The United States’ position as worldwide ambassador of capitalism and the free market, and the resulting individualistic of its’ citizens, has created a culture that dissuades, and makes impossible, to effectively address and correct the flaws of the unethical food industry that exists here and begins at the top with the enabling oversight of the corrupt Food and Drug Administration.
The Food and Drug Administration can be described as the keystone that has allowed the food industry to form into its’ current unethical and destructive state. A current norm that is a main cause of this corruption within the agency is the “revolving door” problem, in which it is commonplace for food industry employees to eventually hold jobs in the FDA, and vice versa; sharing inside information with one another. This is a problem because of the personal loyalties, as well as the likely financial loyalties, that exist when ex-food industry attempt to regulate their past businesses.
The full-scale corruption of the FDA is exemplified in their legalization of the hazardous artificial sweeteners such aspartame. Essentially, the manufacturer, G.D. Searle, had long had a history of dishonest presentation of facts and manipulation of their studies that they presented to the FDA. This was no different with aspartame. While no study that has been conducted by the aspartame industry has found anything dangerous about the chemical, basically every independent and impartial research studies have found aspartame linked to health issues such as vision problems, tinnitus, headaches, memory loss, depression, heart palpitations, diarrhea, itching, skin lesions, panic attacks and severe joint, as described by “Killing Us Sweetly: How to Take the Industry out of the FDA,” published by the Journal of Food Law and Policy (Iulano 55). The result of the ineffective FDA is exemplified simply by the fact that, even though two investigations in 1980 by the FDA found that the experiments conducted by G.D. Searle were completely fabricated and intentionally deceiving, coupled with the fact that the FDA had received more complaints regarding aspartame than any other product in the agency’s history; aspartame is still legal and the most widely used artificial sweetener in the world (Iulano 53).
Another injustice of the food industry, one enabled by an unethical FDA, as well as by the United States’ capitalistic, free-market driven business culture, is represented by social disparities in access to healthy food options. Companies concern for making profits results in rich areas that are filled with healthy food options, while poor areas are filled with unhealthy food options. This is demonstrated by the results of the study “Beyond Supermarkets: Food Outlet Location in Four U.S. Cities Over Time,” published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, that found that “Socioeconomically disadvantaged and minority populations may attract “unhealthy” food outlets over time” (Rummo et al).
Education, and shedding light on these industry practices, for all Americans is essential and is the only way to bring positive change to this situation.
Berger, Dan. Adams, Mike. The FDA drug approval process. http://www.naturalnews.com/CounterThink/The-FDA-drug-approval-process.html.
Iuliano, Jason. “Killing Us Sweetly: How to Take Industry out of the Fda.” Journal of Food Law & Policy, vol. 6, no. 1, Spring2010, pp. 31-87. EBSCOhost, login.libproxy.scu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=tr ue&db=a9h&AN=58714355&site=ehost-live.
Rummo, P. E., et al. “Beyond Supermarkets: Food Outlet Location Selection in Four U.S. Cities over Time.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, vol. 52, no. 3, 2017, p. 300-310. EBSCOhost, login.libproxy.scu.edu/loginurl=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lhh&AN=20173133924&site=eds-live.
“There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, ‘What the hell is water?’”
-David Foster Wallace, “This is Water”
When I walked into my English Critical Thinking and Writing (CTW) class on the first day, I had no idea what to expect. My professor, Nick Leither, showed the class David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech “This is Water.” After discussing the speech, Professor Nick switched gears and flicked the screen over to the next slide. The screen displayed the course overview, reading “Food Porn: Reading Food, Self, & Culture.” Both intrigued and confused, I left class on that first day with two questions. First off, how can an english class be entirely dedicated to food? Also, what the hell is water? I had no clue what was to come during the two quarters of this class.
I should first explain that I did not sign up for this class. Every freshman at Santa Clara University (SCU) is randomly placed into a mandatory CTW class before even arriving to campus. I was honestly quite displeased when I learned that I had been assigned a 7:30-9:10 PM CTW class. Convinced that my brain would not be capable of attending class at this time of the day, my naive-self even talked to my advisor to see if I could switch into a different CTW section at a different time. As you can probably guess, my advisor told me to suck it up, and viola- my “Food Porn” CTW class at 7:30-9:10 PM was here to stay for two quarters. Although I was first unhappy by my CTW course placement, the class and its material caused me to reflect on my lifestyle and personal values, which which will continue to stick with me- not only for the remainder of my college experience- but for the rest of my life.
