Saturday, July 11, 2015

Supermarket bread and mass control

Human earthlings are mad: they go crazy about the calorific value of their food and joust over vegan suitable or non-suitable snacks but no one seems to wonder if "mono- and  di-acetyltartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerdies of fatty acids" is something you need your bread to contain (and end up in your system). Why do "esters of synthetic fats with a composition similar to partially digested natural fat esterified with other natural acids" need to be used to make something that comes out just fine when simply made from only flour, water, and salt? I have googled around and sent a couple of emails and here's what I have seen/read.

Modern supermarkets flood their food packaging with excessive, overwhelming data on the amount of calories in a slice, the presence or absence of celery, and other superfluous trivia, while the full ingredient lists are deviously omitted. I had to beg Marks & Spensers' Nutrition department do divulge any information on what they actually put in their French baguette. Their (probably unpaid) intern responsible for communicating with pesky inquirers shared with me that "we don’t have a list of ingredients for categories of products available in a format I can share via email". How very smart for a major supermarket chain not to have one in 2015! Their colourful website, once again plastered with tangential factoids and the word "healthy" in every other sentence, suspiciously skirts around the most important issue: what is the food actually made of?

One of my most vivid memories of my trip to Croatia was seeing full lists of ingredients on every price label in the bakeries. Their content was such that I stopped buying bread after that. In the UK, however, no such info can be found. The Vegan Society have somehow managed to procure a list of ingredients on Lidl's house-brand baked goods, something Lidl do not publish on their own website nor displays in their shops. Instead, Lidl has opted for an Instagram-style display of heavily photoshopped pictures as well as typical fancier-than-PowerPoint marketing-bullshit and essentially irrelevant number juggling. Chocolate twists barely containing any actual chocolate aside, their produce is abound with such insalubrious things as cysteine (an amino-acid derived from human hair), palm oil and diphosphates. At the same time, highlighted in bold text, no doubt to make them out to be the culprits, are things like wheat, rye, milk, eggs, and sesame. The Orwellian Newspeak mission is accomplished: war is peace and peace is war! Tetrasodium diphosphate is good, wheat is bad!

From these little observation, two things become clear.

Firstly, quantitative data is the latter-day language of power, used to manufacture wilful, even enthusiastic ("Let's all lose weight by going low-carb!") consent across large swathes of the populace. Instead of arbitrarily drawn quotes from the Holy Writ to prove just about anything under the sun, now we have the highly elevated art of number-juggling, the so-called "hard figures" to the very same end.

Secondly, this kind of mass control works because the education system does not equip the majority of people with  knowledge necessary to navigate successfully through life, just with enough indoctrination to 'believe in science'. Not having basic understanding of chemistry and biology, because you chose Media Studies and PhE for your A-levels, will inevitably result in a lifetime of feeding on the worst in biochemical engineering, never knowing where your illnesses come from. The "freedom to choose" turns out to be the worst form of slavery, that very "iron cage" that repulsed Max Weber so much.

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