A Must-See Film and Must-Read Book   (December 18, 2009)

The film Food, Inc. and the book The China Study illustrate two key parts of the Survival+ analysis: simulacra and an integrated understanding of how food production, diet, health and sickcare a.k.a. healthcare are linked in a causal chain.

Though I seem fixated on the Survival+ analysis, the reason is simple: it provides a framework for understanding all the apparently unconnected (or seemingly independent) problem states which are dooming the entire structure of the status quo.

The new documentary Food, Inc. is a prime example. The film does an excellent job of describing how a simulacrum of real food and healthy farming has been presented by immensely powerful (and heavily protected by the State) cartels: agribusiness, national supermarket and packaged food conglomerates, fast food multinationals and the media/marketers who rake in billions hawking fake food as if it was actually real.

Slick marketing also creates an entirely false simulacrum of corporate farming practices: the adverts show a happy cow in a green field, while the reality is a feedlot of wretched animals crowded together, covered in manure, forcefed corn to fatten them up as quickly is possible.

The similarity between the wretched, unhealthy animals crowded into feedlots and the human consumers crowded into fast food outlets is not coincidental. Stuff a human being with 200 pounds of fatty meat, 200 pounds of refined sugar, 300 pounds of high fructose corn syrup and half a ton of heavily refined white flour, white rice and fried potatoes a year, and guess what, you get an animal in very poor health.

Cattle are selected to eat grass, not corn, and humans are selected to be omnivorous, eating a variety of seeds (legumes, nuts, etc.), fruits, meats, fish, vegetables,both raw and cooked. They are not selected to eat "food" which has no fiber and essentially no nutrients.

There are many maddening and disturbing scenes in the film: the family with a very overweight and diabetic father is filmed going out for "cheap" hamburgers because they work too late to have a home-cooked meal. Later, they're filmed in a standard supermarket, passing over the broccoli because it's "too expensive."

So the insulin which costs the family $260/month is "cheap" and real food is "costly"? This sort of insanity is the result of carefully manufactured fake food which appeals to our innate cravings for salt, sugar and fat, all of which are rare in agrarian or hunter-gatherer environments, and a carefully constructed simulacrum of food and food production.

The causal chain between the way food is grown and what is eaten is drawn with great clarity by the book The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-term Health. Based on detailed research from hundreds of counties in China, the study confirms a common sense understanding of the causal chain, i.e. "what you eat is what you are," and "disease comes through the mouth" (the old Chinese proverb that poor diet causes illness.)

No surprise that a vegetable-based diet with plenty of variety and fiber is linked to long, healthy lives and a diet heavy with fatty meats and refined grains is linked to shorter lives burdened with chronic illnesses. There is no surprise here because humans were selected to consume a fiber-rich variety of foods, meat included. While meat and fat are the dominant sources of calories in small subsets of humanity (Inuit, etc.), a rugged lifestyle kept the Inuit much healthier than they are now, eating packaged food.

Diet and lifestyle are linked to good health? Once again, no surprise there: humans are selected to walk and run great distances. Stop moving, start eating a fake, fatty, sugary diet, and you get a nation of diabetics.

As I take pains to describe in Survival+, the fabrication of a simulacrum reality in the present requires that the past be suppressed or buried in a manufactured amnesia.

Thus the fact that adult-onset diabetes was rare a mere 40 years ago is rarely linked to the question: what has changed so dramatically in the American diet that chronic diseases are exploding? And if the answers are "obvious"--fast food, fake food, the marketing of "convenience" over nutrition, the larding of food with salt, sugar and fat, the dominance of TV over preparation of actual food, etc.--then why aren't the solutions equally obvious?

The answer is simple: basic, nutritious food prepared at home from scratch is simply not profitable.

This integrated understanding leads to a crystal-clear grasp of why a nation swept by epidemics of chronic "lifestyle" diseases has a sickcare system which will bankrupt the nation even as it does nothing to stem the epidemics: managing chronic diseases caused by unhealthy lifestyles and diets is immensely profitable. Promoting healthy lifestyles and diets is not profitable at all.

My "solution" is always the same: start by turning off the TV. That is the essential step one. If your mind has been poisoned by media/marketing propaganda, then your body will be poisoned by what you consume as a result of what you now think/believe/desire.

Rent the film, borrow the book, even if you know all this already. It will be instructive to see what others are discovering for the first time: we are paying the price of simulacrum passed off as "real," of eating fake unhealthy garbage passed off as "real food," and of mindlessly "consuming" a diet of corporate media/marketing fixated on profiting from our deepening insecurities, restless unhappiness and chronic diseases.

Permanent link: A Must-See Film and Must-Read Book

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--Walt Howard, commenting about CHS on another blog.

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