R’s Best of Reno contest, who voted “Starbucks” for best coffee and followed that with a parenthetical “Sorry!”

But my most defining moment of hypocrisy this past week was the 30 seconds I spent explaining to a nice man with calloused hands and worn blue jeans why Wal-Mart is an evil place to shop. We were in a check-out line.

“They’re going to own us,” I warned, handing my credit card to the friendly Wal-Mart associate.