We are constantly told to not take things at face value but to analyze them by asking why. But here is an interesting question — Why do you have to ask why?
Over the last few generations a lot has changed about the way we live. Technology, infrastructure, convenience, economics etc are obvious changes that we see, acknowledge and live with. But there have been changes that aren’t as obvious as these but are definitely as important. One such change is the creation of a world that enables independent living.
If you think about it, today it is easy for someone to live an independent life. Even in developing countries, you have enough technology to aid you with pretty much everything; from transport to social connections to shopping to learning and you, as a single person, can live and thrive anywhere with little help from your connections. While this independence has its positives, there is a catch — it is only an illusion.
Back in the day people depended on their family, friends and acquaintances. They needed a milkman, a postman, a person in the house to cook, a dhobi and more. In the absence of these people, life was very hard. Today, you order your milk online, email services deliver more messages than necessary, food can be bought or even delivered anytime, and washing machines are making dhobis irrelevant and so on. This makes us feel like we’re not dependent when in reality we are even more co-dependent than ever. While building a large ecosystem is inevitable in an ever growing society like ours, the ecosystem now includes strangers. In plain words, we have gone from depending on people who care about us to depending on brands and organisations who, for the most part, care not about us but our purchasing power.
Let’s say you have the sniffles. If your mother asks you to drink a kashayam (herbal juice), you needn’t really ask why. Because it is your mother and she cares for you . She may be wrong, but then the chances are slim because she learnt about this kashayam from her mother who learnt it from her mother. Information does get diluted over generations but the possibility of age-old practices hurting you is very low because they have been tried and tested.
But if your big pharmaceutical company asks you to drink their well-branded kashayam (a.k.a syrup), you absolutely need to ask why. Because the company that sells the syrup is not a human who really knows or cares about you. So is the case with your cereal, milk, pills, health drinks, vegetables and everything else you buy from people you don’t personally know.
This is not a bad thing and brands are not here to hurt you. In all honesty, most brands try to create products that are mutually helpful to help the consumer and the producer but economics take over at some point. So as we move away from small social circles created by the unison of caring well-wishers to become a part of a large ecosystem created by familiar brands and unfamiliar humans, it is important to ask “why” more and more.
So ask away. Ask why you need to be on cholesterol pills at 35. Ask why dried processed corn produced in a faraway factory is supposed to be a healthy breakfast. Ask why you should not eat traditional foods like ghee. Ask why a simple packet of oats has more than 10 ingredients. Because unless you ask, you’ll never know. And today, knowledge is power.