I was shopping at my local Wal-Mart (I live in a small town in the South. Also, I like to save money) the other day, and I noticed a display of Pepsi products by the entryway. Nothing remarkable about that, but I noticed the Pepsi cartons were emblazoned with the slogan, “Do Good,” with Pepsi logos replacing the O‘s.
Now, I’m a Coke-drinker, so it’s not like Pepsi was going to receive my money anyway, but I found myself far more peeved by this than well adjusted people should be. First of all, I don’t see this as being particularly effective: “Well, I was going to defile, murder, and eat a busload of nuns (not necessarily in that order), but then I saw this case of Pepsi…” Secondly, even I’m not sufficiently Calvinistic to think my depravity requires that I be morally hectored by soft drink boxes.
But as I kept thinking about it (yes, I think about this stuff, but no one is forcing you to read this. You get what you pay for.), I found it even more profoundly irritating. Obviously, the Pepsi folks made a conscious choice to put this slogan on their product. I seriously doubt that they expect this to hasten the Millennium. Instead, I suspect they are seeking a positive response from some target audience.
But what does all this say about that audience? It’s not as though “Do Good” directs us toward anything concrete, or anything specific at all. There’s no context. In short, what we have here is something pretty close to nullity — it’s cant. So what kind of people are going to be positively influenced toward a product by this sort of thing?
Maybe it would be the people who think that buying the product promotes some positive message, which makes the buyer part of that positive message. It’s purchasing membership in the society of People who Want to Do Good. Buying the product=being good. And if you know you Want to Do Good, then there’s a strong temptation to feel righteous indignation toward the people who don’t make the same choices you do.
But if we think about it for any length of time at all, we know that isn’t how things work. In a way, it’s Pharisaical — delighting in having the trappings of some sort of righteousness without having the righteousness itself. Martin Luther is often credited with saying, “The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.” Likewise, buying the shoes with little crosses doesn’t make us any more virtuous. Pepsi is putting a vapid version of little crosses on their boxes. Don’t let them help you fool yourself.
Me, I’ll have an IBC Root Beer.