By James J. Gormley
Courtesy of NOW Foods Health E-News
The late William F. Buckley, Jr. ? yes, the William F. Buckley of Firing Line, The National Review and the editorial column “On the Right” ? once wrote:
“We are all increasingly anxious in America to be unobtrusive, we are reluctant to make our voices heard, hesitant about claiming our right; we are afraid that our cause is unjust, or that if it is not unjust, that it is ambiguous; or if not even that, that it is too trivial to justify the horrors of a confrontation with Authority; we will sit in an oven or endure a racking headache before undertaking a head-on, I’m-here-to-tell-you complaint.”
In addition to being hesitant to speak up about issues that are important to us ? such as challenges to health and health-freedom on Capitol Hill ? very often people do not know how to start or where to start in order to tackle these issues.
Here are a few of the main reasons why people don’t take action on health-freedom issues (including battles relating to dietary supplements):
- They are not even aware of the issue.
- They are aware of the issue, but they are not sure the source (organization or website) from which they learned of the issue is credible or well informed.
- They are aware of the issue, and they are sure of the source, but they don’t know what the next step to take is, whether it is a phone call to a town, city, county, state or U.S. elected official.
- They are aware of the all of the above, but they assume that “other people” will call in or write or act, so they don’t have to because others are presumably already taking action.
NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION NO. 1:
I WILL BE AWARE OF THE ISSUES
It is our responsibility as health conscious consumers and natural products advocates to regularly visit the websites and blogs of those organizations that are the most credible (more on this in resolution number 2), to sign up for e-newsletters and regular updates, and to friend or “like” those organizations on Facebook and Twitter. Join these organizations’ discussion groups, and regularly participate in posting comments on issues and posts. Ask questions, learn, ask more questions. Soon you will be a super-informed advocate.
NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION NO. 2:
I WILL GET MY INFORMATION FROM HEALTH-FREEDOM ORGANIZATIONS THAT ARE CREDIBLE AND EFFECTIVE
Aside from organizations that are shills for big money interests in one segment of industry ? not common, to begin with, and less likely now given stricter FCC rules re blogs ? most health-advocacy and health-freedom organizations are well-meaning although not necessarily well informed. Sometimes a health-freedom group will intentionally use scare tactics to get consumers activated on a specific issue or campaign, never a good or ethical approach. If an organization consistently (or constantly) sends out “The sky is falling” announcements and calls to action, this group may be non-credible and not trustworthy.
I remember one group’s representative with whom I sat down at the July 2005 Codex meeting in Rome coming out with a press release (and e-mail blast) saying: “All supplements are now banned!!!” I challenged the person about this after I saw the blast go out and asked why his group said that, knowing full well that this is not at all what went down. He said that his organization thought it was important to get people activated! (I assume to donate money to an emergency “battle” fund). So be selective as to which groups you get your information from, especially if they are also always asking you to donate money and are always in “crisis mode.”
RESOLUTION NO. 3:
I WILL CONSIDER TAKING INFORMED, CONSTRUCTIVE ACTION ON ISSUES AFFECTING ME, MY FAMILY, MY COMMUNITY AND MY COUNTRY
If we are linked in to credible health advocacy organizations, most likely they will regularly recommend specific actions, which will typically involve reading an issue summary and then submitting on online letter (or petition signature) to elected officials related to the question at issue. Typically, by filling out an online form with one’s Zip code and other contact information, the correct officials’ names will be automatically generated. However, another way to verify who your legislators are (at the state and national level) is to visit USA.gov. For non-elected officials (such as at the FDA or FTC), you can contact the agencies directly.
RESOLUTION NO. 4:
I WILL NOT ASSUME THAT OTHERS WILL TAKE ACTION BUT WILL TAKE ACTION MYSELF ON IMPORTANT ISSUES IN 2011
Just as with voting, being an informed, active and participatory citizen is essential to protecting and advancing democracy. As Mr. Buckley sagely noted, we must be obtrusive, we must be committed and we must be assured in claiming our rights. By being knowledgeable and informed about the issues, we do not need to worry about our message or our cause being construed as ambiguous. We must question “Authority” since authority is merely power lent to agencies and officials to carry out the public will and to fulfill the public good.