In Eating Animals, we are shown the horrors animals go through to end up on our plate. When we see the chicken breast laying atop our kale salad we imagine that it lived a good life on a farm with the freedom to roam and eat as much as it likes. Our minds do not immediately go to the abusive image of a chicken being stuffed into a box the size of a piece of copy paper to live it’s entire life in darkness.
B.F Skinner, one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century, was able to teach pigeons how to play Ping-Pong. Through controlling the pigeon’s environment and conditioning their behavior through positive reinforcement, Skinner was able to have pigeons peck balls back and forth across a table. Skinner asserted that behavior, human or pigeon, is determined by one’s direct environment (Koren, Marina). However, unlike the simple-minded pigeon humans are much more complex. Skinner argues that human behavior is shaped through our changing environment—what we listen to, what we watch and even more importantly what we spend our money on.
As a bright eyed college student, I love these theories about behavior and what makes us who we are, however I was never so keen as to actually notice this in the real world. My critical thinking and writing course exposed me to the harsh realities of the food industry, and allowed me to connect Skinner’s environment driven theory of behavior to our food choices as consumers. Throughout my first year in college, I became an expert on the food industry through writing a plethora of papers on the revolting practices of factory farming and the marketing tactics of food corporations to generate more revenue. My CTW course and extensive research on the food industry has made me realize that consumer behavior on the purchasing of food products is largely influenced from the environment that food corporations have set up around food products.
One of the most influential research assignments I have done this past quarter was based on the popularity of super foods in the health market. Our demand for these highly nutritious foods is a direct result from the sketchy marketing behind these food products. Because “the term ‘super food’ is not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, marketers can use the phrase freely” (Turner). I conducted an experiment just to see how much the term ‘super food’ influences consumers willingness to pay by comparing how much consumers would pay for a bowl of acai and a bowl of blueberries. Even though “There is little evidence that a Continue reading The behavior of wastefulness // Robert M. Ota→
Over the course of this class, it taught and focused heavily on sustainability: more specifically, being sustainable when producing and consuming food. This class is nothing like I have ever taken. Through videos, books, lectures and other ways of teaching, this class has made a seemingly boring topic, into a very interesting one. Every class we had engaged all students and promoted critical thinking about whichever piece of media we were discussing. This class was extremely influential for me because my family owns a fast food chain, called Jolibee. One of my essays during this class focused on Jollibee and how I believe that fast food chains use tricky advertising – not unlike most organizations in producing food – to attract their customers. For instance, Jollibee and McDonald’s both use their happy meals as incentives for kids to get their parents to buy them fast food. However, while buying them the toy, it not only lets them believe that eating fast food is all right, but also that their parents are supporting the industry that causes widespread obesity around the world.
Cowspiracy, which is one of the films we watched during the class, covers the production side of how meat gets to fast food restaurants. This film was one of the more influential films we engaged in and was one of the most influential on me. The beginning of Cowspiracy, by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn, sets the tone for the entire movie. The purpose of this film is to “address the effects of cattle on the environment” (Andersen). The director’s transition from talking about global warming to al gore to industrial farming was almost seamless and worked perfectly for the film. I found it extremely shocking how just one-quarter pound hamburger needed 660 gallons of water just for that and even more shocking how one hamburger consumes just as much as it takes to shower an entire human for 2 months (Cowspiracy. But that wasn’t where the powerful facts ended, it went on for every second of every minute of this documentary. I found the way he collected information very interesting. He looked at it from every point of view and every aspect of this issue. He used interviews, facts discovered from various studies, using articles and literally every other source of information possible. I also found it incredible how he was able to link the topic of industrial agriculture to fishing and other industries which cause unsustainability.
