There’s something very revealing to be found in the way we interact with food which can tell us a lot about our relationship with modernity. Alongside water and shelter, food too is an immediate and necessary need for all men and women, unlike water we don’t take it for granted, at least not to the extent we do with water, we do however have a rather peculiar relationship with food…
Firstly let’s look at what food even is. At its most basic level food is sustenance, it’s the fuel that keeps us going. We are biological ‘machines’ which need fuel to keep us performing whatever actions we wish to perform. On a certain level of communication this is our basic reality, one in which we are an engine which performs functions and needs fuel to do. Now, if you wish to lose weight this is actually the most practical way to think about food, as fuel. However, there are of course long traditions of food as a cultural object or pastime, certain places have certain cuisines which usually represent the temperament of their culture quite exactly. There is also the largely ignored history and philosophy of senses other than sight and hearing, so to simply understand food as some additional extra would be silly, however, our relationship with it isn’t a healthy one, its a quintessentially modern one, in which food becomes entertainment. This isn’t exactly a new idea, but food was perhaps the first example of where the substance of something began to mutate into a different conception altogether.
What I mean when I say that our relationship with food has altered into one of entertainment, is that the very purpose of food has been lost, but I don’t think a return to this very basic purpose has to exclude the beauty of food itself and its historical origins. The attitude towards food within modernity is one which allows it to become a sideshow of existence, one which allows the empire of signs to overtake all faculties and demote food to some kind of existence-filler, something to pass the time. Whereas, in reality, food is something that should be kept at the forefront of one’s mind, especially when you’re consuming it. The phrase ‘You are what you eat.’ is thrown around rather callously as some pithy bureaucratic message regarding personal health, however, when you really begin to think about that saying, there’s more to it than meets the eye – as there usually is with those old, wise sayings.
Because you quite literally are what you eat, in both a physical and metaphorical sense. What you consume is the fuel used to create you and allow you to continue, if you intake bad food, or junk fuel, then your body and you are going to feel like junk. And, metaphorically speaking, if you intake cheap, quick and easy food, you will become cheap, quick and easy, developing an impatience with respect to existence itself. The contemporary attitude towards food is one in which is relegated in favor of an act deemed worthy of one’s attention. There is even a culture with regard to finding good videos to watch whilst one is eating, as if literally fueling one’s body and enjoying the flavors of various foods wasn’t enough. People will obviously state that I’m some reactionary – ‘Oh, you think it’s ridiculous that people might want to watch TV or listen to something whilst eating?’ – well, yes and no. No, I don’t think it’s ridiculous per se, however, I do think it’s done so from a position of privilege. And so also, yes, yes I do think it’s ridiculous, it’s ridiculous that we’ve got to a state of affairs where if one is eating that isn’t the act which is actually primary in their thought. Such a thought process, wherein the food itself is no longer the primary part of the meal, is a great outline for the way in which modernity tends to strangle and control your most basic functions, turning them into something which changes your existence into a fairground attraction.
Everything in modernity must be entertainment, or, must at least be able to be entertainment. Your morning commute to work is filled with radio, podcasts or music, a short walk anywhere is done with headphones in as to cancel our the world, eating dinner is done in front of the TV or with something on in the background, each item of consumption has an addition which makes it in some ways ‘fun’, your work break is filled with biscuits and tea, your most basic functions have been gamified into empty habits for the sake of a dopamine rush, everything is logged, everything is projected and everything is beaconed to the crowds for approval. At all times, one must be entertained, for if they are not being entertained they are having a bad time, and that – within modernity – is a fate worse than death. You’ll notice that all those things I listed, commuting/walking to work, going on a walk, eating meals, taking some time our/having a break etc. these are all the simple pleasures of life which can be enacted for free, and not only that, are actually both free and enjoyable. Modernity, of course, tends to hate this. The idea that one could go out and be fulfilled and content without purchase, or without purchasing something which they then attend to as if it was part of them.
Food is the greatest example of this, this compulsion of modernity to make you believe you never have enough, that nothing is enough until every sense is absolutely overflowing with data and information that you can hardly think. Modernity adores noise, for without noise one might actually be able to anchor themselves, think for themselves and finally attend to that which they actually need/want. We have been removed from everything vital to us, everything which maintains the simplicity is stripped away, for the purpose of trying to prove to us that we don’t want simplicity, but we want complexity, with all its trinkets, additions and extras. And this is what modernity wishes to prove to you with the overarching idea of entertainment, it is not enough to live a simple, quiet and calm life, one must be entertained all the time; one must in constant states of emotional pull and tug, as if to exist contently was a sin in itself, whereas the opposite is the truth. Modernity loves complexity because it’s easy to get lost in it, it’s easy to lose what exactly it was you originally wanted, if anything, and search endlessly for a desired object, other or ism, that accursed thing which will finally satisfy the perpetual itch put upon you by modernity.
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