So, I thought it might be fun to post my own rant, in reponse.
A little background: I was born and raised near the Santa Cruz, California area. I am currently 26 years old. I am primarily a computer geek, though I also enjoy a fairly active physical and social life. I attended the University of California at Santa Cruz.
Anyway, here's how Mondschein's essay begins:
I was walking down Grand Street in Chinatown earlier today when I started feeling a bit peckish. One of the great things about Chinatown is that you can get dinner really cheap. For instance, there are these old ladies with these steam carts who'll sell you a whole styrofoam container full of noodles and sauce. Those noodles looked and smelled terrific, but then I saw they had little tiny shrimp in them, so I said, "no thanks" and got a sticky bean bun. You see, like a good little anti-establishment free-thinker, I've been a vegetarian since I was 14, owing to the fact that I think that factory farming is awful for the environment and the meat industry is just unsanitary and about a zillion other politically correct reasons.
You dumbass. A sticky bun is about half as healthy for you as the noodle soup she was offering. Vegetarianism is a brilliant choice if you do it correctly, but if you don't apply any thought to it, you're no better than John Q. Midwesterner who eats ham'n'eggs'n'bacon'n'sausage for breakfast every morning, just because that's what his parents ate, and that's what he's used to. Get with the modern "free-thinking" program, ya dinosaur. Read the latest literature, bugger your tofutti-cuties and your non-dairy whole-wheat garbage, and be an actual vegetarian, and eat some freakin' vegetables.
Ahem. I told you this was going to be a rant.
Yes, the meat industry is unsanitary compared to, say, the potato industry. But as a matter of degrees, shrimp are about the most brainless animal you could consume. What's more, we don't raise or feed them, in an "ethical" way or otherwise. We just scoop them out of the ocean at the right time. Mmmyep, factory farming the sea has it's bad points. But don't lump it in with something like the cattle industry. Visit a ranch and see a cow slaughtered and prepared, so you can make a real comparison.
This is why a lot of self-proclaimed vegetarians still eat fish, and other sea-going critters. As a matter of degrees, it's a good move. Yes, we all know it's hypocritical that they call themselves "vegetarians". Duh. Get over it. You have to admit, it's certainly a step in the right direction.
It was only later that the irony hit me. This woman comes from China, a country with one of the lowest per-capita incomes on the planet, where millions died of starvation during the "Great Leap Forward," to sell me noodles on the street for a buck a pop, and I don't want them because I don't eat shrimp? There are kids in Haiti with bloated bellies from lack of protein who would kill for the opportunity to eat noodles with shrimp--I know, I've seen them. And here I am, who, though I make relatively little money, can eat meat every day if I want to, and I say "no, thanks?" Where the fuck do I get off?
Yeah, heard that one before. Bandied around the dinner table when I was a youngster. "Do you know how fortunate you are to even have this food? Why won't you eat it?"
Observe some simple facts: You're here. The starving people are over there. The food is here. There is no food there. Do you see how these things might all be related?
Good. Now, keep with me on this, because it gets tricky. Answer these questions:
If you ate the noodle soup, would the starving people over there still be hungry?
If you didn't eat the noodle soup, would the starving people over there still be hungry?
Can you bring them the noodle soup, before it goes bad?
Yes, pal, it makes no difference! Where do you get off? Anywhere you want! The reason a woman can make and sell noodle soup on the street corner in front of you is because she's here, just like you are. If she went to Ghana and tried to make noodle soup, surprise, there wouldn't be any noodles! Or shrimp! Or water! Or styrofoam cups! Or money!
Suffice to say, the infrastructure of a well-oiled economy is not dependent on whether you buy noodle soup, or whether you buy a bun. If you're worried that people are starving in Ghana, try finding out the real reasons, instead of playing these dumbass head-games with yourself.
Saving the world is a rich person's hypocrisy. Only here in America, in the wealthiest, most powerful civilization known to history, can people actually pay extra for "organic" foods and peasant-style whole-grain bread. Many of us do this because we're afraid of dying from the diseases you get from eating too much--something that previously only happened to extremely lucky royalty. Hell, we entire industries devoted to cramming the food down our throats. They have to PERSUADE us to eat more. Most people would kill for such plenty. And then .01% percent of the population decides that they feel guilty about being so fucking rich and decides to carry its own re-usuable grocery bags to the store. Cry me a river.
