Consumption Culture (or Are You Going to Eat That?)

Everywhere I go, people are eating something. I go to the park and there are sodas and ice cream cones. I go to the shopping mall and people are wandering around with a cup of coffee and a danish. I pull up to a traffic light and the guy next to me is scarfing down a burger. Have our daily lives become such a flurry of activity that we can no longer just sit down for a meal and a decent conversation? It would seem so.

It was not so long ago, people appreciated food a lot more. I’m not talking about cave people or ancient Rome. It wasn’t until the twentieth century that western countries had enough food to really start taking it for granted. For some of you that’s your parents’ time; but, at most, it was your great-grandparents’ lifetimes.  They appreciated what they had because they knew how quickly it could disappear. Whether it was floods, drought, war, or just a bad day on the stock market, people were aware that the whole system could come crashing down any minute.

Modern industrial food production has made it so many children today only know what a cow is because it’s a character in the latest video game. But that’s fine. All of us don’t need to get manure on our shoes. The problem is that we lose touch with where our food comes from. Many farmers worked long hours, for too little money, so you could wolf down that taco.  Some animal gave its life and all you have to say is the sauce wasn’t spicy enough. While we weren’t looking, corporations invented factory farms where animals are literally treated as pieces of meat. But we still carry this quaint notion of Old MacDonald’s farm where the animals walk around in pants and all have snappy catch phrases.

The worst part is all this happens while the number of starving people in the world is measured in the billions. We have completely lost perspective if so many go hungry at the same time as others are complaining that their theatre seats are too small. I don’t mean to insult anyone in particular, but the gravity of the situation is monstrous.

It’s not just the poor African kids on the television, either. There are hungry kids in the city you live in. There are slums from Mumbai to Normandy to Vancouver. For them, the cake IS a lie.

The people we pay to take care of these things for us seem to be the least empathetic. Our elected officials, whatever their party, stripe, or colour are always more concerned with their hairstyles than empty stomachs. The only only hungry people they really care about are the ones that show up to their thousand-dollar-a-plate fundraisers.

To compound the problem, having our heads perpetually stuck in the feeding trough has diminished our culture while expanding our waistlines. Families eating in front of the television instead of at the dining table has become a trite cliché. We all lose when the family dinner is something reserved for special occasions. We no longer have time to reflect on the events of the day because in our culture the events never end. There is always more to be consumed. Digital culture means abandoning the candy bar and sticking your head in Willy Wonka’s river of chocolate until you drown.

I am not one to give advice (that’s your mother’s job) but I will say this:
The next time you go to eat, sit down at a table and use utensils.Take someone with you and talk about what has happened, not what is happening. Drink a toast to those less fortunate. And don’t forget to leave room for dessert.

Also, I am a huge hypocrite. I drank an entire bottle of soda while writing this post.

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Crazed recluse and sociophobe who has taken up writing after failing at everything else. Send pizza.

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