To get into the details of the movie, I found it shocking how whenever he interviewed someone from different organizations and asked the real, hard questions, they essentially just dodged the questions and answered like a politician. The idea that these organizations that everyone around the world looks towards for advice on how to be sustainable and help the world are also bought out by the people who are actually causing the destruction of our planet. The way money is used to manipulate every industry in our world today is extremely shocking, yet, not many people know about this. Furthermore, the way money is used to hide what is killing us and our world makes things worse because the information we need to survive is being kept from us is extremely frightening. It is unfathomable to do this because even if these businesses are making money now, they have to/should realize that if wipe out the world and kill off everything around us, they won’t be making money anyway. They should begin to take a step back and see what they are really doing to themselves and everyone and everything around them.
This documentary needs to be seen by more people across the globe; in fact, not just this documentary, but every other documentary as well. This movie was a real eye opener for me and makes me truly believe that animal agriculture needs to be stopped and more regulations need to be put in place to battle this issue. I do not like the idea of being subject to a painful end because of the greediness of these huge corporations. They pretend like they care about their employees and other individuals, but don’t realize that what they are doing is going to kill everyone they claim to love. It’s crazy to think that he was able to create this film because he explores topics that no one else has, including looking in to the organizations that are meant to be helping us.
Just like Cowspiracy, many videos, articles and images around are truly eye-opening. Each piece of media represents something unique and is written or shot from the perspectives of great, individual minds. Some of these pieces include “This is Water” and “Consider the Lobster’ by David Foster Wallace, and Meet your Meat by PETA, and “The Scarecrow”. These pieces are unlike any other; this is because these works show another side to how we see things. As consumers, most of us are oblivious to how things work before the kitchen. By that, I mean, to the animals. Most meals served, to me at least, I never think of what the animals went through before it reached my plate; it becomes just any other meal to me. However, after seeing these films, I realize I need to be aware about these things. Each of these pieces are rhetoric, all with the same idea that animal cruelty is wrong; however, what makes these pieces unique is the way the slant is portrayed.
Firstly, in “Consider the Lobster”, David Foster Wallace begins by describing the Lobster Eating Festival. He talks about different varieties of lobsters, he talks about where they come from, and he talks about the background of lobsters and how they used to be peasant food – and now food for the wealthy. Subsequently, the article takes a hard turn when Wallace gets to talking about the festival. Instead of the typical propaganda article that praises everything about the festival, Wallace instead begins, essentially, condemning its existence. In his eyes, nothing about the festival is good and it is essentially promoting the live cooking of these helpless animals. This is how Wallace differentiates himself from other authors: he is able to make an article start off seeming like an informative article, and turn that into a very powerful rhetoric. Despite the piece being focused on lobster, it has a bigger message. This message is that all animals, no matter where they come from, deserve equal treatment to humans.
Contrastingly, Meet your Meat takes an entirely different approach. Meet your Meat, unlike Consider the Lobster, is a video. This video discusses and shows how cruelly animals (cows, cattle, chicken and pigs) are treated at industrial animal farms. In today’s society, most companies care more about profit margins and deadlines more than they do the animal’s lives. Furthermore, Meet your Meat takes a more visual and crude approach. Rather than easing into it, the video goes straight into showing how the chicken, pigs and cows live. Personally, the video was so compelling and had me so dumbfounded that I actually could not finish watching the entire video. Through a more direct approach, PETA and the director of the video instantly shows viewers how cruel animals are treated in farms like these.
As said earlier, all of these pieces are unique; as such, The Scarecrow is unlike any of the other pieces discussed earlier because it takes a more promotional approach. It begins by showing the Chipotle logo before the video begins, then proceeds onto showing chickens being injected with growth hormones and cows being held in terrible conditions. As the video progresses, the Scarecrow, which happens to be the main character of the film, is shown opening up his own food establishment and cooked only fresh products. Although the message above his food stand is “Cultivate a Better World”, insinuating that the main point of the video is to get people to change; however, the true purpose of this video is to implicitly show the viewers that Chipotle uses organic, properly grown animals and fruits and vegetables in their food. The creators of this advertisement make it seem as if their slant is about wanting to better the world.
This is Water by David Foster Wallace is a commencement speech he was asked to give at the Kenyon College class of 2015 graduation ceremony. This speech was truly inspirational which talked about how a person can not only change himself/herself, but how an individual can also change the community around them. During this, Wallace talks about how everyone has options, how everyone has control of their actions; it just becomes a matter of the actions we choose to do and the options we decide to pick. Unlike the other pieces previously discussed, Wallace uses metaphors very heavily; this use of voluminous use of metaphors gives his speech a very unique aspect. Instead of having to directly state his point, he is able to do it through the use of metaphors and through a far more persuasive manner.
