How can they?

Millions of people work for businesses, some of whose activities are detrimental. How can they do it? This thought resurfaced after watching two films, ‘Prescription Thugs’ and ‘Fed Up’. The former explores the overuse of medication in the US and the creation of ‘health problems’, solved by their drugs, by pharmaceutical companies; the latter looks at how food and beverage companies deny their products are harmful. For most people it’s a job, they’re a small cog in the wheel, what they do in their role won’t cause the abuse of prescription drugs or obesity through excess consumption of junk food. When you listen to the people at the top and the spokespeople you hear the justifications for their products. I always smile at the Coca-Cola folks who say their beverages are an important contribution to hydration. Same with the pharma people saying some (not all) of their portfolio solve real problems; it’s incredible that 75% of prescription drugs are sold in the US (5% of global population). Are Americans therefore healthier and happier? I don’t understand how anyone could have a leadership role at KFC, PepsiCo or similar.Do they really believe their company narrative? Greed and ego are part of it. Maybe they really think their products are fine (all in moderation, consumers can make sensible choices); they certainly invoke the right to inform and free speech. Maybe the view is that there are more important things to worry about. The whole thing is reminiscent of the tobacco story. By way of coincidence, on the day that I am writing this, a judge in the UK decreed that all cigarette packaging should no longer have any branding. This article explains the lengths that the tobacco industry went to in order to fight  this. The fact is that smoking kills people, yet intelligent people argue that they should be able to promote their products to young people. Incredible. I have been to communities where tobacco is the crop, and I have seen the people who depend on that work. Of course it will be hard for them, but economies adapt to changes in 
consumer preferences.What can I do? Well I can write about it and I can be the change; my power is through words and how I spend my money. Obesity, health issues due to legal drug abuse are serious issues and it is not good enough to entrust responsibility to the consumer alone.


I am in my third day of two-week respite at a home near our house; with Jampi away the Social Services kindly provided this. A view into another world; the world of the elderly needing help. I have more time to reflect; I cannot believe I have this disease, I cannot believe I am in a nursing home (the people and facilities are great). I know there is a greater purpose for me having this disease, but the day-to-day life is very difficult. Dropping food because I can’t hold my fork properly makes me sad (though my hand strap helps).  I see the kindness and effort of all the staff.  British, Irish, Ghanian, Nigerian, Romanian, Hungarian, Polish, Indian. It makes me reflect on the immigration debate; net contributors or not? They are all nice people working hard. A lady with dementia walks into my room and says some incomprehensible words. Her face seems blank. What was she before? How incredibly sad. All I can do is smile, say I am trying to understand and say God bless. I speak with another lady who appears rather lonely and to someone grateful for her life so far. There are two marvellous people from my church, and they are great to talk with. So interesting to see life from the perspective of older people often with challenges. Jane, Valentina and Sebastian visit. Valentina says she wants to speak with the old people; the pool table is a hit. Watching Little Miss Sunshine on the big screen in the movie theatre was great fun; more movies to come. Sebastian enjoys driving the powered wheelchair around the garden, sitting on my lap. Valentina has just started an amazing six-day tall ships adventure.


A visiting preacher at church said that he believed there is a crisis of compassion in western society. He talked about all the people in need; the elderly, the disabled, the incarcerated, the mentally ill, the lonely, the disaffected youth, the list goes on. Of course there are thousands of people who work with these groups every day, but what about everybody else? How much time of my life did I give to speaking with these people before I became ill? Not bad, but could’ve done more. I guess I had my excuses, family, work, having fun. Now I think about it, it doesn’t take much time to speak to the old lady down the road or maybe go and visit someone in prison. He talks about the importance of living the gospel; I witnessed it through people in the church who have given Jampi somewhere to stay for a few months. I going to see a crisis of compassion in our community; we feel supported.

Oh, everything in moderation is okay. Yes, but we must stand up for things we believe in.

Andrew Knowlman

I am a 50-year old father of two children, married to Jane. I live in Hertfordshire, UK. I was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in April 2015.

One thought to “How can they?”

  1. Ooh I love a good debate about drugs! The reason the US has such unacceptable rates of addiction is due to radically different attitudes in prescribing: a friend of mine is currently in the US for an op and has 10 unused prescriptions for pain relief – all prescribed by her surgeon! She has sensibly refused the ‘hard’ opiod drugs she has been freely given but the route to addiction is plain to see. A UK surgeon would not have prescribed the same drugs. 2 sides to every story and all that…!

Leave a Reply