There I was, walking along 30th Avenue in Astoria, NY. Just a few steps in front of me, two men and a little girl were strolling at a casual pace. The men, in their late 20s, were deep in conversation but one was clearly keeping on eye on the girl. She was no more than five but, wow, she had “it.” Precocious, confident, charming-you could see it all in a glance. As we all passed an Italian deli, Cool Kid looked to her left and then turned to one of the men.
“Dad,” she said, giggling uncontrollably. “The sign on that store over there said ‘We carry frozen snails’.” Before I had more than a millisecond to appreciate how easily and quickly Cool Kid was able to read the sign while walking past, her dad turned to her.
With comic timing that would make any Vaudevillian drool, he replied: “I bet their hands are cold.” (insert rimshot here) And dig this: Cool Kid got her father’s pun. She was laughing her little head off the rest of the way down the block.
Slapstick aside, the tragic realities of the standard American diet are unavoidable yet often as invisible as a frozen snail. As I continued my way down 30th Avenue, I saw a butcher standing in front of his shop-chatting amiably with passersby…his white frock stained deep red with blood.
Essentially nobody noticed the crimson splatter and those that do, well, they won’t even flinch.
Behind the butcher, sheep carcasses hang from large hooks in the window…their bulging lifeless eyes seemed to stare accusingly at the butcher’s back. He didn’t appear to notice. Essentially nobody noticed and those that do, well, they won’t even flinch.
The next block brought me in contact with the fish store. Wet cardboard boxes filled with marine corpses piled in front…the street smelled like death. Beyond the stench, essentially nobody noticed and those that do, well, they won’t even flinch.
Looking into the fish store window, I saw a tiny aquarium tank. At least a dozen doomed lobsters were piled atop one another…their claws taped.
Essentially nobody noticed and those that do, well, they won’t even flinch.
Do you know what happens when a writer points all this out, refuses to participate, and urges others to do the same? You can be sure plenty of folks will notice and, ladies and gentlemen, the flinching will begin.
When asked what he’d want people to believe, British biologist Richard Dawkins replied, “I would want them to believe whatever evidence leads them to; I would want them to look at the evidence, judge it on its merits, not accept things because of internal revelation or faith, but purely on the basis of evidence.”
But what happens when evidence is doled out on a need-to-know basis?
“We act according to the way we experience the world,” writes Derrick Jensen in Thought to Exist in the Wild: Awakening from the Nightmare of Zoos. “We experience the world according to how we perceive it. We perceive it the way we have been taught.”
How we’ve been taught helps to cultivate our beliefs. Or should I say McBeliefs?
The news about McDonald’s “brainwashing” broke in Summer 2007. A study showed that children prefer food-any food, in fact-that comes in a McDonald’s wrapper. Identical foods were served in name brand and unmarked wrappers and the children were asked which tasted better. The food adorned with the Golden Arches won every time. Even a hated veggie like carrots tasted better to the kids when served in a McDonald’s wrapper. “You see a McDonald’s label and kids start salivating,” said childhood development specialist Diane Levin.
“Advertisers have tried to do exactly what this study is talking about-to brand younger and younger children, to instill in them an almost obsessional desire for a particular brand-name product,” said Dr. Victor Strasburger of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Tom Robinson, the study’s author, said the kids’ taste perception was “physically altered by the branding.”
I’ll bet even Cool Kids find it hard to resist the branding.
Mickey Z. can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.
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