Monday, August 10, 2009

Life Imitating Cartoons

A few weeks ago I went to visit an elderly sister, who was in hospital with a broken hip. The monastery chaplain went with me. He has a weakness for hamburgers, so we went to a fast food joint. It may seem difficult to believe, but before that day I had never eaten in such a place. It was something out of a nightmare.

The entire interior was molded plastic in cream and nursery blue, like something out of a badly made television cartoon. Life now imitates cartoons. The ropes demarking lines guided customers, like cattle, gently towards the slaughter. Although there was no background music, I could hear frozen screaming. I came close to having a panic attack, or a fit of wild weeping, neither of which I am prone to. I tried to hide my distress from my companion, but the memory would not go away. I reflected for days on why the place had upset me.

I tried to think of positive aspects of fast food eateries. Yes, they employ poor people. Yes they sell cheap protein. But at what cost? I tried to discuss it with a sister who has an MBA, who defended business. "It's marketing," she said.

The following week on the way back to the hospital, this time alone, I reflected that it is precisely the marketing that is the problem: it pretends to offer freedom but takes it away; it pretends to give you choice, but narrows your vision; it pretends to give you potential while slamming the door; it pretends to offer you the chance to become a bigger and better person, while reducing you to an obese and robotic infant.

Worst of all, the plastic box in which you sit pretends to offer you a haven while in reality it assaults you, removing all possibility of silence, thought or reflection. "I'll have a triple Vacuity, a medium Frozen Scream and a large order of Lies, please." It offers a blasphemous parody of what a meal should be, even alone with oneself. The only option is to shut down, order, pay, munch (huddled and hunched) and depart.


Blogger Dogo Barry Graham said...

This is my favorite thing I've read by you far.

9:56 am, August 11, 2009  
Blogger it's margaret said...

Oh this is very good! It reads like Beaudrillard!

2:27 am, August 25, 2009  
Blogger Joel said...

Terrifying! Have you read Ellul's "Propaganda"? I'm in it at the moment and after reading your blog for today really is scary. It is all so subtle. T.S. Eliot would love you too I bet.

1:57 pm, August 25, 2009  

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