Note: The blog’s been really quiet lately because life was crazy this past month: wedding, volunteering, end of Summer, and a bunch of other things. But we’re back!
Two good friends of mine recommended that I’d watch the documentary “Samsara” (check it out), which I did, not long ago. It’s a stunningly beautiful non-verbal documentary, excellent cinematography showing several sequences of different aspects of humanity. Being non-verbal, the message is quite open for interpretation, and it surely left me with some thoughts.
There was this sequence about food (here!) that really turned my guts around, but it affected mostly my mind. You see, I love being a carnivore, and I don’t plan on ever becoming a full on vegetarian, but knowing that what was shown in that video is more or less our global reality made me consider it. Still, don’t worry, this is not another pro-vegan post in the internet. I will talk about food, but the issue I want to address is deeper. It’s about entitlement, ignorance, some recipes and a bit of history.
Think of the greatest symbol of capitalism and Western freedom: a good burger. Bread, mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, a nice patty of beef (maybe with an egg and flower mixed in), cheese, strips of bacon. Burgers are awesome, and I really mean it. Now for dessert, think of a really fluffy and amazing chocolate cake: eggs, milk, refined wheat flower, chocolate from cocoa grown in Africa or Central America, butter, sugar, salt, some drops of vanilla, perhaps coffee, baking soda.
Now realize this: Not too long ago, specially before the industrial revolution, very few people would have access to all of these ingredients together. Most human populations always lived on few ingredients that would change depending on the region, usually some form of grain, some form of meat, and some form of vegetable or fruit. Most of the world population has always been poor, living in service or slavery to rich lords in exchange to minimum sustenance and protection, so that that lord (or priests) would have access to things like meat products and anything that is expensive and rare, while most people would live on rations of grain and whatever is really abundant in the region. Then there are the more tribal communities, that would do agriculture and hunt, perhaps with more variation due to their environment, but still limited to what is accessible in that environment.
Basically, to get a burger, think about how many people were involved into planting, harvesting, raising the animals, slaughtering, milking, producing the cheese, raising the chicken and taking the eggs, then the packaging and transportation of all the ingredients, and then entering a market chain, for you to finally buy them all not far from your home, prepare your burger, and perhaps throw some of it in the garbage because you ate too much already and can’t finish it.
Our modern diet is the stuff that only kings would have access during most of human history. And we all think everyone should have access to it, have more, have better, with more variation, and we become taste critics and we waste so much of it all.
But at what price? Raising animals in absolutely inhumane conditions? Slowly killing ourselves with diabetes and heart attacks and cancer? Having slaves or near-slavery conditions for workers in other countries (or immigrants in your own country!) whose daily wages are less than the price we pay for an average burger in any fast-food? And those modern almost-slaves should still be happy and thankful, because after all, we brought them “modernity” and “capitalism”, we gave them jobs, right?
I don’t believe we would, or could, ever have the things we have — the most basic things, not only food but also clothes and electronics — without the systematic oppression our capitalist system brought to poorer countries, and without the systematic ignorance that is kept in education, mainstream media and advertising.
The problem is that the population keeps rising, we keep wanting more, and the poor we oppress are more and more vindicating to have the same as we do, and although the planet has more than enough resources to feed everyone, it definitely does not have enough for us all to have AAA steaks and imported cheese and what not. If everyone in the whole process received fair wages and all animals were raised with dignity, the final products would be way too expensive. We would all go back to simple local grains and have meat on rare occasions. To top it, I believe God is quite angry, just from what I know of his character by what is described in the sacred texts. He really cares about the poor, you know.
Is there a way to actually fix this? Can large masses give up on the luxury they were taught to feel entitled for? I don’t know. Would you? Alone you can’t change the system, but if nobody does anything, then there is just no hope. Will God do anything? We should be thankful He hasn’t yet, because we are the bad guys in this story.
…We might just watch the world burn.