Perhaps you've noticed that some convenience stores keep feminine hygiene products locked up in cabinets, which seems a bit odd, unless there is a growing black market for tampons.
In fact, this is the retailers' response to something called human nature, which dictates that a woman with a yeast infection who doesn't have $15 for vaginal cream will kill small animals to get it.
In other words, human nature can be a bitch, especially if you own a 7-11.
There's no screwing with the essence of human nature, the basic chemistry that can make a shoplifter out of a nun. Better to put up an electrified wire, lock up the loved ones and pray for tougher handgun laws.
People are people, and there's really no sense discussing the delicate fabric of society on a Friday evening at the Julian Lodge with a skinhead sporting a belly full of bad tequila. Attempting to change human nature is best left to voodoo doctors and a few Indian priests in a teepee outside Tucson, especially if the skinhead has a skinning knife strapped to his belt.
Nevertheless, someday soon you may be sitting in a movie theater, waiting for the start of Vin Diesel's Hamlet, when a small commercial will run from a group called the Foundation for a Better Life, a righteous organization that is spending big money to convince people not to be assholes.
In one spot, a white man in a business suit rushing through a crowd drops a $20 bill. A dreadlocked black man with dark shades bends down to pick it up.
"Did you drop this," the black man asks. He smiles.
The white man, startled, takes the money and the black man starts to walk off.
"Honesty, pass it on," the narrator says.
Apparently, the Foundation for a Better Life believes that this commercial will prompt people to rethink their attitudes towards honesty, as well as their perception that a dreadlocked black man is most likely a money-stealing pot-head gangsta not to be trusted.
Of course, the only people thinking this about Rasta dudes are redneck crackers, which means the Better Life group is attempting to speak directly to the inner soul of redneck crackers. This is dicey territory, especially since the typical deep-thinking redneck cracker might interpret the ad as a message to black people to always give the money back to whitey, a moral the redneck cracker can wholeheartedly support.
The honesty ad is one of the several running on TV and radio and movie theaters put together by the Better Life foundation, which apparently believes a snappy TV commercial is all that's needed to turn liars and cheats into fine, upstanding Lions Club members. Each ad tries to convince people to adopt a pleasant characteristic, such as "courtesy" or "hard work," pegged with the tag line, "pass it on," as in "compassion, pass it on."
The Rev. George Stevens, a former San Diego City Councilmember, tried his own version of this a few years ago, when the Lord instructed him to encourage people to say hello to each other. Observers soon noticed a marked increase in the friendliness of crack 'hos on El Cajon Boulevard but little other concrete evidence that the campaign did much good, leading some to question if maybe the Rev. George had missed a few key voice mails from The Great One.
The Foundation for a Better Life has loftier goals. According to its website, the group exists to encourage people to adhere "to a set of quality values" because, "after all, developing values and then passing them on to others is The Foundation for a Better Life." The site includes hundreds of words on this type of Sesame Street philosophy but not a single word-zippo-on who is behind the group and why they think this is a good way to spend millions of dollars, instead of, say, buying food for starving people.
The entire campaign is based on the concept that a meth-crazed biker ready to take an axe to his girlfriend will see a TV ad and decide, "Hey, you know, honey, I don't think I'm going to chop you up today. That's sensitivity. Pass it on."
It's one thing to spend millions to try to change people's behavior, based on the assumption that a kid might pour Gatorade over his breakfast cereal if he sees Michael Jordan drinking it. Who knows, maybe if you show smokers enough black lungs and kids enough dead heroin addicts, they'll decide to quit.
But it's a whole different realm to believe that a TV commercial is going to make someone pause before grabbing the $20 bill and dashing for the parking lot. Either they're going with the honesty thing or they're not, and no TV ad is going to turn a racist dickwad into Phil Donahue.
People are the way they are, tweaked by whatever factors are messing with their brains at that particular moment. There's no reprogramming feature. Dr. Frankenstein put in a brain and that was it-ballgame over.
If the pious, free-spending folks at Foundation for a Better Life want to make people friendlier, lower the price of gas, fire all the snotty clerks at Del Taco and give every human on Earth a puppy to play with.
Trying to change the roots of human nature through TV ads is the stuff of Fantasyland, one step away from the logic of those Nike-wearing loons who killed themselves so they could catch a comet.
It's wacko. Pass it on.