Culture Jamming







Bottled water sold to generate capital is a ridiculous concept, and if it doesn’t strike you as such, you’re likely the type to want to sell water. Moreover, your desire to generate profit on an essential, life-giving, substance that is absolutely necessary to sustain human life likely means you only care about profit and not about the ethics of selling this substance for a price.

I understand that commodities create a market where they are needed and supplied and traded for profit, but bottling water and selling it defies logic in my opinion. What drives me even further over the edge is when the companies selling this bottled water do so at a massive markup and in doing so create untold amounts of waste material. Water ought to be free, it is a core requirement of humanity. Humans can live without transportation, meat, gasoline, entertainment, or textiles, but they cannot live without food and water. Commodifying both food AND water is cruel to those who cannot secure themselves either.

Chief offender among those that commodify the basic requirements of human life are corporations like Nestle. For those unaware, Nestle, (and legions of corporations just like it), siphons water from communities to sell back in bottles. Their CEO has been outspoken in his denial that water is a fundamental human right.

So therefore, Nestle has earned my scorn in the form of boycotting any and all of their products. At any given moment I can and will soapbox as hard and critically I can against Nestle and their absurd money-making obsessions. For this “Culture Jamming” assignment, I chose to hijack the original advertisement’s original text.

It reads: “Drink better, Live Better: Hydrate with a refreshing taste”

I found this to be tremendously ironic, so I decided to “jam” their subtitle text with my own. I replaced the text with an open-faced admittance of their business practices that portrays them in a poor light.

“Drink better, Live Better. Unless you live wherever we siphon our water from, then I guess you’ll have to stay thirsty or something.”

My interpretation also contains a small replacement of the “Slightly sweet and refreshing” tagline in the top left with a tagline that instead reads “Now with less ethics!” In doing this, I sought to include a jab against the idea that, while the practice is technically legal, it is not an ethical thing to put into practice.

The image’s intended reading in the original, unedited advertisement, was meant to signify that Nestle “Pure Life” water was refreshing and hydrating. The irony of the image is lost among those who are unaware of Nestle’s business practices, so I decided to reverse the intent of the advertisement. My reading is directly oppositional to the notion that Nestle water is in any way related to “wellness” or “better life” in the sense that communities robbed of their water are offered no recourse.

I almost didn’t even need to change anything in the ad. For those “in the know”, the advertisement almost seems like a parody of Nestle’s shady practices. What would an enormous corporation care about whether its consumers are “refreshed” or living better lives? Furthermore, if Nestle’s water is truly leading to “better life”, then why are they exacerbating droughts and robbing water from those who need it?

My personal philosophies are heavily influenced by humanitarian, transcendentalist, and Marxist thought. On all counts, I object to consumer culture, human rights violations, the exploitation of the workers, the exploitation of disenfranchised peoples, and the passive stances we all take against corporations that we deem “too big to fight.”

Antonio Gramsci, a philosopher we’ve encountered in our readings, and one I’ve known for some time, described the resistance to dominant cultures as “Cultural hegemony.” The forces exacted by the dominant force are resisted by the “lesser.” In class, we discussed the role of advertisers and consumers. The advertisers wield power in what is presented to us, demonstrated here as Nestle “offers” us our own water. As consumers, it is our duty to oppose Nestle’s unethical scheme by boycotting and shutting down Nestle’s offers. In the hegemony between the consumers and the advertisers, oppositional readings of their “advances” towards us stand as some of the strongest counter-techniques against the corporations we oppose. In cases like this, oppositional readings that expose the companies for their human rights violations are much stronger.

Yet, we are consumers, and our stake in Nestle’s success or failure is distant and weak. It will only be weak if we choose to passively ignore their corporatism and stand by as more and more companies just like Nestle drive Earth barren.


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