A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Vive La Différence, Vive La Variété

For some decades now we have lived within a global consumer economy that exalts the idea of all cultures and societies eventually converging on a single norm. Cultural palates in this flattened world can only be progressively homogenised. PANKAJ MISHRA Guardian Review 18.04.09

I hate this gradual, insidious homogenisation of culture that's happening in all places you look. For me the whole beauty and fascination of things lies in their difference, their plurality and their individuality. The presence of companies like Starbucks and McDonalds now in most countries of the world makes me uneasy. I know cultures cross-fertilise - indeed they are often the richer for it - but when one culture hugely dominates the rest, the threatened cultures have one choice: to be absorbed or to resist. Happily there are many examples of cultural resistance everywhere.

Connected with this, it also saddens me that our diet here in England has become so unvaried and homogenised. We may think there's an unparalleled choice of fruit and vegetables in our supermarkets, but this selection is spartan compared with what was available in Victorian times. Then they grew 42 different types of cabbage, 37 lettuces, 62 peaches, 53 peas... A combination of disease, commercial requirements and idiot legislation put an end to this wonderful variety. Apparently it costs nearly £3000 to register a single cultivar for 2 years on the EU's National List of legally certified seeds.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. Do you know Common Ground (http://www.commonground.org.uk/)?

I'm usually against homogenisation, but my life is richer due to hybridity. This, to me, is as important as distinctiveness.


Grace said...

On the food front, that new Jamie Oliver show (here it's called Food Revolution) shows how some kids don't even know what a tomato is. I'm not how that's possible! But I guess if all your food comes from bags and boxes . . .
I'm proud to say I peel and chop my own veggies (even grow some).

Dominic Rivron said...

I have to admit a fondness for the Burger King Spicy Beanburger meal with Coca Cola. And pizzas. I like Indian and Chinese food too. If I were more of a foodie, I'd wax lyrical about how appalling most of my other eating out experiences are. The average pub meal seems to be something from the freezer served hot on a cold plate. People seems to feel a need to present food in obscenely huge portions too. Yuk. 9 times out of 10 I leave feeling I could have cooked a better meal myself. I suppose my point is that people serving up what could be good food should try harder to make it interesting.

Since I'm in danger now of sounding like a Daily Mail journalist I should point out I often crave the days in the 80s when there were a lot of vegetarian co-operative ventures serving all sorts of rich, interesting food. Quiches made with wholemeal flour, alfalfa, beansprouts, rice pudding made with brown rice and soya milk, etc., etc. These days people are obsessed with vicarious cooking: "good food" seems to be what looks good on TV when a TV chef cooks it.

martine said...

what's really sad is that we actually think that things like 'Starbucks' are part of our 'culture', they are just businesses, what is awful is the insidious creep of western attitudes of consumption via things like film and television.
Variety is the spice of life as they say.
thanks for the post

Margaret said...

And this is why seed swaps and seed saving are so important. It's legal to save and swap seeds that aren't on the list (unless banned for some other reason, Cannabis?) and I find it obscene that some seeds are sold deliberately engineered with a terminator gene, so that seed saving is pointless because the next generation will either not breed true or will be sterile.