Honored Happy Sociopaths of the Week: “Keep America Beautiful” and That Crying Indian Guy

People start pollution, people can stop it, not government regulations, HA! Cue tear

“One man’s trash is everyone’s litter, do your part and keep the Government out of it… or else this Native’s gonna cry.”

Remember this stoic Native American-looking guy? His name is Iron Eyes Cody.  In the 70s, he and the non-profit group “Keep America Beautiful” launched a golden-lit commercial of him canoing through a polluted river, walking through trash strewn fields, and crying a single tear that tugged at the heartstrings and guilt cords of every Miserable Sucker in America; convincing them “People start pollution, people can stop it.”

Watch the commercial here.

Sounds like your run of the mill, righteous enviro-junkie bumper-sticker talk, right? Not if you look a little closer.

Here’s the deal: back in the olden days, before cars, before penicillin, there was very little litter.  Things didn’t come nicely wrapped in plastic for freshness, the postman didn’t pony express coupons to your house, and if you wanted to enjoy a bottled beverage, you had to drink the whole thing in the store and give the empty back to the shop owner.

But all that changed around 1902, when our heroes, the major bottling and packaging companies (like Coca-Cola and Philip-Morris) invented “Throwaways.”  Bottles and cans you could take with you, and then just toss! Of course the public loved this and they realized they loved throwing all kinds of stuff out!  They threw stuff out of their windows, out of their cars, and left it around as modern animal markings. Unfortunately, there was a dark side to this new American hobby; the amount of trash not in trashcans was rising.  It got so you couldn’t have a nice picnic in the park without having to kick other people’s refuse out of the way.

In 1953 our brilliant companies realized that the growing litter problem consisted of their products.  They started to feel the hot breath of the government threatening to regulate them, to tax them, to make them responsible!  “This is all your fault!” the government hissed.  Did the bottlers and packagers waste their time apologizing or feeling bad?  Are you kidding?  Instead they pulled off what may be the most artful sociopathic spin since the pet rock.  Watch and learn.

To take the pressure off themselves, litter making industries established “Keep America Beautiful,” a friendly-neighbor, all-American non-profit organization who’s mission statement looked something like this: “People are the problem; they’re lazy and gross and they’re making a mess!  It’s not the industry’s fault!  It’s those damn sloppy folks who buy our products!”  And it worked!  The general public fell for this logic, as any decent group of Miserable Suckers would, and began picking up after themselves.  Wow!  Soon 75 other corporations joined the quest to make waste solely the consumer’s responsibility.  Now that’s a Happy Sociopathic army to adore!

But keeping the powers-that-be off their backs has not been as simple as a few ad campaigns.  In the 1970’s, just as Iron Eyes Cody was rocking primetime television with his single tear, an opposing force was threatening to screw the whole thing up. State Governments began introducing “Bottle Bills.”  A mandatory deposit on bottles and cans that put the responsibility back in the hands (gasp) of the manufacturers! The bottlers did not want this to become a popular trend, so using the good (and unbiased) forces of “Keep America Beautiful” they have been able to limit this bottle deposit law to only 11 states.  Not to fear, they’re working hard to eradicate it completely.

Organizing buses of school kids to clean up the litter on beaches, highways and parks; putting a trendy green veneer on your avoidance of government regulations; and keeping those annoying bottle deposit laws out of most states – all under the super wholesome umbrella of a kumbaya-singing non-profit!  We’re in awe!  How could we not honor “Keep America Beautiful” and that Crying Indian Guy as our Happy Sociopaths of the Week?

Great work kids!


About Robin Reiser

Comedian, Writer and Author of world renowned self-servicing book, "The Happy Sociopath." You need it, really.
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