Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bad food

The book by Mats-Eric Nilsson - Den hemlige kocken (The secret cook) - gives a very scary and up-to-date telling of how the food industry of today feeds us with the worst possible crap they can manage to sell. In general everything is done in order to save money. For the producers. If this was known to all, the market would sure look different!

I'll try to condense what he says into a format that is manageable:

The first chapter is about companies specialized in making products making food taste as it should do. Yeah, it's just as screwed up as it sounds. The modern food industry is so industrialized that what comes out of it has to be faked in order to even resemble food. Special ingredients to make the beef taste and look like it was grilled. Colours to give the food the right look. Taste enhancers to get the tiny remains of real ingredient to taste enough.

In fact, there are so many phony things they add to food, just listing them makes me sick of it. So I won't. But there are chemical solutions to alter everything - shape, taste, texture, sweetness, smell. If you really care exactly what, please get this book or an equivalent. Otherwise you could stick to my simple rules for food that I've listed on this blog already.

What I find interesting is why these problems exist at all. Why don't the governments stop this? A few simple rules are all that is needed! Of course you can blame it on the customers, as usual. "But the customers buy this and that so obviously there is a market." "But the people buy this and that, why would they not be allowed to?"

This is making things far too simple. The problem is that nobody can know what kind of crap there is in the food, because there is simply too much of it! But why? Why does the consumer buy light mayonnaise even though it's not possible to make a light mayonnaise? Because there is one! Somebody that likes mayonnaise but is concerned about her intake of fat, will of course be delighted to see a light mayonnaise! Which is why the market provides the product, no matter what. It doesn't matter that it's filled with chemicals but still doesn't taste like a proper mayonnaise. The producer wants to sell and the customer wants to have it, wants to believe it's just as good but far more healthy. The only way to stop this is for the government to step in and say that using all these chemicals is not ok. Or, as with some other products, say that a "mayonnaise" must include this and that and nothing else. I'm sorry, but I can't see any other solution than government regulation, in order to save its citizens.

Because that's the point - this ignorance is a threat to our health. Light products make us fat. Chemicals making sweets colourful makes my skin burst out with pimples and can cause allergies and even worse side effects in big doses. The animal food industry is stressing animals to death. And whatever we do as consumers, this won't stop. But for your own sake - eat healthy!

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. - Cat's cradle

I tend to read quite a lot and often the books I read are forgotten, often without justification. So I figured I should at least mention what I read here. I borrowed this book from my friend Elaine here in Frankfurt.

I guess spaced out is the best term to use for this book. It's fun, it's entertaining, it makes you think but when it comes down to it it's just nuts. It's about a guy wanting to write about the last day of the inventor of the atomic bomb and from there it just gets more and more screwed up. I totally recommend it!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Naomi Klein - The Shock Doctrine

This is a scary book. Not because it's so thick, but because of the indepth analysis of how democracy can be put aside and a policy beneficial to only very few can be enforced. But it is also a book that gives hope, because it shows that in the end democracy wins. If only the people are strong enough to care. This book gives rice to a zillion thoughts and I could go on writing about this matter forever, but let me try making it short.

The book is about one man's ideas, Milton Friedman, who's thoughts for a long time were considered too extreme. In short his idea is called neo-liberalism, the belief that a totally free market would be the perfect market, and has been implemented with the help of his disciples, the Chicago Boys. It tells us how his thoughts are way too extreme for any democracy, so they were first tried in South-American autocracies (after the elected power had been eliminated). It tells us to cut taxes drastically and sell as much as possible, as fast as possible, of the country's resources to foreign interests. It worked very well, in making a small minority very rich, foreign (US) companies extremely rich and the common man left poor. The policy has also done wonders in China.

As the tactics were refined, and the beneficiaries got rich, new victims had to be found. It was noted that no democratic countries would swallow the bitter pill (no, not even the USA), so some kind of force was needed. Dictators worked well, as seen. War was efficient too. As natural disasters. Whenever a disaster struck, all that was needed was to turn up, offer money and let the victim, that was in chock, sign a contract that in the end made him poorer. The South-East Asian crisis was a result of the countries adopting to this policy (the countries that followed it the least were best off). It was also applied in Russia when the country needed money and marked the end of its move in a democratic direction. ANC in South Africa were fooled to swallow the pill as well and has led to that the black are now even poorer as they used to be. In short: It's bullshit.

The bad thing is that these thoughts have been fully adopted by the IMF, the World Bank and USAID and they have been able to force this dirt onto people not really wanting it. Democracy has been put aside. And only a very few have gained.

This might not be all that bad, after all. A democratically elected government could make it all right again. Or can they? In the case of eg South Africa this is clearly not the case. If they try to build more houses for the poor, the currency falls and the country gets problems. It is a slave under the market.

