Friday, March 4, 2011

The scariest book I ever read

No, it was not Twilight. Nor did it feature any of the usual monsters of the week hunted by the Winchester brothers *dreamy eyes* (even though reading it may scare the crap out of Dean).

Did not feature these darlings.

Eric Schlosser wrote a frank and engaging examination of one of the biggest icons of Americana: Fast Food. Its history unfolds in early 20th century and helped produce some of the biggest self made men in the US, the perfect embodiment of the American dream.

This book exposed the nightmarish side to these success stories.  From unfair business practices that ruins small businesses, fatal food contamination,  hideous and slave-like working conditions, to the globalisation of obesity via fast food and even exploitation of children through advertisement, Schlosser exposed any number of issues that we do not think about when we unwrapped our burgers. Although most of the companies featured in the book refused to officially cooperate in his research, Schlosser was able to persuade a number of the employees of those companies to speak to him; giving him first hand accounts of what lay behind the shiny facade of the big corporations that made the fast food machinery what it is.

Naturally the corporations featured in the book did not take it lying downand fought back with threats of lawsuits and such. Boldly, Schlosser invited them to conduct fact checking and prove any of the allegations in his book as untrue. Although there was much blustering and threats, none of the corporations named in the book took legal action against him. Instead, they launched an online campaign that petered out like a deflated balloon.

What I find most interesting in the book is that even though the successes of the individuals that built these giant corporations underscore the possibilities promised by the American Dream, it came at the expense of the iconic Western cowboys and the freedom promised in the frontiers. As small and medium sized ranches disappear to the pressures of economy, it also diminished the mythical tough men of the West: suicide rate of the American cattle ranchers and farmers are three times the average in the country (refer to page 146). The legendary West featured in films and dime novels are now lost in the mist of history.

Books like Fast Food Nation makes one pause and contemplate one's decisions over things that were previously taken for granted. I don't think a reader of the book would immediately swear off McDonalds and KFC. But perhaps you would scrutinise the fine print even more after reading this. After all, caveat emptor.

Like Dean Winchester often said; it is people who are the worst monsters, not the demons and ghouls and beasties that stalk in the night.


Anonymous said...

Oh yeah I read that book years ago. Made me swore off fast food (not that I was a fast food whore before reading it). But occasionally I do stuff my face with processed chicken from the Colonel.

Snuze said...

Hehehe ... like absolutely. The fear is only temporary and then amnesia sets in.