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 how deeply 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.
Sources Used and Cited:
Bernie Sanders gif: https://tenor.com/view/bernie-sanders-gif-4997444
Shrek gif: https://tenor.com/view/shrek-onions-gif-5703242
Spectrum gif: https://www.google.com/search?q=everything+is+a+spectrum+gif&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjM-eb0lL_UAhUJ_mMKHWnnArUQ_AUICigB&biw=1307&bih=695#imgrc=fq950bFq55xQiM:
Nihilism image: http://www.motifake.com/nihilism-nihilism-demotivational-posters-130105.html
Batman Begins. Warner Bros., 2005.