Coca-Cola and Its Egregious History

The Coca-Cola Company is, of course, a capitalist company meaning that its goal is to make money virtually any way possible. It's good at this. Its market cap today is $168.7 billion according to Forbes. Since it's founding in the late 1800's it...

August 29, 2014 | Source: Cunter Punch | by Heather Gray

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Note: Years ago, Alex Cockburn tried to encourage me to write a book about The Coca-Cola Company.  I haven’t done this yet. But he would be pleased, however, about me mentioning the recent victory reported by the India Resource Center regarding “Coca-Cola Expansion Plans Rejected” in India.  This was followed by Coca-Cola announcing that it was removing its application for its creation of a facility in a water starved area in India “Coca-Cola Forced to Abandon $25 Million Project in India“.  While traveling in East Asia years ago, Alex had linked up with the India Resource Center in their efforts to address Coca-Cola’s abusive behavior in India’s rural communities that primarily impacted increased water loss and pollution. This week I also received a notice about the need to boycott The Coca-Cola Company because of its affiliation with Monsanto to prevent efforts in various states to label GMO products. It seems wherever I go and whatever I do for some reason I am confronted with The Coca-Cola Company and its oppressive arrogant behavior.

The Coca-Cola Company is, of course, a capitalist company meaning that its goal is to make money virtually any way possible. It’s good at this. Its market cap today is $168.7 billion according to Forbes.  Since it’s founding in the late 1800’s it is now known to be the most recognized product in the world. Its goal of making money is accomplished regardless of the consequences be it environmental degradation, pollution, abuse of and destabilizing water use, worker assassinations, discrimination in the work place, or the health of individuals drinking its product, to name but a few.  Promoting a product that requires purchase by huge numbers of individuals in order to make a profit necessitates deliberate efforts at creating a positive public image. It’s good at that also but it is simultaneously considered by some as one of the most evil corporations in the world – a designation that suits it well.

Living in Atlanta, the home of Coca-Cola, the time has come for me to begin writing about the company, as Alex Cockburn had wanted. The purpose of this article on Coca-Cola is to share an assortment of some of my personal experiences with the corporation in the past few decades in reference to Atlanta, South Africa and the Philippines. For a fairly comprehensive list of criticisms against The Coca-Cola Company throughout the world that I won’t be referring to please go to: Killer Coke.

Coke in Atlanta

Asa G. Candler (1851-1929) was the founder of  “The Coca-Cola Company” in 1892. He managed to purchase the rights to use the formula, but not the name “Coca-Cola”. So, at first, the drink by Candler was called “Yum Yum” and “Koke”.

John Pemberton, a pharmacist from Georgia, was the creator of Coca-Cola formula who died in 1888. And yes, it did contain cocaine initially. He was wounded in the civil war, as part of Confederate Army, and like many others became addicted to morphine while trying to relieve the pain. He created this non-alcoholic drink to help diminish the pain and his addiction. Pemberton gave his son Charles the right to the name “Coca-Cola”.

Charles Pemberton was, then, a thorn in Candler’s side. He died mysteriously in 1894. It is widely known that Candler was pleased that Charles was out of the way. The whole saga of obtaining the total rights to the formula and Coca-Cola name, however, is couched in vagaries, intrigue, perhaps criminal behavior and questionable legal tactics. Did Charles Pemberton commit suicide? The question remains unanswered. It is known, however, that in 1910, Asa Candler had all the older records of the company destroyed when it moved into a larger building. Only the official records of the title were left intact. He did this in spite of the objections of his nephew (“For God, Country, and Coca-Cola”, 2013, Mark Pendergrast).

I grew up in Atlanta, the home of Coca-Cola no less. To begin this saga, I need to say that I went to Druid Hills High School in the Druid Hill area that borders Emory University where I also started my university career and that has strong Coca-Cola connections.

The Candler family’s involvement in the Druid Hills area was profound in the early 1900’s and resonated for subsequent decades.  It’s as if the aura of Candler was everywhere.