Monday, February 6, 2017

Parable of the lake

Here's how it works:

You inherit a factory. Over the decades it produces a mildly toxic sludge in a small lake that is part of the factory's gated compound, but your factory is efficient by virtue of cut corners like being able to raw release your waste into your lake, and due to your pressure on the workforce to accept paltry wages, and it makes you more money. You get richer and richer. Eventually though you mostly make money from your money. The money you make on the factory becomes negligible. Yes the factory makes something useful and employs people, but it's future is questionable due to your poison lake and it isn't worth the trouble or risk anymore. You close it down.

After awhile of your factory just sitting there you get sick of it being useless. You want more money. You don't want to pay to clean up your sludgy lake. And you have an idea. You're good at marketing and know how to sell things. So you reopen your factory and you start to pump your lake sludge into jars. Weakened consumer protection laws make your gunk, with a bit of cleanup and tampering, just this side of legal. Your people are excellent at just this side of legal. Other very clever people design you some lovely nature friendly looking labels and packaging. Wildly suggestive health claims are made, manufactured, and planted all across the Internet, TV, and print. You even manage to slip bits of news you made up about it into neutral places.

Your sludge takes off. It has a beautiful name. It's natural, almost magical. It cures things.

Because it costs extremely close to nothing to make (you pull it out of your lake!), and because it sells for a lot and it looks beautiful, it makes you so much money that batting away the lawsuits of people sickened by it is like having to swat at a mosquito or two in paradise.

What does your lake sludge do? Does it cure cancer, shrink piles, make you young, make you virile, prevent all colds and flus, cause you to lose weight?

Yes. Though it is not for you to say. It is merely an issue for scientists. You can buy scientists too, as long as you don't need very good ones.

Now you are rich and famous and a little guru like, what with your magic elixir. Things are good. Until you start to feel sick. And old. And tired.

You go to Doctors. You go to everyone you can. You spare no expense. You eat right. You fast. You do yoga. You see someone.

Nothing helps.

Then, one day, ill and depressed, you are sitting in one of your offices. An assistant brings in a new case of your lake sludge so you can see a new product design. You look at it listlessly. You start to wonder. You open the case. You open a jar. You take off all your clothes and smear the gloop all over yourself. And you never stop, nine times a day, until the day you die.

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