Things get worse

Among my memories of a long and ill-spent childhood, was drinking Coca-Cola from a plastic bag. In defiance of environmental and health restrictions that were imposed decades later, a street vendor (in a tropical country) had filled this wet package, and closed it with a rubber band, having inserted a plastic straw through the aperture. The “coke” substance was mixed with a larger quantity of crushed ice, and I could swear, additional flavourings of lemongrass, sugar, and salt. This formula was quite refreshing. I had previously tasted Coca-Cola plain, from a bottle in the West. This made that seem bland and pointless. And this was so, even though the crushed ice was diluting it.

Curious about this experience, I made some inquiries. I was told (by “public relations”) that the Coca-Cola company used precisely the same formula for its major product all over the world. I was also told, by a more believable authority, that this was a lie.

The markets for soft drinks are very local and quite various, to the inconvenience of the larger bottling works. The soft drink brand leaders are reduced to varying their recipes, to match. But with the passage of time and the introduction of plastic bottles (surely I don’t have to explain this), the world itself can be “homogenized,” or “globalized.” So perhaps the claims of the soda brands have become true.

By the Beeb, which I continue to consult even though I know that much of what it broadcasts is false, I am reminded of the history of “soft drinks.” It is a shameful history. Non-alcoholic carbonated beverages were associated with the temperance movement, from their introduction two centuries ago. Their popularity shot up, when their competition was suppressed, during the Prohibition era. This was a Protestant event. Thus I consider anyone who consumes soft drinks to be an enemy of the Church, and wish to confess my own former usage.

Nevertheless, while things may be bad, they retain the potential to get worse, and this must be the case with Coca-Cola. In that Beeb report, I was told, “The lemon, the orange, the lime, the acid they put in there, all of those ingredients are now gone.” This has been done everywhere, it would seem. The taste is now generic, from chemicals, as it is with so many of the other products we find on the supermarket shelves, and in the “mom and pop” franchise stores.

The dangers to our health may be real; but they are only a supplementary problem.