There is hope and a kind of beauty in there somewhere, if you look for it

There is a phrase that I have come across a few times recently on the excellent Shabogan Graffiti blog that appeals to me in many ways: the evil of banality. It is not religion that is the true opiate of the people – true religion, real religion, is all about cracking open your skull and letting divine fire pour in from the sky; it’s anathema to the dulling conformity of capitalism (or of any other political system I can think of, for that matter). Nor is it television, not really – in spite of the endless capitalist realist propaganda shit, there is still good stuff out there; nor is it alcohol, or drugs, both of which can be perfectly fine and even revolutionary under the right conditions (why do you think those dull puritan tossers keep trying to get the stuff banned?).

No. The real opiate here is banality itself. Religion is turned from transcendental, white-hot zeal to mumbled hymns and flower arranging; drama is replaced with endless repetitions of police procedural shit and ‘morally ambiguous’ crap like Homeland (where the CIA are deeply flawed human characters who agonise over the horrible things they have to do, while their enemies are horror film monsters) and Downton fucking Abbey. Mindless, flavourless, inoffensive mass-produced mush made by idiots, full of sound and fury and very pretty CGI explosions and witty one-liners and Strong Female Characters and sassy black best friends who click their fingers in a Z-shape and oh no you didn’t – signifying nothing and less than nothing. Batman, punching Occupy Wall Street in the face, forever.

Which brings me to this:

Pseudo-nutritional chemical engineering company McDonald’s are best known for 1) deforesting huge areas of the Amazon rainforest, taking one of the most diverse, fascinating and wild places left on this world and turning it into a series of fields for growing a homogenised tasteless crop to feed to their genetically-ironed, quality-controlled cattle; 2) having a very effective marketing machine at their disposal, which they prefer to aim at children; and 3) being utterly awful employers.

“They [crew members] have no guaranteed employment rights. They do not have guaranteed employment or guaranteed conditions of employment.” —Ronald Beavers, McDonald’s vice-president, 1995

I know what you’re thinking. ‘All right, evilsoup, sure: McDonald’s are evil money-grubbing bastards whose wealth is built on exploitation of the environment, their workers, childrens’ health, and I’d be a worse person for giving them any money; but what has that to do with this horrific abomination against nature and basic human aesthetics?’

Well, hypothetical reader (surely the only kind this blog will ever attract), as you are no doubt aware, McDonald’s has been fronted for years by clown/probable Operation Yewtree target Ronald McDonald, but it seems that the cost of paying of the police every time he ground up someone’s bones to make his sorcerous, hypnotic face-powder finally outweighed the profits that could be gained from his dark, satanic gifts.

So their new mascot: Happy, the talking Happy Meal.

Just let that sink in for a moment.

Look at that mouth. Just look at it: it takes up over half the face. This is a creature with two functions: smile and consume. The perfect McDonald’s customer.

In a way, this… thing… explains a lot about McDonald’s. It’s not cutting down trees, killing the people who live there, screwing its workers (‘We cannot trust some people who are nonconformists, we will make conformists out of them in a hurry. The organisation cannot trust the individual; the individual must trust the organisation’, said the founder of the company), aiming its deeply unhealthy products at children, and so on for mere profit. Just look at that thing – no healthy mind would design or greenlight that nightmare-inducing monstrosity as a cute mascot.

There is a certain flaw in Enlightenment thinking. Utilitarians will tell you to balance the good against the bad in a given situation; kill one to save ten, or whatever. What that system declines to think about is what effect making such a decision can have on a person: if you keep making decisions to kill one to save ten, you eventually become the kind of person who doesn’t see anything wrong with killing any one person.

There may be some children who want to be corporate board members when they grow up, but for the most part I suspect it is not a lifelong ambition. They’ve fought their way to the top, engaged in office politics, undertaken dirty deals, etc. etc., all in the name of personal advancement. They want to live the good life, as they understand it, and maybe leave something for their kids. Nobody (well… very few people, I hope) starts their career with a set goal of how much rainforest they’re going to destroy, or how many heart attacks they’re going to cause. Step by step by step they make one moral compromise after another, not realising that they are corrupting their very character. The person who they are making all these compromises for – their younger self – no longer exists.

You sell your soul, piece by piece, until there is nothing left but an awful cartoon smile. You compromise and compress your personality to fit in, you chase ever-splintering demographics and file off all the rough edges, you write All Things Bright and Beautiful and miss the point of Jerusalem. This is our world.

There is a better way.


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