As if this wasn't enough, the disasters and wars in combination with the fact that the US government has outsourced most of its government (!) has lead to a situation where the market gains on war and terror. Earlier the stock markets used to fall when a war was reported. Now they rice. Because it means more business. A disaster economy has emerged and it feeds on death and terror. My own thought about this is that this might be a reason why nothing much is done about the climate threat. After all, imagine all the disaster that will be the result of a collapsed climate! It might be a bit dark, and I doubt very few are actually thinking that way, but it is how this system works. It's cheaper not to do anything, and besides, if something would happen there are shitloads of money to be made!

Note how the countries volontarily applying Friedman's thoughts and the institutions promoting them are not democratic. And in fact, a market is not democratic either. They used to be controlled by a democratic rule (governments) but is now getting so powerful it might become a threat to democracy.

I must note that I first read a book by Johan Norberg and Boris Benulic, "Allt om Naomi Kleins nakenchock" ("All about Naomi Klein's Nude Chock"), where they want to protect the idea of free markets. Norberg loves the market, and since I can fully see and understand its usefulness, I have read some of his books and can agree with him on many points. But he is like a car salesman, just simply a bit too much in his blind faith. So the book is crap, he totally misses the point.

Read this if you know Swedish and want to read more about these books.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Living in a cul-de-sac

I'm a trial and error type of guy. If I see something that attracts my interest I walk there. So I've been in many cul-de-sacs over the years and would like to say I'm quite good at recognizing them. And getting out again.

This makes me worried about the state of the world, because we are running, with ever increasing pace, into a cul-de-sac and the ones leading the crowd doesn't give a shit. There are many voices saying we should stop and think, or maybe just take it easy, but these voices are silenced or just ignored.

But if you think about it it's obvious: We use more and more of the world's resources. So far this has worked because only a very small part of the world's population lived in this luxury. Now, even though neoliberalism is doing a good job making people poor, the amount of people who can afford excessive consumption is exploding and we have reach a point where we already use far more than the world can produce.

There is no second planet Earth, so we have to learn how to survive with the resources we have. The easiest way to accomplish this is to make sure the poor stay poor. That worked well for a long time, but then we got gready and still wanted them to consume our products, and we wanted them to produce our stuff cheaply. So they got it a lot better. The IMF, the World Bank and the USA have done quite a good job keeping them back, but they have failed and we now consume something like 10-20% more of the world's resources than the world can produce. And the consumers are us in the Western world, with the USA as proud leaders. We've reached the end of that cul-de-sac, we even burst through the wall at the end.

Another cul-de-sac is the superficiality of the Western society. How food is becoming ever more bland, without taste. Will we continue that until we all just have a pill a day? Or should we stop now and make sure we eat healthy natural food only? I'd say we should leave this cul-de-sac as soon as possible.

Actually the resource part could/should be divided into a number of sub-chapters: Energy. Water. Raw materials. Air. You name it... It's unbelievably childish and naive to think that some miraculous technical solution would solve all these problems - suddenly providing us with unlimited amounts of clean water, energy and raw materials. We can hope for it, sure, never give up hope. But now, right now, there are no such magic solutions. And we know we consume too much. Conclusion: Stick your head in the sand? Ignore it? Claim it's all evil anti-market, anti-capitalistic, communistic or whatever propaganda? No, we have to change our behaviour. And with "we" I mean us in the Western world, the rich world, the ones who fucked up the world in the first place.

We can not sit on our fat asses and say the Chinese cannot increase their consumption. Their consumption is nowhere near to ours! They are still poor, we can't ask them to stay poor just so we can stay fat. We have to be the leaders, we must adjust ourself to a sustainable level. It's ok to say to somebody else she shouldn't use more than you. But you can't say she has to use far less. That is oppression. And that is something we should try to leave behind. Or would you like to be the one at the bottom?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Old sins

I should mention my old blog, The world according to Auvinen, so you have something to read until I get started properly... But make sure you forget what you read, because I might reuse it!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Write when inspired only!

This is the golden rule for me when writing posts for this blog: Only write when I feel inspired, when I feel I have something to say. Second rule should be to make sure all posts are readable, somehow "good". If somebody finds the way to my blog I don't want that person to feel the time has been wasted. But I don't like rules too much...

The importance of inspiration is essential. Without it, only crap will be produced. It might look good, be fully correct and all, but it will be heartless, and therefore crap. Not worth the space it occupies. Just listen to commercial radio! B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T. No heart. No soul. Because it wasn't inspiration that produced those tunes, it was the scent of money. If you just run for the money you will never create any masterpiece, but surely a lot of crap.

Yet anoher blog

Who reads all these blogs, a friend of mine asked, herself a writer. I don't know, I answered, I sure don't. But I need to write, I need to put some thoughts in print, make them available. Not until my thoughts are "official", debatable, can I move on, let my mind take the next step. Get wiser, in short.

And I hope that these my thoughts and reflections might help making others wiser as well. If nothing else at least make you laugh, or interested, curious, upset, angry, pissed off or anything that could make you move your ass from your computer and make a change.