I'm sure you've all probably seen this in various form around the net, everyone and their brother seems to be reposting it (usually with out credit the original photographer):
What the World Eats, photos by Peter Menzel. It's a series of pictures of families in different nations, sitting with all their groceries for one week. This was originally emailed to me by a work associate, with the comment, "Don't know about you, but right about now, I'm counting my blessings! Sure glad we live in America." Really? Really? I am seriously appalled that anyone would look at this and take that sentiment away from it. My immediate response to it is that I have been slacking lately on my personal pledge not buy prepackaged food and to eat more vegetables. My secondary response to it is that middle class culture, universally, around the world, eats a disgusting amount of non-food items. This is clearly one more sign/symptom of the decline of western civilization. I am going to eat an apple now. And then contemplate making my own tortillas and subsequently my own tortilla chips, as that is one of the few packaged foods I cannot live with out. I will, of course, never follow on this contemplation.
Naturally before I was sitting here feeling all high and mighty about this, I was out, earlier this morning, where I bought myself a bunch of make-up and other useless crap. So later I can go home and make myself feel very very pretty, while simultaneously beating myself up mentally for not being a hairy-legged hippie who could care less about how she looks. Le sigh. Perhaps as I move into my 35th year my meditations should focus more on accepting and balancing the series of contradictions that I am.
I have actually been thinking about food a lot lately. I've run across stories about the current global food crisis in a variety of media this week. I find it really upsetting. America, the Land of Plenty, people starving in other countries, blah blah blah. Sure, right, who doesn't find it upsetting if they dwell on it? The failure of decent world trade, the crumbling international economies, the terrifying rise of nationalism and conservative ideals in middle class "Western" countries, and very real threat of global climate change are all very clear signs that we have passed a tipping point. Sure crazy radical revolutionaries like myself have been saying such things since the 70s (and surely earlier) that western civilization will topple, that we are living in end times, that we've too long been living on a bad colonial model and living beyond our means. I just don't know what is to be done about it. I mean, I live in and am a product of the country and the culture into which I was born. I am incredibly materialistic, and yet ethically against the very foundations that make that kind of materialism possible for me. I am, essentially a moral failure, though still incredibly idealistic. The question is, really, what to do about it? I mean, I'm not going to run off and live in woods and grow all my food. I can continue to work to be a better person. But, how much work do I need to do? Can I be satisfied working in small family-owned business, and working to make small steps in teaching people about energy conservation? Should I run off work harder to help feed poor kids in other countries? Would it even matter if I did?
Ugh, I anticipated introspection this week, pre-birthday and all. I wasn't actually expecting to have a moral crisis about how I live my life. Excuse me, I'll be over here in my designer jeans, putting on eyeshadow and trying to calculate how much I have spent on cosmetics and wondering many months of food I could have purchased for a family in Africa with that cash. Later I will go out and have fun with my friends and then stick myself with pins for not remembering to feel the suffering of the rest of the world acutely enough. Or perhaps I'll forgo all of that, take up pot smoking as a hobby, and forget I ever worried about any of this.