Nuts are for Anarchists, Organic Foods for Fascists…

whole-foods.jpgWhen is a hamburer not a hamburger? When the activity of eating is influenced by a host of complex concerns, from emotional needs to philosophical worldviews. For example, if we are religious, we might say grace before a meal, obey kosher laws, or fast. Aesthetic values also influence what and how we eat, which is why there is an art of cooking. But what interests us here are not the obvious social and cultural aspects of food, but the hidden meanings behind our choice of any particular food. For it is these hidden meanings that we are really seeking to consume.

Some “Ruminations” on the Secret Meaning of Food
The key to the psychology of eating lies in the equation “you are what you eat. For example, if we feel frustrated, we might wish to consume crunchy foods, such as nuts or potato chips. Crunchy foods are symbolic of the hard, rigid, limiting and confining structures of society. Our destruction of the nuts is, therefore, a symbolic victory over these confining social and political structures.

Of course, very few people who eat potato chips are aware of their anarchistic longings, at least on a symbolic level. They might claim “Well, potato chips just taste good.” Such denials of deeper meanings derive from: 1. Lack of introspection, 2. The false claim that one’s actions — including one’s food choices — are made solely on rational grounds. 3. Fear of life’s depths. We trust the reader does not suffer from these intellectual maladies or else what follows may be a bit hard to digest.

The desire for psychological wholeness is another fundamental need. That would explain the desire for wholegrain foods. Thus, if you want wholeness in your life, you must eat whole foods. Indeed, there a major food chain called “Whole Foods,” that caters to this unconscious demand. It is absurd, though, to think that eating whole foods will make us whole people. But, in lieu of any other answer to the question of how to be a whole person, we turn to symbolic solutions.

The quantity of food is also symbolically important. It has been said that the reason why gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins is that it is essentially an effort to be God, by symbolically consuming the entire world. But, no matter how much we shovel into our stomach, the inner void still remains. Being filled full cannot be a successful surrogate for being fulfilled.

By contrast, the anorexic seeks to avoid the fault involved with eating by refusing to eat. The vegetarian, not quite as extreme, does eat, but only vegetables. The fault, of which we speak, involves the fact that eating involves a killing of some sort. Even if we were not the one’s who hunted or slaughtered the animals, the act of killing is still there psychologically. Vegetarianism, on the face of it, is motivated by compassion. And there are certainly vegetarians for whom compassion is the only motivation. But most vegetarians are driven by a certain quasi-moral perfectionism and hubris. After all, the god of Judeo-Christian give His blessing to man, to eat animals. Even those who have not read the Bible or who are declared atheists still share in what Jung called the “Collective Unconscious.” A vegetarian is, therefore, claiming to be morally superior to God.

The Mystique of the Organic and Fascism
What are we to make of the interest, that many people have, in organic foods? It is an expression of something much larger. The interest in the organic, the holistic, and the natural expresses a certain vision of life, along with a concomitant critique of the modern world. This criticism is that those living today have become separated, or alienated, from nature and its primal rhythms. An allied criticism is that the world has become too mechanized. What comes to mind, in such criticisms, is that period in cultural history, occurring in the Nineteenth Century, known as romanticism.

But there was another movement, emerging in the early part of the Twentieth Century, that also gloried the organic the holistic, and the natural. That movement, which was founded by the Italian dictator Benita Mussolini, was fascism. Fascists are critical of traditional Western liberalism and individualism, for they contend that it alienates us not just from nature, but from society, state, and nation, which fascists contend are more real than the individual. Fascism is, therefore a form of totalitarianism. What is key here is that the totalitarians, of all stripes, seek to appeal to our need for unity, even at the price of negating our individuality and freedom. Unity is to be found by joining together with others, in various social projects, created by the state.

Like Romanticism, fascism is thoroughly anti-intellectual. It regards a life of feelings as more authentic and better than a life of thought. Fascists view the modern world as fallen, or decadent. They see it as a fall from a state of purity, wholeness, and goodness that supposedly once existed in the world. But whereas Romantics mostly yearn for Paradise lost, fascists often have a political program for national revival.

Are those captivated by the mystique of the organic or holistic fascists? Jonah Goldberg, in his fascinating book “Liberal Fascism,” (Doubleday 2007), suggests that they are. But he points out that fascism is not a synonym for evil, even though the Twentieth Century produced some pretty evil fascists. Furthermore, Goldberg finds contemporary liberalism is thoroughly fascistic. He offers, as an example, Hillary Clinton’s book “It Takes a Village.” She advocates that the state take over the task of childrearing, from what has traditionally been the job of parents. The “nanny state” is a thoroughly fascistic notion.

In any case, the appeal of organic foods is certainly not just about health. It is about losing the burdensome sense of being a separate individual, alienated from both nature and from other people. Organic broccoli and carrots, for example are therefore not just broccoli and carrots. In consuming them, a person is symbolically consuming unity with the world and, as such, becoming a whole person. If only it was so easy, but it isn’t, for after the meal we remain just as alienated.

The Zen of Eating
It is truly amazing that eating…


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2 People have left comments on this post

» dennrkd said: { Jun 29, 2009 - 01:06:02 }

We may consume meanings … but we may also contrive meanings.

» Dana said: { Jan 12, 2011 - 09:01:58 }

It is true that we walk through life unwilling to realize the deeper meanings of our actions. Eating does symbolize the inner motivation. I also believe that food which you eat does affect your mind as there is a relationship between mind and things consumed. So yes i agree that we consume meanings and we put in ourselves what we believe in and we believe in what we put in ourselves.

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