Do we really need the Big Mac?

November 18, 2012 2:30 pm

The farcical state of modern consumerism


I was, for the first time in my life, buying toilet paper en masse yesterday. Hypothetically, this should be a simple ‘shop fast and go home’ procedure, alas I was met with a predicament equal in complexity to my winter exam. Upon arriving at loo roll aisle, I counted five brands of toilet paper. Five. Furthermore within each brand there were a further three sub-categories. My dearest apologies if you feel strongly about bathroom technology but my general ethos with post-excretion is if it doesn’t feel like sand paper, it’s just fine. Yet there I was, faced with a plethora of textures, colours and flavours. How does one decide between ‘velvet touch’ and ‘aloe vera essence’? Does my rear orifice like the taste of strawberries? Who knows? It was only then that I had the revelation; we have, as of late, taken consumerism to entirely ridiculous levels.

Behold the Big Mac. A pioneer in the evolution of bread-on-cow products. Some say the Big Mac is the ultimate balance. It is a reasonably priced and well-sized delicious pick up meal, how did we survive without it all these years? What did we smother our artificial meat in before they created the world famous Big Mac sauce? Oh yeah that’s right, human beings were healthy once. In fact, we were perfectly satisfied with, remember these, ‘hamburgers’. That’s your standard patty folks, I doubt McDonald’s sell them anymore. And before the hamburger just imagine, gasp, sandwiches. It has now come to my attention the unhealthiest aspect of Western society lies in the assortment of needless, unnecessary, money-grabbing goods. Sweets that taste like sulphuric acid, cars that are sexier than our spouses and now with cancer on the rise, obesity at its highest high, is it not safe to say, things are getting out of hand?

We love to tell ourselves that we’re immune to advertising. This is, I’m afraid to say, a terrible lie. Anyone, myself included, who owns a Dyson, a 3d tv or a pair of speakers that have an outage of over 70 watts is a victim of swindle. No one (except possibly The Prodigy) have use for household speakers that reach 70W. Come on. That’s just obscene. In fact, before any of these items were made known to people, they were not at all necessary in their life. We were quite happy with Henry Hoovers (those were pretty hilarious) before Japanese robot-esque cleaning utensils were made available. The problem that I have, that we should have, with the way in which consumerism has mutated, is not the way people now use products as a means of judging socioeconomic status or even the cultural hegemony related to it. The most serious implication of our obsession with blue coloured energy drinks is that us frail humans and the planet we live in are suffering indefinitely as a result of it.

Let’s break it down. We are now well accustomed to having brands shoved down our gullets at every bus stop or half time. That this happens is hardly news. What is undeniably overlooked by us all however are the effects these products have. The revelation 40 years ago that cigarettes can cause perhaps one of the most deadly and widespread illnesses, being lung cancer, should have been a wake up call. It’s very simple, the more unlikely we would be as wild animals to consume this crap, the more likely it is to do us harm, yet we continue to poison our diets and lives with imaginary consumables (more on that in a minute). In developing countries carcinogenic preserved foods are believed to be a major cause of liver, stomach and esophagus cancers. In Western society we struggle more with cancers of the colon, rectum, breast and prostate, usually caused by obesity, lack of exercise and diet. Furthermore, heart disease remains the biggest cause of death worldwide despite it being easily avoided via a healthy diet.

Imaginary consumables. It’s a stupid phrase I made up on the 38 bus on my way to work once. This is the term I would use in order to describe the millions of products that have been invented for no reason other than to make cash. The ones that don’t really have an important use. Why do Skittles exist? Seriously. Before they were invented we would never have Skittle cravings, in fact going to a shop we might even be enticed to buy something healthier, a nutri-grain perhaps. It is intriguing to see and downright difficult to resist new foods or products of any kind that are put before us. Especially when we know they’re fun, sexy or have sugar in them. A new coke appears? It has to be tried. A new ‘Call of Duty’? Sign us up. In order to create ‘new’, companies need to step across that ethically grey area. We in the UK live in a world where it is easier to live unhealthily than vice versa because the guys in charge of our diets discovered what we liked to eat and fed us more of it and with different flavours, regardless of the health implications. The struggle to find a new food fad, drug or any other addictive product is the most competitive struggle. It is the reason we now have ‘Fanta: fruit twist’ a radioactive looking glow-in-the-dark orange concoction or ‘Honey Jack Daniels’ the new way to slowly dissolve your liver with whiskey.

I myself am no saint. Not by any means. I’ve ingested more ‘Glenn’s vodka’ than I have water at my time in uni but I’m willing to change everything. I’m willing to throw out the totally useless remote-control T-rex gathering dust in my London bedroom and even to stop wasting so much time on FIFA. Because it’s crazy when you honestly look at it, how much of ourselves we give to these imaginary consumables. Hypothetically a sweet company or an alcohol chain couldn’t change their ways even if they wanted to without falling victim to their competitors, it’s the same with all goods edible or not. If our beloved Skittles were to reconstruct their ingredients to be all natural, it would probably taste terrible and they would get squeezed out by Starburst. In addition to this it’s imperative for them to keep finding weird new breeds of even unhealthier Skittle to keep us hooked on the brand (sour Skittles for example). The only way this whole ‘stop eating stuff from a lab rat’s anus’ thing works is if everyone, large groups of people, cease to eat processed, carcinogenic rubbish in general. It would require not just for people to give up their daily bag of Skittles but to boycott sweets for good. It would require for people to stop buying stupid needless things like half-toaster-half-coffee-machines and start living life free from the objects that are starting to own us. Steep requests. The first part though is simple, you don’t have to join Fight Club, just go eat a sandwich next time you feel like having a Big Mac.


Alex Chau

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