Acton Institute Powerblog

Why Is ‘The Touch Of Man’ A Bad Thing?

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The hubby and I were watching TV when a commercial for Fiji Water came on. The voiceover expounded all the wonderful features of this water, and then said something about it being “untouched by man.”

I turned to my husband and said, “Did I hear that right? ‘Untouched by man?'” He nodded.

Indeed, that’s the selling point for this water:

On a remote Pacific island 1600 miles from the nearest continent, equatorial trade winds purify the clouds that begin FIJI’s Water journey through one of the world’s last virgin ecosystems. As the tropical rains fall on a pristine rain forest, it filters through layers of volcanic rock, slowly gathering the natural minerals and electrolytes that give FIJI Water its soft, smooth taste. The water collects in a natural artesian aquifer,  deep below the earth’s surface, shielded from external elements by confining layers of rock. Natural pressure forces the water towards the earth’s surface, where it’s bottled at the source, untouched by man until you unscrew the cap. [emphasis mine]

First, let’s all agree that this is heavy-handed prose for water. Second, the folks at Fiji seem to think they are doing something not only extraordinary, but revolutionary. Sorry to tell you, folks: you’re doing something people have been doing since, well, as long as people have been around: getting water out of a well.

Now back to the “untouched by man” thing. Why is this a selling point? Why is something touched by a human being bad?

It’s not. In fact, we humans do some really awesome things with our hands … and our brains, our soul, our whole selves. The touch of man – as it was created by God – is good. It is meant to share, teach, create, affirm, offer, receive, soothe, embrace. It is not something to be actively avoided, as the Fiji Water folks suggest.

Maybe you’re thinking I got a little too worked up over a commercial for water. But I would argue that the commercial suggests that only nature, not man, is good. This viewpoint has dangerous ramifications. Pope Francis warns of this worldview in Laudato Si’, his most recent encyclical. He says there

are those who view men and women and all their interventions as no more than a threat, jeopardizing the global ecosystem, and consequently the presence of human beings on the planet should be reduced and all forms of intervention prohibited. (para. 60)

He goes on to say:

There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself. There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology. When the human person is considered as simply one being among others, the product of chance or physical determinism, then “our overall sense of responsibility wanes”.[96] A misguided anthropocentrism need not necessarily yield to “biocentrism”, for that would entail adding yet another imbalance, failing to solve present problems and adding new ones. Human beings cannot be expected to feel responsibility for the world unless, at the same time, their unique capacities of knowledge, will, freedom and responsibility are recognized and valued. (para. 118)

The commercial that started this whole thing will be gone in a few months, and a new campaign begun, I’m sure. But the worldview it espouses is important for us to recognize and reproach: the “touch of man” is something to be celebrated, not denigrated, and certainly not abnegated.

Elise Hilton Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.

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