Fast food is so symbolic of the times that we live in. It is really not a phenomenon in isolation but suggestive of the ethos inherent in modern capitalism and its synonymous cousins like restlessness, meaninglessness and a hyper- active body-mind condition that refuses sustained or peaceful orientations to life and forces one to forever be on the go! The lack of time despite time saving gadgets, the growth of disease despite health consciousness, broken relationships and resulting loneliness despite social media are all symbolic of the inherently paradoxical and utterly hypocritical pretensions of our times.
The impact that these volatile moments have on children and their process of growth is worth examination and it may reveal the many loopholes and problematic dimensions of an increasingly market-oriented, consumerist ideology that celebrates the values of cut throat competition and the killer instinct above mutual coexistence and community sharing. The impacts of the multiple aspects of modernity will make an interesting anthropological study and will perhaps leave critical insights for educators, parents and the larger world about the need for self-reflection and introspection.
Here we wish to take your attention to one particularly interesting by-product of our times and that is the culture of fast food. Urban lives have been hijacked by absurd culture of work which has led to an over indulgence in crude forms of entertainment which need to be compulsively stuffed into one’s system to rejuvenate oneself for the next day’s work, no wonder excess alcoholism, drug addiction, extravagant parties and heightened consumption patterns are all epitomes of a restless and peace-less mind which values and knows nothing but the spirit of competition and unconditional victory for one’s ego. Fast Food thus is an ideology that reduces food into a mere biological necessity that deserves no careful attention or time to be enjoyed. Grabbing a meal between flights or board meetings is as mundane as checking one’s phone for new messages or making a presentation on the computer. Moreover, the idea that food is a nourisher is easily replaced by the idea that food is entertainment and even a status symbol! To be spotted at certain food joints and not certain others are important to people as markers of their social status.
Gratification through food is symbolic of the emptiness within and the void that gets temporarily filled with pizzas, burgers or cold drinks does not take much time to be empty again, demanding for more and more endlessly. Food then becomes an agent of symbolic violence not only against oneself but also against its producer, maker and most importantly against the potential of man to be more than the sum of his instincts! We recently came across a famous brand of chips which is endorsed by a popular Bollywood artist lately accused for criminal offenses – the consumer of the product are largely children and youth, who look at it as absolutely natural and non-problematic. Chips is so much a part of their culinary practice and the celebrity so central to their imagination of a good life that when both are put on the same pedestal they cannot help but see it as a most desirable concept. Look how the market colonises the mind and successfully endorses a product like chips which is researched to be unhealthy to young consumers with the help of a celebrity they identify with as an emblem of the good life.
It is paradoxical that we are being made partners into digging our own graves! What makes this even more paradoxical is that food, stardom and criminality can be served to us on the same plate and we accept it for ourselves and our children without a moment of critical thought. As parents and educators where is our agency to open the windows for our children so that they can develop an alternative way of looking at the world, why have we ceased to be introspective? Where is the time we saved through all those gadgets? Why are we asking to be colonised yet again?