Later on in the course, we read The Honest Turh About Dishonesty: How We Lie To Everyone – Especially Ourselves, by Dan Ariely. This was a really thought-provoking book and is very different to the other texts we read and watched. This was different because it didn’t directly talk about the industrial farming industry and unsustainability. Rather, its discussion about how we lie to ourselves and the manner in which we do it provoked my thought about industrial farming. I feel as if that was the point of having this book read last.
The book uses a multitude of examples. One of the ones that stood out to me the most was the experiment concerning the bread delivery man at the offices. This experiment entailed a man selling bread at offices on an honor-system basis. He wouldn’t stand next to his bread while office hours were ongoing, he would just leave them and hope people paid. He found that people were less likely to steal money, but more likely to steal other goods. But that is one way we are lying to ourselves. By stealing anything, we are taking someone else’s money in essence. And this experiment was the experiment which got me to relate this book to the topic of sustainability. Linking it to one of the presentations which a group gave during the course, this experiment is just like how students think they are sustainable because they put their trash in the right place and are concerned about their water usage. In a survey I conducted myself, I found that all students said they were weary of their water usage, but over half showered for 10-20 twice a day. It’s understandable we lie to ourselves – we do it to make ourselves feel better about what we are doing. However, at what point do we have to stop lying to ourselves and face matters head on?
One of my favorite pieces that I wrote myself during this course was my dieting essay. While I was writing it, I thought it would be one of my worst essays; but looking back on it now I feel like its my best essay. This is because I feel like I incorporated all needed details in the essay. I talked about unsustainable living, obesity and the production side of making meat. I feel as if that essay is the best demonstration of how much I have learned in this class. That essay allowed me to cover every aspect of the class and I did not even realise it until looking back on it now. On that note, I extend the duty to become sustainable and live a healthy life to others around me. There are little things in what we are doing right now that could make a big difference – including lessening meat portions and even lessening shower times (even though we now know it doesn’t do much in the big picture).
Vernon, Steve. “How Much Would a Heart Attack Cost You?” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 23 Apr. 2010. Web. 01 Nov. 2016.
K Garber, Andrea, and Robert H Lustig. “Is fast food addictive?.” Currentdrugabusereviews 4.3 (2011): 146-162.
Wallace, David Foster. “Consider the lobster.” Gourmet magazine (2004): 50-64.
Wallace, David Foster. “Kenyon Commencement Address.” “They Say/I Say” The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing. New York: W. W. North, 2012. 198-201. Print
Meet Your Meat. YouTube. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), 14 Mar. 2012. Web. 29 Sept. 2016.
The Scarecrow. Prod. Chipotle Mexican Grill. The Scarecrow. Chipotle Mexican Grill, 11 Sept. 2013. Web. 29 Sept. 2016.
Ariely, Dan. The (honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone-Especially Ourselves. , 2012. Print.
“Why Good Nutrition Is Important | Center for Science in the Public Interest.” Why Good Nutrition Is Important | Center for Science in the Public Interest. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2016.
My Critical Thinking and Writing class consisted of controversial texts and films regarding the food industry, sustainability, and honesty. The main points derived from the class material were points that regarded large social issues; issues that aren’t spoken of enough in our world today. These included the corruption in big food corporations with government lobbying, the health hazards and animal mistreatment in animal agriculture, the manipulation behind advertisement and the truth, and why we lie and what we lie about. All the information read and discussed was open for interpretation and we were required to formulate our own theses on the material provided. While the entire course material impacted me, the most influential was learning about factory farming and the importance on being aware of what we eat.
In high school, my diet was restricted to foods that were placed in front of me. My main diet were the main courses served at my school cafeteria, and meals made by my mom. I was always pleased with the food provided and never put an impactful amount of thought towards my palette. My lack of conscious-eating didn’t result in constant junk-food binging. Rather, I simply didn’t entirely process what I ate and how it affected me.
