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Wednesday, November 30

Fair play
After about 3 years of asking for it, my employer has now finally started buying Fair Trade coffee. In fact, the person who was charged with making it available was so keen on the brand that they put it in a special container, labelled FREE TRADE COFFEE, which is a bit of exaggeration, since I'm sure that nobody is doing anything for free to provide Asda with its own-brand freeze dried granules.

So far, all you might have noticed in this story is that I've criticised a label. Let's rewind and look at what the label was on: a special container for the fair trade coffee. Hang on a minute... does that mean that they're also providing non fair trade coffee? Yes. They most certainly are. The person who has accepted my moral stance on coffee - that it should be fair trade - has decided that it should be an option for the coffee drinkers. Given that the other option is Nescafe, this is a bit weird.

There are two possible reasons this may have happened. It may be that there are some people in the company who demand to have a Nestle-branded freeze-dried coffee, preferably brewed in the hot tears of the mothers whose children died under Nestle's aggressive baby-formula campaign; there may even be people who like the plastic taste of their nasty coffee. Or, alternatively, perhaps the person who bought the coffee missed the point of getting it. The point is that our company could choose not to put money into the pockets of evil Nestle (Kit Kats excepted) and could also have a nicer cup of coffee for everyone. Apparently, that point was missed.

Missing the point is part of the human condition. People often do things out of habit and duty in the hope that everything will be alright. The best example of this is cargo cults. Read the link and you'll see natural human behaviour exaggerated. We're all doing these sorts of things all the time. Many of our habits come from singular experiences where we put two and two together and got a pair of parallel swan-shaped things.

In some ways, playing on human conditioning is something I'm keen on. When I'm at full strength on the stand-up stage, I use a variety of tricks to keep the audience fooled into thinking that they're having a good time, and that I'm a good entertainer. In other ways, though, it's rather sad. We humans may have minds, but we'd much rather degenerate into a selfish instinctive superstitious rabble.

So, I'm drinking the fair trade coffee with a clear conscience. In a few days I will be so far out of my comfort zone, that I won't have time to rely on my habits - maybe it will be the making of me.

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