What they were looking at was a large bulblike object that seemed to be covered with stippled whitish-yellow skin. Out of it came twenty thick fleshy tubes, and at the end of each tube another bulb was growing.
“What the hell is it?” said Jimmy
“Those are chickens,” said Crake. “Chicken parts. Just the breasts, on this one. They’ve got ones that specialize in drumsticks too, twelve to a growth unit.”
“But there aren’t any heads,” said Jimmy. He grasped the concept—he’d grow up with sus multiorganifer, after all—but this thing was going too far. At least the pigeons of his childhood hadn’t lacked heads.
“That’s the head in the middle,” said the woman. “There’s a mouth opening at the top, they dump the nutrients in there. No eyes or beak or anything, they don’t need those.”
“This is horrible,” said Jimmy. The thing was a nightmare. It was like an animal-protein tuber.
“Picture the sea-anemone body plan,” said Crake. “That helps.”
“But what’s it thinking?” said Jimmy.
—Margaret Atwood, Oryx & Crake
A few months back, KFC (neé Kentucky Fried Chicken) rolled out its Double Down "sandwich" nationally. In case you've somehow missed it, which seems unlikely given the shitstorm of coverage this release engendered, the Double Down consists of two slices of bacon, two slices of cheese, and some kind of mayo-like sauce, all sandwiched between two chicken breasts, either fried or grilled, in lieu of bread. There's something wrong about it: when KFC was test marketing the Double Down last year, the commercial they ran found its way online, and many people -- myself included -- believed it was a fake. But, even in my incredulity upon learning that it actually existed, my concern that its existence testified to some terrible cynicism, I couldn't help but wonder: Could it actually be good? I might have sworn off chain fast food years ago, but the sheer wrongness of this beckoned, a bit.
Mark Morefored, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, sounded one of the more indignant alarms:
You got your chicken-like creature, your pig-like creature, your dairy cow-like creature, all wrapped in a $5 fistful of nausea, ready to strangle your heart and benumb your brain. God knows what's in the "special sauce." Maybe some sort of fish byproduct, just to round it all out. It's like a wild kingdom in your mouth! It's like a toxic zoo in your colon! It's like a suicide note from what's left of your brain! "If you eat this, you are a complete and total idiot, and we're through. Signed, You."
[...]You [fast food executives] convince the less educated and the gullible that they are wrong, that this crap is actually a good value for your family, nutritious and safe to feed to children, even as you manufacture all the flavors, smells and meat-like textures in a giant lab and sell truckloads of the crap to the poorer classes, until they get fat and sick and die. Meanwhile, you employ cute cartoon characters and bright, funny mascots to lure in the next generation, to keep the cycle going.
Moreford's column, even as it attempts a structural critique (albeit one reliant on notional fast food magnates), expresses a clear sense of contempt for the people who would buy the Double Down. They're stupid, they're fat, they don't know the joy of eating like Alice Waters has taught. In many ways, it's the same critique Jamie Oliver is levelling in his new show. It's quite easy for those of us who know better to sit back and laugh at the great unwashed and their stupidity.
On October 20 , UN Day (which the far right answered by declaring "U.S. Day"), Adlai Stevenson, leaving Memorial Auditoriam after giving a speech, had been clomped on the head by a yelping picket wielding a sign reading "DOWN WITH THE UN." Stevenson insisted on confronting the woman before policemen whisked her away. "What is wrong?" he asked. "What do you want?" Mrs. Cora Frederickson, forty-seven, her face contorted, responded with gnomic fury: "Why are you like you are? Why don't you understand? If you don't know what's wrong, I don't know why. Everybody else does."
The week following the passage of Health Care Reform rattled me, as it rattled many Americans. The vigilantism, the racism, the homophobic slurs, the bricks through windows—surely this is not my America, I thought. I was, of course, in denial. This is my America. My America is where Sara Palin's book is a best seller and she implores followers to reload, where Michael Steele's RNC website pictures Nancy Pelosi in front of a flaming background like some kind of she-demon, where Glen Beck can, with a straight face, explain to his audience that when detractors compare him to Father Coughlin, they couldn't be further offbase because Coughlin preached "social justice." This is my America.
If Obama's first legislative priority had been immigration or financial reform or climate change, we would have seen the same trajectory. The conjunction of a black president and a female speaker of the House -- topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay Congressional committee chairman -- would sow fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the country no matter what policies were in play. It's not happenstance that Frank, Lewis and Cleaver -- none of them major Democratic players in the health care push -- received a major share of last weekend's abuse. When you hear demonstrators chant the slogan ''Take our country back!,'' these are the people they want to take the country back from.