So what side are you on? Your diatribe here is a little -- nay, extremely confused. You're pissed that Americans live in economic splendor. Then you're pissed that some Americans feel guilty and are trying to do something, but don't know exactly how. Who are you blaming, here? Those that try, or those that don't? How is your sarcastic whining going to help, either way?
And yes, people pay extra money for "organic" foods. But what does this have to do with people starving elsewhere? I fail to see the connection. Are you saying, it's hypocritical for people to not buy the cheapest food they can get their hands on, no matter how it's made? What the hell kind of argument is that? That's an argument you could use to demand that everyone, including you, eat at McDonalds three times a day and nowhere else. After all, 49-cent Tuesdays can get you some cheap, cheap food, right? You can certainly see the stupidity, if I frame your argument this way.
So leave the people who pay more for organic produce alone. After all, it's human nature -- they're spending money in their interest, because they don't want to be poisoned with pesticides that seep into the plants they eat, and won't wash out. Besides, it's not like the money they spend just vanishes after they spend it. It goes right back into the industry. And if you want to argue that growing organic foods is somehow more "wasteful" than growing non-organic ones, you're on pretty questionable territory. Cry you a river? No. Why don't you go piss in the wind instead, and have another sticky bun.
Oh yeah, and that reminds me. Bread -- bleached wheat or otherwise, isn't all that good for you either. Surprise!
Meanwhile, in other places, people are struggling just to survive. The Amazon rain forest isn't being cut down to be pulped into copier paper for the Xerox machines of American industry: It's being cut down so subsistence farmers have enough land to grow food to live. Try explaining "biodiversity" to Paolo to Brazilian dirt-farmer, who has a wife and six kids to feed because he doesn't know shit about birth control. Or rmaybe you'd just like to fly him a box of non-biodegradable Trojans so his wife doesn't pop out a seventh--but then, Paolo might just give the rubbers to the kids to play with, because, you see, he can't read the instructions on the box, either.
That's the most bullshit explanation of why the rainforest is being cut down that I have ever heard. Uh huh, yeah, poor fucking farmers are shipping industrial logging equipment, dumptrucks, explosives, and cattle from the United States, just to grow their meager crop of vegetables and eke out a bare-bones survival. Your premise is absolutely laughable. What's more, it's surrounded by typos. Good grief.
But do we go down to Brazil and help this guy? Shit no--but we'll buy some "authentic Brazillian handcrafts" made in a sweatshop in Rio and then feel smug about our multiculturalist leanings when we show it to our white honky friends when they come over for a glass of merlot. Heck, in the name of diversity, we'll gladly pay through the nose at any trendy ethnic restaurant under the sun and eat any swill they give us--just so long as said ethnic restaurant has a vegetarian option on the menu. Meanwhile, the chef in the back is thinking about how his grandmother used to go without dinner so that he could eat as he makes your all-soy-protein version of his national delicacy. Only the rich have the power to twist someone else's culture to their needs. We're like Marie Antoinette and her court at Versailles pretending to be peasants for kicks. (Marie actually had a model peasant village made, and she and her friends pretended to be rural milkmaids and shepherds. Truly, she deserved to be executed.)
My goodness, aren't you bitter. Who are you talking about here? Is this the sort of thing that people on the 'left' like to do? That's funny. I've lived in the supposed hotbed of the freakin' 'left' all my life, and I've never even seen any "authentic Brazilian handcrafts". Not in any shop, not in any house, not on me, not on anyone around me. Slap away at your straw-man. If you're so goddamn well-traveled, why are you still struggling with these lame 'right' vs. 'left' stereotypes? Perhaps it hasn't occured to you yet, that there are maybe more than two ways of grouping things?
As for ethnic restaurants and your whole bohemian lampooning (you probably heard about Marie Antoinette from your high school history teacher), what the hell do you know about what the chef in the back is thinking? Have you personally met him? The two chefs I've personally met are from Guam, and Berkeley, respectively. Neither of their grandmothers starved.
Ask yourself: Am we all into macrobiotics and yoga and meditation and all that shit because it makes us more evolved as people, or because it suits our idea of the way we ought to be? We are entirely products of our culture, and our culture tell us that to be "good" people, we have to consume organic vegetables and say "om." Our personalities are more plastic than we feel comfortable admitting. Patty Hearst was a spoiled little rich girl until she met the Symbionese Liberation Army. Then she became a revolutionary. A hundred years ago, I'd have liked meat just fine and gone to synagogue with the rest of the Jews. Now, I'm trying to relive some ad guy's idea of what the '60s were. No one, in the history of mankind, has ever really been an individual.
