Recently the story of Natasha Harris hit the news. She died. She was 30 years old. In the months before her death she is reported to have consumed up to 10 liters of Coca Cola a day. That's sad. Sugar is a drug and she was an addict that overdosed. That meant that Natasha’s death was being directly linked to the overconsumption of Coke and her accompanying poor diet. The sugar delivery system people had to weigh in on this ASAP.
The Coca Cola Company didn’t keep the global media waiting. A spokesperson named Karen Thompson was sent to make the rounds with talking points and she dutifully delivered, "The grossly excessive ingestion of any food product, including water, over a short period with the inadequate consumption of essential nutrients, and the failure to seek appropriate medical intervention when needed, can be dramatically symptomatic.”
Wait a minute. People don’t talk like that. Corporations talk like that. Karen isn’t a lawyer or a doctor and somehow in this quote she sounds like she is both. That’s curious. What does the real Karen really believe about this Natasha Harris death? What does she really feel? As she raises the corporate veil, toes the corporate line and heaves the heavy shield to deflect criticism from her employer is any of the actual Karen allowed through? Or is a little piece of the real Karen dying every time she delivers something like this? Hard to say, we don’t know Karen.
Is it possible that Karen finds herself on a slippery slope like one of the 20,679 cigarette-schilling physicians from the 1950’s who signed up to say “Luckies are less irritating?” Less irritating than what, doc, living? It seems conscience and common sense can often become collateral damage when paid spokespeople open their mouths.
What we do know is Karen is a living breathing person. With powerful feelings and empathy. And she has been asked to suppress those higher qualities to do a job. Somehow one can’t help but think that if she were free to be human she and others would over time guide their company to a better place.
Most will say what killed Natasha was a lack of common sense and overconsumption. And the talking heads may even deride her lack of self-control. But will they wonder about her addictions and the larger narrative of her life? They didn’t really know Natasha. It’s too late now.
Surely Karen will go on to give happier sounds bites. She won’t always have such heavy days, thankfully. Like so many of us she likely just wants a happy life. We hope she is finding it. And if Karen has lost her voice to her spokespersonhood we hope she finds it again, too. We suggest looking for it right next to happiness.
By Adam Butler