Buying bottled water buys freedom?

America is the land of the free, right? Well some might argue differently, in light of recent Homeland Security developments (i.e. airport “security” checks.) The United States officially became free with the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It’s the reason we celebrate the fourth of July every year with fireworks and funnel cakes. It’s the reason why a man walks through an airport “security” check in a speedo with an insulting message written to a certain politician scribbled on his back in bold, black marker, and doesn’t get labeled a terrorist … well, at least… for now.

As we’ve seen in recent controversial media reports over the last few weeks, these “freedoms” we have are precious to us, and if we comply with new procedures in the name of security, safety and comfort, there’s a chance we could lose them. Allow me to call your attention to a recent article published by the BBC: “Bottled Water has Become Liquid Gold.” This piece describes how bottled water rose to a global billion-dollar industry within the last 40 years, because of smart marketing. Through advertising that speaks directly to the human desire for luxury and convenience, this product has become all too appealing. One particular section of this article really got my attention – a quote by Richard Wilk, professor of anthropology at Indiana University:

“I think bottled water is the most revealing substance for showing us how the global capitalist market works today … In a sense, we’re buying choice, we’re buying freedom. That’s the only thing that can explain why you would pay money for a bottle of something that you can otherwise get for free.”

(Now, before I get attacked by the IBWA for referencing an “untrue” statement, we know that even tap water isn’t free. Technically we pay for it when we receive our water bill every month. What Wilk likely means here is, “That’s the only thing that can explain why you would pay ridiculous amounts of extra money for an environmentally-unfriendly, plastic bottle of something that you already pay for every month anyway.”)

That disclaimer aside – and I promise I’m going somewhere with this – Wilk’s quote suggests that people are essentially buying their right to choice and freedom every time they pay money for a bottle of water. In fact, “the right to choose” has been cited in several places as one of the reasons why bottled water should not be banned in colleges and universities. In today’s world, where freedoms and rights seem to be slipping slowly from our grasp with each new security measure, people are even more compelled to stand up and fight to keep them. But the willingness to pay for them isn’t doing much good. If bottled water is a symbol of the success of a capitalist market, buying it is only going to feed that market. And, in my opinion – feel free to debate with me on this – that market, and the greed associated with it, is the very thing that drives the policies that are slowly beginning to restrict our personal freedoms.

Sometimes, fighting for freedom means sacrificing security and comfort. Bottled water is one of the many symbols of security and comfort for those in the developed world, as it sets us apart from the less secure nations that don’t have access to clean water. It’s just a matter of where your priorities lie – with personal freedoms, or with comfort and security. In the name of the freedom upon which this Independent nation was founded, choose to drink filtered tap water, instead of bottled. It’s better for the planet, less expensive, less wasteful, it’s still purified, and you still retain your right to choose (along with preserving your dignity by resisting the temptation to get duped by clever advertising.) Seems like the more sensible decision to me – what do you guys think?