You're off in deep space, at this point. Culture and people form a symbiotic relationship, wherein culture is more like a virus, than an all-controlling agent. ...And you're currently sick with it, and fighting it. You sit here, banging at your keyboard and saying how much you resent your own culture for telling you to "eat organic vegetables and say 'om'?" If you resent it so, why are you still doing it? I don't say 'om'. And I certainly don't feel bad for not saying it, so don't lump me in with your self-loathing crappy outlook.
"But wait!" you cry. "What about our precious natural resources! They won't last forever! We have to conserve them!" Well, I hate to tell you: Humans have always done things this way. It's the way we are. About 12,000 years ago, giant sloths and flightless birds and all sorts of crazy fucking enormous animals lived all over the world. The fossil record on every continent tells the same story: People moved into the neighborhood. The giant critters died. We're just animals, and, just like other animals, we use the resources around us to survive. The joke that nature's played on us is that we're the only ones who feel guilty about being at the top of the food chain. Maybe we're a failed experiment, like the dinosaurs. Or, maybe, as George Carlin once pointed out, the Earth wants all those plastic bags we're so good at making for some reason.
Hahaha! "It's the way we are, it's always been done this way." Boy have I heard that one before. While it can be argued that humans will always fight over available resources, and use whatever is available, there's another factor to consider. Expectations.
See, we're not "just like other animals", in that we can convince each other of things, through advertising, peer pressure, and language. Americans have, by and large, convinced themselves to expect certain things. They expect to make enough money to buy their own property. They expect to buy a car. They expect a certain number of meals per day, and a certain amount of grease in their food. They expect to get education, perhaps go to college. They expect to date people, and marry someone that they love, not just someone they are forced to be with by parental demand.
Each and every American is told to expect each and every one of these things. I hate to break the news, but until nanotechnology comes along and makes resources irrelevant, we cannot all have them. Some of us will get a house. Some of us will go to college. Some of us will find, and marry, for love.
Many of us won't.
Does this make you unhappy? Change your fucking expectations.
As for the crazy flightless birds, I suggest you read Douglas Adams' "Last Chance To See". There are still plenty of crazy enormous flightless birds out there, some even crazier than you could imagine. They're not all dead yet, and through basic work we can make it so that they don't die out at all. What, still skeptical? Bite me. Go back to your lame journalist job and leave the world in my hands, then. No one demands that you participate. You need to use your own brain for that decision.
Liberalism is a rich person's luxury. The poor aren't picky about what they get. Middle-class people in this country live better than Roman Emperors. We ought to be thankful for the fact that, by pure accident, we're living in one of the brief cease-fires in the long war of survival. Everyone else sure doesn't seem to mind, and they sure as hell aren't going to get off their fat asses and give up their Wonder Bread and SUVs.
Whoah, ho, ho, here, Mr. "Liberalism is a rich person's luxury." Let's get our definitions straight. Liberalism is the belief that government should not unneccessarily regulate or control people's lives. Look up the goddamn word in the goddamn dictionary if you don't believe me. I don't know what kind of snippy us-vs.-them aren't-they-just-scumbags umbrella definition you're bandying about, but it's not the definition of liberalism.
Let me restate that one more time, with appropriate emphasis. Liberalism is the belief that GOVERNMENT SHOULD NOT UNNECCESSARILY REGULATE OR CONTROL PEOPLE'S LIVES.
Okay, now that that's straightened out. What does that have to do with living better than a Roman emperor? What does that have to do with avoiding war, except perhaps for the possibility that a more liberal government is less likely to be the target of a bloody revolution? You're not making any sense, my friend.
In the end, the most ecologically correct thing we can do is kill ourselves. That way, we not only consume less resources, we become resources ourselves. After all, we're all going to die sooner or later, and it's not like anything we've done in our little cubicle mazes is going to matter in 10, 50, or 100 years.
Hooray for becoming fertilizer as a career decision!
So your various lame practices have failed you, flown under the banner of some ill-defined and contradictory "liberalism" that has nothing to do with the real word. Good for you. Fumble towards a greater perception of how the world interrelates. If the result is truly that you give up, put your head down, and hide in your "cubicle maze" for the rest of your life, then you have been paralyzed into inaction by the rank ideology of 'left' versus 'right', and you are truly pathetic in my estimation. There are things you can do that are good no matter how you look at them. Go to your local IHOP restaurant with flashcards and teach the poor bus-girl how to speak English.