Bottled water is the beverage for an atomized generation that listens to music in a private-headphone world. Beer is social. “Most people drink beer to lower social inhibitions,” McWilliams notes, “to make it easier to have conversations with other people, to assuage loneliness, to grease the wheels for engaging in what my students euphemistically call ‘relationships’ — in other words, to give a form and excuse for social life. You don’t drink beer to improve your private, individual health.”…
Indeed, while every brand of bottled water has its own unique sales pitch, they all share one appeal: It’s not common water.
Which raises one irony. Lots of socially engaged young people have started to rebel against bottled water on the grounds that all of that plastic is allegedly wasteful and deleterious to the environment. Some will even note that bottled water is an indictment of the public water system, the same way FedEx and UPS reflect poorly on the U.S. Postal Service. In other words, drinking Fiji water is a kind of lifestyle luxury most associated with elite culture — like eating kale salads and having a home gym. Obama’s water campaign is of a piece with Michael Bloomberg’s notorious efforts to make poor people live the way rich people think they should.
That doesn’t make Obama’s efforts misguided, but it’s worth pointing out that even — or perhaps especially — liberals have a noblesse oblige all their own.