Going into college I was no longer able to rely on meals being placed in front of me. Yet, I still stuck to the generic popular items and made decisions based on either main items on a menu or what my friends were getting. I looked for what sounded satisfying and I ate it. My decision process was solely based on my appetite. After gaining independence overall and structuring independent thought through my discussion heavy classes, I was slowly able to gain insight and understand the importance of my eating decisions
I precisely remember completing our first homework assignment in my Critical Thinking and Writing class. The assignment was to watch the short film “Meet Your Meat” by Bruce Friedrich. Based off the title, I had a preconceived idea that it was going to be about the animal cruelties faced within factory farming. And that’s exactly what it was. I contained minimal knowledge about the processes involved in factory farming; I knew that there was animal cruelty and lack of sanitation involved, but even then, I never considered cutting out meat. To put it briefly, watching “Meet Your Meat” was a slap in the face. I was struck not only by the images of sick, broken, and fearful animals, but my lack of insight on the subject.
“Meet Your Meat” was just the beginning of the vast information I learned about food dangers. During class we watched the documentary, “Fed Up” by Stephanie Soechtig that discussed the addictive and deadly factors of sugar. Especially within the younger generation, obesity and heart disease are more common due to sugary foods and the manipulative advertisement involved. Money is being lost in health care and gained in the food corporations that sell these products. More money towards more advertisement claiming that fruit gushers are “made with real fruit” and contain an “excellent source of vitamin C” and that Coca-Cola is working to strengthen heart health while consumption of their product actually increases this disease. I will list off a few of the reasons why anyone should cut out meat and limit sugar from their diet that I learned through these two texts.
Sugar is 8 times more addictive than cocaine.
Over 95% of all Americans will be overweight or obese in decades.
By 2050 one out of every three Americans will have diabetes.
The USDA re-classified feces in 1979 in order to allow the poultry industry to pass health regulations.
An egg-laying hen’s cage is eight by eight inches, stacked between three and nine tiers high.
Animal agriculture uses 756 million tons of grain and corn per year, enough to feed the 1.4 billion humans living in poverty.
Animal agriculture is the number one cause of climate change.
Every animal on your plate has suffered.
Within college campuses, there’s a common knowledge that animals aren’t treated well and that sugar consumption leads to heart failure, however, too many times is this information completely disregarded. There’s discussions being held, documentaries being watched, and articles being read. Students participate and gain a sense of empowerment and intellect on the subject, but their actions don’t always reflect their words. Perhaps the letter displayed on their academic records is too distracting to take what we learn in the classroom and form our character around it.
Inching forward in education about our diets is impactful. It’s easy to keep unhealthy eating habits with just a base sense of knowledge not only because it doesn’t require a change in certain crave-loving foods, but also because it’s easier to live our lives in unawareness. “This is Water”, a speech written and presented by David Foster Wallace, explains the concept of awareness in his commencement speech for Kenyon College. He illustrates the boredom placed on everyday 9-5 schedules and how meaningless days can lead to what he calls a natural default setting where we live and act without considering the world around us. He describes how among repetitive schedules, we still have the freedom to choose. Daily frustrations lead to a selfish belief that we know everything and don’t need to consider certain factors. Taking an extra step in “simple awareness” is the “freedom of real education, of learning how to be well adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t.” (Wallace).
College students can directly relate to the lessons given in Wallace’s speech. Attending boring classes and spending long hours in the library can bring frustration and lead to unconscious eating habits. The resources provided on a college campus allow students to further educate themselves in matters that should be given meaning. However, as Wallace described, this requires effort. Students distract themselves in measures that eliminate the subconscious knowledge that eating meat and sugary foods is bad. But the power to think both individually and analytically should be what students take away from the college experience. These thoughts should lead to the act of choosing to change their diet.
Being aware of what we consume is beneficial to both our world and ourselves. Questioning advertisement, reading nutrition labels, and considering animal lives will better a diet. It’s so simple. If you are craving sugar, resort to a piece of fruit or a piece of dark chocolate rather than highly processed sour patched kids. When choosing which brands to buy from, chose local with the knowledge that big corporations already have dangerous powers to further spread disease. Try and strain away from animal products. Substitute tofu for chicken, almond milk for milk, a veggie burger for a hamburger.
A gain in independence when attending college brings a gain in responsibilities. The infamous freshman 15 accurately displays the lack of thought involved in student eating. It’s a learning process and once students can wrap their head around the importance of conscious eating, not only will the change improve their physical health improve, but also their mentality. Practicing awareness and self-control is important in all aspects of life. Taking information that is given to us and analyzing its meaning and truthfulness.
