I’m enjoying reading Michael Pollan because I know that I’ll agree with him when he flays the same crowd I do and then disagree with him when he goes off on his leftie nonsense. He loves to mention “elephant in the room” but, like most lefties, doesn’t really understand how evil capitalism is and how much it deceives us, esp. lefties with false clues.
I’m speaking of In Defense of Food, which in its first section, “The Age of Nutritionism” I almost entirely agree, but then in the second section, “The Western Diet and the Diseases of Civilization” I think is almost totally wrong! Pollan has been suckered into missing the elephant in the room, greedy capitalism.
We start with the premise that Americans are unhealthy, at least compared to other nations. This is not a simple proposition all by itself (given the financial incentives of the medical system encourage us to be hypochondriacs) but I’ll let it stand. What then is the cause?
Of course it’s diet. Why? Well this is a book about food. Pollan brings up the “streetlight” example, i.e. the old story of the drunk looking for his keys under the streetlight, not because that’s where he lost them, but because that’s where the light is. Pollan is interested in food and blaming nutritionism and the food lobby so that’s where he sees the light, but not so interested in blaming Wall Street and fossil fuel outfits, who are the real villains.
Americans have lots of things “wrong” with them. Yes, we eat a lot of junk food. But we also (as other studies/surveys have shown): a) work more hours than other nations, b) are way more stressed, mostly due to work, c) consume too much because we have been brainwashed into believing greed is good, wealth is to be desired and he-who-has-the-most-toys-when-he-dies wins, d) we sleep too little, mostly due to work, e) we worry too much, mostly due to fear-mongering on the mass medium and need to consume the latest fad, e) we’re very insecure, esp. about body image, something promoted by the fashion industry, f) we’re steadily becoming more ignorant and the least educated people in the world, g) we’re steadily becoming more anti-science, because science is hard and for nerds, but also it contradicts the Kochs and the Tea Baggers and Religion, so the average person can no longer read an article about food and understand it, much less question it, h) we’re less happy than almost any other society, i) we’re more socially isolated despite pioneering social networking (because why have real friends if you can have even more virtual ones), j) we don’t do physical activity, either work (because labor is bad in this country and since the rightwingers started their war on working people) or exercise (watch (and spend) the Super Bowl instead of go for a bike ride), and, so forth. On and on, dozens, hundreds, even, of things we do differently than the rest of the world.
But there is a pattern here. Much of that other list of differences is tied to us being wage slaves (for less and less each year) to the capitalist system that uses every trick in the book to drive down wages, thus forcing us to work more for less. And that causes stress, esp. at the same time as we glorify greed and wealth and consumption which all of us who have less and less money must nonetheless consume more and more. We live in a ratrace of destructive capitalism gone wild. We have to have too big houses, so we’ll borrow too much money, so some bond trader at Goldman Sachs can make an extra million in bonus. We have to have too big a gas guzzling car so a different trader at Goldman Sachs can make so more commission on oil speculation (instead of a great bike that won’t make them a penny but will get us a workout). And we eat too much so another speculator can rig commodities market for illicit gains.
No, Michael, the elephant in the room is not our diet, it’s our bondage to the capitalist nightmare of criminal greed, over-consumption and thus over-work. We eat fast food, yes, because it is a tempting drug, but also so we can get back to our wage slave desks.
This is the flaw of not understanding statistics. Our diet is bad, our health is bad. This is an “association”, not a loop of causality. The cause of diseases of civilization is money and greed and gross consumption, of which diet ends up being a tiny tip of that iceberg. You can show just as much statistical connection between the square footage of our houses as you can with fast food. All these variables associated with a non-sustainable consumption- and greed-oriented society have just as much association with our health as our diet does.
So diet is just what our slavemasters let us complain about. Goldman Sachs doesn’t care if we attack McDonalds (and thus ignore them). The Kochs don’t care if we attack Cargill as long as we don’t look at carbon. And the doctors don’t mind if we attack diet and the so-called (but totally false) “metabolic syndrome” if we don’t look too closely at our absurd health-care (aka, windfall for providers and insurance companies) system. And politicians don’t mind if we blame FDA Food Pyramids so they can do their sleight-of-hand at the SEC or Treasury or Fed as they handout trillions to Wall Street.
No diet is the politically acceptable whipping boy of western society. Because, other than a little blame we throw at the drugdealers we can mostly blame the addicts. And in our self-loathing then we won’t even be looking for the real villains.
So, Michael, wise up. You’ve been duped. You’ve let your Berkeley, Chez Panisse, organic/vegan/localism/raw food fads substitute for your critical judgment of the political and economic system. Yes, the real villain is corporate, but not farming or production or distribution or retail. Corporate control, which is just the body of the vampire squid of Goldman Sachs, that controls everything so a handful of people can get extremely rich. So blame the right thing, Michael.