Thursday, November 15, 2012

Uncle Kierkegaard Ruined Thanksgiving

Chefs Give Nod to Vegetarian Dishes, Haughtily

Vegetables: scorned and maligned as rabbit food or loved as vessels to get more animal fat into one's mouth.  The cool new thing to give a culinary fuck about says the New York Times.  Chefs for the briefest moment take off their sweat-stained "I love Bacon" t-shirts and place them in the hamper to finally be washed.  Is this a turn for the more ethically-minded foodie?  No, probably not, because most foodie-isms are passionately apolitical though occasionally draped in a mimicry of environmentalism.  Nobody becomes a foodie because they want to consume less,  they want more and more -- they want the best and as much of it.  Their body and minds are passive slaves to whatever new refinement is forced into the orifice of pop-culinary's choosing.  Occasionally, however, they feel guilty for a second, and they explain that somehow their unrestrained pursuit of pleasure at any price is the same force that can stop growing global crises that ironically are caused by unrestrained consumption.

But how can this happen -- squash is cool?  Vegetables are cool when only yesterday the king was hipster-pork where the obesity epidemic's love of pork rinds combined with the hipster-foodie's francophilia, creating charcuterie menus in every restaurant, turning them into orgiastic pork binges.  Wait, really, squash is cool now?  I was into squash way before squash was cool.  I have all of squash's records on vinyl.  I call vegetables veggies for short -- I just have that kind of relationship with vegetables, don't be envious.

Squash just got invited to P. Diddy's white party -- check out the watch!

So where is this going?  I'd love to enjoy this moment to wonder if maybe I won't be the guy ruining everybody's good time because I'm the voyeur at the pork orgy -- my inactivity somehow being a condemnation.  Could Thanksgiving be more than just an awkward exchange for me about why I'm not eating the turkey -- full of answers that strike rage and annoyance through the everyday person's mind.  It's a nice fantasy, but the reality is that the veggie-fad is fleeting, as all pleasure or aesthetic-based movements are.

Oh no, who invited Kierkegaard?

Wiser men have realized much earlier than me that our relationships with the world can be easily categorized.  Kierkegaard, everybody's favorite Danish, Existential theologist/philosopher -- sorry all you Martin Luther fan-boys out there -- theorized about three modes of existence for a human.  In the briefest outline, he divides these modes into the aesthetic, the ethical and the religious/spiritual.  A person would go from the basest level of the aesthetic mode, which is undermined by the ethical, which in turn is undermined by the religious/spiritual mode.  How does this relate to trending food interests?  While Kierkegaard was talking about general psychological modes of existence in humanity, food is a part of the way we choose to live, and as we spend so much time obtaining, preparing and eating food, it is a huge aspect of our lives.

The person of the aesthetic mode of being is lost, turning inward to the reflections of his pleasures.  There is a constant pursuit of attaining more and more pleasure, which ultimately desensitizes pleasure, demanding an endless pursuit of greater novel pleasure.  It's a random play of meaningless sensory data, played with, experimented with as nothing of any real weight or concern.  The focus on pleasure and sense smudges and distorts the reality of the relationships and commitments you have to others; you are trapped in the lie of solipsisms where consequences for a manic pursuit of novel pleasure can be easily ignored.  The reality that your pleasure-seeking, inward-turned consciousness is incomplete, feels incomplete, as the haunting reality that the other, the person outside of yourself, is waiting for you to recognize them.

When one recognizes the other, they see the consequences of their actions; they see their true selves in the eyes of others and to what a profound degree they owe their entire being to others; they feel a profound guilt, and they enter into the ethical mode of being.  Now actions must be weighed for their consequences for others.  All senseless pursuits of pleasure and all trivial play with the senses need to be measured and stymied by the needs of others.  The ethical person follows rules and laws that are in the interest of all, not just himself.

The religious/spiritual dimensions is not as relevant to my point and is more abstracted and complicated in Kierkegaard.  But, in the most basic sense, at various times the ethical will be superseded for an ineffable reality only experienced by a sole individual in relationship to something transcendent.  Kierkegaard goes into the theological issue of Abraham's attempted sacrifice of Isaac which is a Biblical example of the supra-ethical.

In sum, following cool food trends, whether they be offered up on a plate by a chef, or by a corporation, or a dietician, or the state, is the basest relationship we can have to food.  The aesthete's world is profoundly lonely and meaningless, an array of edible colors, constantly shifting, the arbitrary sensation ahead inexplicably cooler than what you have now.  Eating vegetables because it is in vogue is an inferior mode of human existence, though by accident it may have a beneficial environmental or health impact, that is not the pure intent of the action.  To ignore the consequences of your decisions and to pursue food as an apolitical act of sensory pleasure will leave you with a strange aftertaste in your mouth.  That aftertaste is the specter of the immense suffering and destruction thoughtless consumption causes.