After watching “Meet Your Meat”, I made one of the largest decisions of my life: to cut out meat. It’s been 7 months since this decision and through that time I’ve grown in my mental capacity. I’m able to analyze all my food decisions and work towards creating a healthier self. Not only do I care about the lives of animals, but I care about my health and well-being. I limit sugar intake and focus on consuming substitutes for animal products. I chose to change my diet and it’s a decision that I believe makes me happier. Every meal I eat, I eat with no guilt involved. My diet is slowly improving as I am always involving myself in articles and discussions about what is best for myself.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York, Back Bay Books / Little, Brown and Company, 2009.
I’ve been repeating that line for much of my life (“That’s literally what a pessimist would say”).
I dunno, I don’t see how anyone can be a consistent optimist in this life. To look at most, if not all, situations and dilemmas that our current world offers up and to crack a smile, swing your arm across your chest with a thumbs up, and say that it’ll all be good and dandy just seems like a step away from insanity, sheer thickness, or simply intoxication in my opinion.
There’s a lot of things wrong with the world, and people tend to forget that despite all our intelligence and technological progress, we’re still animals. We can still do dumb or damaging things to each other. We’re not computers that can spot flaws in our ways of living and correct them automatically. Bruce Wayne perfectly summed up—
Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. I just realized that this part should probably be inserted later in this blog post/essay. At least I think it should.
I decided to make this post my most creative and free flowing piece of my two quarters in this class. It’s as close to a “speak into a microphone and listen to it back so you can write it down” as I’ve ever done in an essay. This class has gotten me to release the bucking bronco that is my essay writing style- yearning for endless pastures to roam free and stretch his mighty legs and hooves (wait, hooves can’t be stretched).
I digress. Back to the introduction, so that I can return to that brilliant use of a Chris Nolan Bruce Wayne quote to add to my analysis (unless that was all part of my introduction, *wink wink*).
I didn’t even notice the subtitle of our class until the first day of it, when it was mentioned by name. I walked in with basically the same frame of mind that every non-English major walked in with, which is that of someone having to take driving school after causing a car crash, or a parent bracing themselves for “the talk” with their first kid: this is gonna take a while, but I just gotta get through it without either screwing up too bad or mentally degenerating.
I’m not a fan of the traditional writing/English class. For the usual reasons: don’t want to read something I don’t want to read in the first place; don’t want to write multiple pages on some abstract concept I probably don’t care about, I’m pretty fluent and well-spoken in the language in the first place, and my work ethic still hasn’t recovered from the crippling case of Senioritis I contracted a few years ago (yes, I caught Senioritis before senior year of high school- a travesty, I know). Basically, I wasn’t expecting this class to break me from the apathy that held me like the way dried lava holds a Mount Vesuvius eruption victim.
Boy, was I wrong. I knew I was in for something when I learned this class was titled “Food Porn”. I love food, lemme tell ya. I love witty names that have deeper meanings. This class didn’t disappoint, though we didn’t watch nearly as much food, food porn, or porn as one would have expected.
The class and its direction was like Shrek’s Shakespearian description of an onion:
You know s**t’s not gonna be boring when two of the first assignments are to watch David Foster Wallace’s This Is Water and the documentary Fed Up (both of which, by the way, I highly recommend). Wallace’s famous speech basically urges his graduating college student audience to always remain aware of the world and life that surrounds them, lest they remain ignorant and unhappy as they transition into becoming full time members of the labor force. Fed Up attempted to create such an awareness by spotlighting America’s current addiction to sugar, and how this addiction is essentially being forced upon the nation due to the big food corporations that have taken control of government regulation, at the cost of a current obesity epidemic that’s hit our children especially hard.
As somebody that is keenly interested in any social and psychological aspect of humanity, I was hooked. As a proud Bernie Sanders supporter that is always eager to tell people just howdeeply screwed our society is because of big business and the wealthy interests, you better goddamn believe I had readied my pitchfork, torch, and fiery speech for the next class meeting after watching the documentary.
The class only got more profound in its topics, which in turn led the class discussions and essays to be more profound in our reflections and more complex in the formation and communication of our ideas.
