Friday, October 20, 2006

Slow Your Boat

I have always felt that I was born in the wrong time. I like to do most things at a leisurely pace, I hate crowds and traffic, I don't particularly like fast food, and I wish I could walk to the grocery store, to a diner or cafe, to visit friends, without it being dangerous, weird, or just plain impossible.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered there are other people who agree, who think things ought to be done -- and more importantly, can be done -- differently. Better. The trouble is, it still costs too much to do most of what I'd like to do. I fall into the heavily burdened middle class, who aren't rich enough to hire attorneys and accountants to hide the bulk of our money so we don't have to pay taxes on it, and who aren't poor enough to benefit from government and private aid. No one wants to help the middle class; we're the ones helping everyone else.

Anyway, that mini-rant over, I've read some interesting books lately that relate to this topic in one way or another.

In his book In Praise of Slowness, Canadian journalist Carl Honoré examines how fast-paced our world has become and what we've lost in the process: health, happiness, connectedness, contentment. For example, did you know that the average American spends seventy-two minutes of every day behind the wheel of a car? That Americans spend forty percent less time with their children than they did in the 1960s? But Honoré doesn't just present a gloomy picture, he goes on to discuss the solution: the worldwide "slow" movement. Depressing, fascinating, and ultimately encouraging, I highly recommend it.

I've also recently read Fast Food Nation, Don't Eat This Book, and Chew On This, which all examine the fast food industry and what it's done -- and is still doing -- to our health, from our expanding waistlines and heart problems to toxic conditions at the feedlots and "farms" where their meat comes from, and to our economy. There's nothing natural or healthy involved, from the food processing to the finished products to the franchise management to the manipulation of the consumers, particularly children.

It's chilling to realize that other countries are rioting and refusing to let these big companies get away with all of their questionable practices while Americans just keep shoveling it in. And while these companies are responding to pressures overseas, they don't necessarily make the same changes here. Because it would cost too much.

Never mind that they've already made more money than anyone should be allowed to who isn't giving more back. Besides heart attacks, diabetes, animal cruelty, and e. coli, that is.

You could try writing your congressman (or –woman) but odds are they won’t be able (or won’t want) to take on these companies’ powerful lobbies. They keep a lot of politicians in their pockets. It seems to me the big companies have got it all backwards: if they put that money toward cleaning up their practices and producing clean, healthy, tasty food, they wouldn’t need to pay the politicians to cover for them. Right?

I’m just happy there are people out there getting fed up with this stuff (lame pun not intended) and letting us know and really doing something about it. My little contribution for now is just passing it along. But I’m going to keep trying to do more.

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