I believe that the radical right is only a small minority, but it gains force from the confusion within the world of conservatism regarding the changing character of American life. What the right as a whole fears is the erosion of its own social position, the collapse of its power, the increasing incomprehensibility of a world—now overwhelmingly technical and complex—that has changed so drastically within a lifetime.The right, thus, fights a rear-guard action. But its very anxieties illustrate the deep fissures that have opened in American society as a whole, as a result of the complex structural changes that have been taking place in the past thirty years or so. And more, they show that the historic American response to social crisis, the characteristic American style, is no longer adequate to the tasks.
Reading Bell nearly fifty years later, we see what he did not. The radical right would shape the political agenda in the ensuing decades. That a supposedly liberal President in the 1990s would finally undo the New Deal would seem a culmination of this agenda, were it not for the President who followed him in the Aughts. Indeed, the radical right of the 1960s, even if it never elected Goldwater, sewed the seeds of of the movement that would elect Ronald Reagan and, later, George W. Bush, precisely because of these politicians' rhetorical appeals to Americanism. This shouldn't have been so hard to see.While the Roosevelt administration created a host of new regulatory agencies, the judiciary, in its values and social outlook, largely reflected the ancien régime, and even though there was no entrenched bureaucracy [...] that would impede or distort these reforms, the lack of a broad intelligentsia made it difficult to staff the regulatory agencies without drawing in the business community, the trade associations , and the like. Thus, while the enactments of the Roosevelt administration seemed to many conservatives to be startlingly revolutionary, the business community—the main group whose power was abated—could, through the courts, Congress, and often the administrative agencies, modify substantially the restrictions of the regulations.The paradoxical fact is that while the New Deal has lost much of its meaning on the ideological or rhetorical level, the fabric of the government, particularly the judiciary, has been rewoven with liberal thread so that on many significant issues—civil rights, minority-group protection, the extension of social welfare—the courts have been more liberal than the administrations. Only Congress, reflecting the disproportionate power of the rural areas and the established seniority system, has remained predominantly under conservative control.
I support gun control laws—not a radical position, I know. I also, until 2002, had never fired a gun. That was the summer when my neighbor Matt, an affable drunken twentysomething, asked me if I wanted to go shooting with him and some friends, a group of Irish girls all living next door to us for the summer. "We can't do this in Ireland," one of the girls explained, "so it's on our list. And it's Ladies Night! We get free gun rentals!" Looking at my Irish neighbors, I decided I couldn't say no.
I suppose I represent one of those insufferable types who conflates healthfulness and political good in the food he eats.
And it isn't, I might add, that I never ate fast food or led a sedentary life. Growing up, my father worked several jobs with odd hours—community college football coach, prep sports stringer—that kept him out of the house in the evenings. (During the day, he taught high school.) After my brother and I got off school, my father would pile us in the car and take us to practice for the evening, or to the game he had to cover for the newspaper, and we'd almost invariably eat something from a fast food drivethrough. As a teenager, I continued to eat this way, spending innumerable weekend evenings in a car parked in some half-empty parking lot, a bag from a drive through on the floor, arguing away the night with friends. I weighed about 230 pounds when I graduated from high school.
The Tea Partiers have no clear analogue in what I've thus far discussed. Indeed, the largely nonwhite urban poor I notice in my neighborhood have little in common with the largely exurban and suburban Tea Party contingent. However, while the people in my neighborhood may be at a disproportionate risk of obesity and obesity-related diseases, those in my neighborhood are hardly the only ones. For if the progressive view maintains that obesity is a class issue, this view lacks a proper apparatus to explain those for whom class cannot explain their obesity.
These are the people who, effectively, chose poor health. I recognize this is not, in many circles, a popular statement. I know some would hear it, and would likely condemn me for my fat phobia. (Others, like Michael Ruhlmann, might applaud it.) But there comes a point when we have to say enough. Yes, the American food system is unhealthy. Yes, it's easier to eat fast food. But if you have the means to know better, and the means to eat better, will I feel the same sympathies if you develop Type 2 diabetes as if, for class reasons, you remained ignorant of these things?
I mean, it's not like eating bad food is limited to the willfully ignorant. Hell, N+1 loves the Schnitzel & Things truck, and these are the people who offer not only a deep fried "schnitzel burger" but, prompted by all the talk around the Double Down, offered their own "Schnitzel Down." Thought to compare the handmade food of Schnitzel & Things to the industrial product that KFC sells may chafe, I would wager that the Schnitzel Down clocks in at a minimum of several hundred more calories than KFC's juggernaut. Is it only okay to gorge yourself it you do it knowingly? And how is that different that KFC in the first place?