Friday, November 2, 2012

5-Hour Energy: Pink Lemonade: Energy Supplement

A fantastical wish to end breast cancer by adorning yourself in the color pink is a woman's political issue that everybody can get behind.  Delightfully deluded, minimal commitment and an excuse to rock that new salmon-toned ensemble you've been shying away from for months, breast-cancer-awareness-ethical-consumerism is the answer to all of our problems.  The options are endless -- breast-cancer awareness chips, breast-cancer awareness soap, breast-cancer awareness energy drinks  -- the caffeine, taurine and b-vitamins surging through our bodies making us uncontrollably aware, ready for action!

Women's issues and political causes often run into an array of problems that hinder their popularity.  How do we avoid the messy bind of those feministic issues that leave us with the inconvenience of acknowledging the personhood of women and their real, substantial well-being?  Because we don't want women to get sick and die from something as horrible as breast cancer -- who would go food shopping and make dinner?  Susan G. Komen For The Cure, the organization behind the pink-tinged charitable efforts like Breast Cancer Awareness Walks, along with the doppelgänger organization The Avon Foundation have the solution for how to make women's issues popular.

Who could assist them in the most unpopular subject of women's political issues?  Seems they take a couple of notes from the most popular purveyor of women: pornography.  Equality, liberation and indelible rights don't have universal appeal and in many ways might hinder the efficiency with which your laundry will get washed.  How do we support women while also actively oppressing them?  Create a dialogue about women's health and political issues by talking about women solely in terms of their bodies, which is how society always deals with the threat of women's unrealized political power and how Avon and Komen's political rhetoric and cause gain such popularity.

Let's do a mini-deconstruction of their most prevalent rhetoric.  Sometimes the basest slogans speak louder than any manifesto.  "I love Boobies" or "Honk For Hooters" are unfortunately common slogans found on bumper stickers that are meant to be tongue-in-cheek but reveal tacitly the kind of dialogue that is allowed to be had about a woman's issue.  The popularity of these slogans speaks volumes.  Women are reduced to breasts, objects that need to be preserved, not persons that need to be given at least the sufficient financial and social status necessary to actively secure their own health.  If you broach how objective financial inequality and gender norms might contribute to illness, all of a sudden you're a crazed militant.  Women can only be brought into the public foray as bodies, to be dissected, to be regulated, to become an object of desire or didactic revulsion.  Nothing sells magazines like Kim Kardashian's butt; nothing sells a political idea about women like breasts.

Justin Bieber, hero of women's political causes

"Hey, stop ruining Avon's and Komen's party with your analysis, we're just talking about saving boobs through charitable efforts, like giving proceeds to breast cancer research by selling carcinogenic products.  I also happen to really enjoy power walking as a swath of pink-clad women!" -- Dumbest Person Ever

Susan G. Komen For The Cure and the Avon Foundation in all their brilliant political wisdom have used everybody's favorite post-modern ploy of "ethical consumerism."  When you hear the word post-modern, you know irony is about to rain down upon you in a torrential form.  Aligning themselves with numerous products, these Komen endorsed products will give a portion of their proceeds to cancer research.  You can feel good about eating an entire box of Cheez-its because a marginal portion of that money went to the nebulous coffers of a charity-machine-complex.  Dove soap too has gotten on board the Komen train at various points.  Now the most recent product has arrive as 5-hour Energy: Pink Lemonade Flavor: a condensed energy drink supplement loaded with caffeine, B-vitamins and mysterious, poorly regulated, untested supplements.

Finally, all of the problems of thoughtless consumerism can be solved by thoughtless consumerism, i.e. ethical consumerism.  Cheez-its are an oily, carb-bomb junk food product that have most definitely contributed to the obesity epidemic in America if their cheesy-greasy fingertips are any evidence; obesity significantly effects the survival rate of breast cancer patients.  I'll give you a hint, the big girls don't make it -- sorry, M4BBW, I know you didn't want to hear that.  Dove soap markets itself as a pure, simple product for daily cosmetic and hygiene needs when it is actually rife with potentially carcinogenic ingredients such as parabens; parabens affect hormones in the human body and could increase the risk of breast cancer.  5-hour energy is a supplement product, putting itself outside of the already lax regulations on food by the FDA.  An arbitrary blend of amino acids, caffeine and B-vitamins, it has been connected to seizures in children, and the large dosage of caffeine can create potential heart complications.  Vitamins supplements, most likely cheap, unregulated vitamins in this product have been correlated with increased risk of death and may very likely be carcinogenic.  Susan G. Komen For the Cure feels great about their connections with these disease causing products.  Looks like they found their cure, and it is at the bottom of a Cheez-it box -- but a pink Cheez-it box mind you.

Post-modern-irony-connection: successfully completed.