From the sample platter that was the two videos we moved on to the main dishes, namely Jonathan Foer’s Eating Animals and Dan Ariely’s The Honest Truth About Dishonesty. The former novel was part investigative journalism, part ethical reflection- both of which funneled into the topic of modern industrial agriculture, with its treatment of animals bred for slaughter and its effects on the environment, an increasingly urbanizing society, and the rest of the farming industry particularly being highlighted. The latter was a thoroughly scientific adventure into the psychology of lying and cheating.
Those two books stirred up a lot of deep talks. Well, as deep as an hour and forty minute class with twenty sober college freshmen can get. We talked and wrote about whether eating meat was wrong, if abstaining from eating meat was the proper solution to the effects that cattle rearing was having on our world (spoilers: no bueno), the place that dishonesty has in our way of life, the morality of lying, the idea of morality in general, what it means to do a good deed after learning the truth of something immoral (*COUGHCOUGHvirtuismischildishandidioticCOUGHCOUGH*), and basically any subtopic that lies within this broad spectrum of discussion points.
In the end, however, in these discussions I always felt like a big, ugly, dark grey cloud that was chilling right smack in the middle of a beautifully sunny day – always there to ugly up the day by reminding everyone that darkness cannot really be gone (unless you’re into dark, ugly skies, in which case I got nothing for ya my guy).
The reason for feeling this way is probably the reason why I was the pessimist of the classroom. To nearly every discussion, I felt that embracing the so-called negative side was one of, if not the right call.
Talking about dishonesty and if it belongs in our society? Hell yeah it does. Science shows it’s a part of our evolutionary psychology to deal with the stresses of life and forge ahead, fam. Deal with it.
What about morality in general? What about it? Nobody will ever agree on a consensus, so it’s rather pointless to argue the finer points of dishonesty, eating meat, corporate incentives, etc.
How can we fix our factory farming problem? We can’t. Our economy and our government are now ruled by massive corporations that only care about profits, and our increasingly interdependent society is moving us like a conveyer belt towards a dystopian future in which we are dependent on them for everything from information to food.
Well, actually, I believe there is one way we can solve every problem related to factory farming and overproduction of meat, but it’s about as pretty as Donald Trump’s second chin. We have to partially die off as a species.
Whoa there, Debbie Downer! Are you serious? Yeah. At least, I think so. Our world is being drained of resources and pumped full of pollution by an industry that is rushing to satisfy our rising demand for meat, which follows our rising population. Scientists have been saying that our global population is rising at an unsustainable rate. The best way to stop this is to drastically reduce our reproduction rate, let the older generations die off, take the massive economic and societal blow, and rebuild.
Now, someone might respond to any of these issues with the hopeful ideal that maybe someday we will change.
First of all, humans are sedimentary creatures. Without a burning incentive, we generally will not do something, especially something as large-scaled like the cultural shift away from meat or the total rejection of dishonesty in academia, social dynamics, and the workplace. As Bruce Wayne perfectly summed up in Batman Begins, “People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy…”
Beyond the brilliance of the Dark Knight Trilogy as works of art, this quote cannot ring any more true in my opinion. For example, we didn’t deal with totalitarianism until a second world war happened. We didn’t deal with unregulated and illegal activity by Wall Street until the global economy faceplanted (and we did a really good job of fixing that problem by the way- a really thorough and well done job).
What dramatic example could possibly shake us out of the apathy of letting industries make our food for us, pollute our world, destroy our ecosystems, and continuously lie to us about it? Unless it’s a global catastrophe, I highly doubt anything will progress beyond a Twitter hashtag movement.
I remember saying before in class that while I absolutely loved how this class raised my awareness over many key topics, I also hated that it always led my mind to the same depressing conclusion: we’re sort of screwed either way.
Nobody can really challenge the powers that be of today’s industrialized, globalized world. Unless someone takes over our government and enacts radical, positive change, even through force if necessary.
Not really. Meh.
While I will always be grateful that I am now a more conscious consumer and person in general, I can’t help but shrug my shoulders in acceptance of our impending doom.
Which reminds me. That quote at the title has dashes for a reason. Because it’s not complete, in my opinion.
I’m not a pessimist. I’m a realist— it’s just that reality sucks.