A Loving Breakfast

On my drive to work this morning, I heard one of the most disturbing radio commercials I think I have ever heard, for McDonald’s. The theme of the commercial was an egg sacrificing itself out of love, for the breakfast enjoyed by customers. What disturbed me the most about the commercial is that it seemed to anthropomorphize an egg, which is itself an artifact designed to help nurture new life, as a being happy to sacrifice itself to be consumed. Considering that I had heard other recent commercials showing a young avocado seeking to achieve his destiny, which ends up serving, again, as fodder for mass consumption in McDonald’s, I was struck by how disturbing it was to portray food items consumed in massive quantities as being so passionately motivated by love and a concern for destiny. To view ordinary food items as being motivated by self-sacrifice to feed ourselves encourages us to view others as liking the sort of exploitative behavior that we show towards the world of which we are stewards. This strikes me as a particularly troubling way to advertise food on a variety of levels.

One of my favorite animated movies has long been the claymation classic “Chicken Run.” The general plot of this movie, without giving too much away, is concerned with a group of plucky British chickens who seek to escape their fate of being turned into chicken pot pies. Here too we see chickens portrayed as being like human beings and with human motivations. Among those motivations, quite understandably, is the motive to preserve their existence and avoid being turned into food. As a child, before ever viewing that movie, one of my earliest poems was written from the point of view at a melancholy chicken reflecting on his demise to serve as food for his master to dine. Here too we see the same anthropomorphism, but we see it with chickens having human-like motivations, including the understandable desire to live and the horror at death and destruction. In this light, the fact that McDonald’s views eggs and avocadoes as being masochistic beings who are able to love and be concerned about destiny but have no suffering whatsoever about being fodder for limitless human appetites, and that their highest glory is in self-sacrificial service to be digested in our bellies is more than a little troubling.

The fact that McDonald’s is the company producing these chilling advertisements is more than a little bit concerning, on several levels. For one, the rhetoric or the advertisements mirrors the logic of antebellum slavery that stated that blacks were happy to be slaves, were designed specifically for such a purpose, and were unfit to be free, to be educated, and had no rights that a white man had to respect. These were not the thoughts and beliefs of a small minority of people, but were rather the statements of the Supreme Court (specifically, in the Dred Scott decision), as well as notable politicians in both the North and South. Whatever my compassion for animals, I have never been motivated to avoid eating meat altogether, despite the fact that my desire to protect my right foot from continual suffering has led me to drastically curtail my consumption of certain types of meat, like red meat and fish. That said, I view the argument that animal and plant life has no purpose except to fulfill our appetites to be an immensely troubling belief to hold. Beings in creation have many purposes, not merely for consumption, but also for contemplation, for balance, for beauty, and as a way of providing an opportunity for mankind to learn how to rule well.

After all, McDonald’s own behavior when it comes to the treatment of human beings is far from blameless. Jobs at McDonald’s (and similar fast food restaurants) are derisively called mcjobs because of their low pay and the absence of dignity and self-respect that people have in those jobs. Companies seek to hire smiling faces, and then pay them as little as possible in conditions that are often unpleasant. For example, a penpal of mine from Turkey was once hired, under what sort of dishonest marketing I can only imagine, to work at a McDonald’s in Thermopolis with other fellow Turkish young ladies, where their rent and various other expenses were deducted from their meager wages, leaving them with very little to live on [1]. Such working conditions, where foreigners were brought in to work during the summer in low-wage jobs under the promises of being able to make money during their summer vacations from university studies, reminds one of the horrors of the 19th century transfer of people across the globe to serve as low-wage labor forces. Instead of business raising salaries or improving working conditions as a way of making their jobs more competitive, the drive to import cheap labor suggests that companies like McDonald’s are more than willing to exploit human beings in the same way that they openly and avowedly exploit plants and animals.

This leads to an unsettling conclusion, and that is that the rhetoric of the commercials McDonald’s produces has troubling implications for our world. When a large company notorious for its poor jobs and working conditions, and a known history of seeking to import cheap foreign seasonal labor in lieu of improving its own salaries and benefits, decides to make advertisements with the point that plants and animals like to be taken advantage of and exploited, we all need to pause and deeply reflect on where this rhetoric goes. If a company does not care where its workers come from, or that its workers are even fluent in English, as long as they are sufficiently cheap, and if they want their customers to think that plants and animals serve no purpose except for human consumption, and that this is their highest love and honor, then what is to keep people from being exploited in the same form as slaves in the days of old? What is to protect us from exploitation if we deceive ourselves that others desire exploitation, so as to remove any pangs of conscience for the way that we treat them?

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/08/05/stranded/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American Civil War, American History, Christianity, History, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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