May 10, 2011

A Lesson from the Great Depression

Being an English major as well as nutrition student, I am a huge George Orwell fan. I came across something he wrote during the Great Depression regarding the English working class:

“The basis of their diet is white bread and margarine, corned beef, sugared tea and potato – an appalling diet. Would it not be better if they spent more money on wholesome things like oranges and wholemeal bread?...Yes it would, but the point is, no human being would ever do such a thing…A millionaire may enjoy breakfasting off orange juice and Ryvita biscuits; an unemployed man does not…When you are underfed, harassed, bored, and miserable, you don’t want to eat dull wholesome food. You want to eat something a bit tasty.”

Tasty like Cheetos, George? Like donuts, fast food, soda, and trans-fat goodness? Do you realize we aren’t dealing with a new problem in this country? It seems people have been asking the same questions for nearly 100 years. These “working class” during a downturn in the economy were going through the same frustrations many working families in our country are today. I can’t help connecting this to a book a great friend of mine from the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology leant me - How People Change by Allen Wheels. Wheels takes a more pessimistic view of the human condition than I choose to, but I find his views fascinating and highly relevant to Orwell’s observation about the dietary choices of the population during his time.

“Created suffering…affects us all. Poets tell the truth…It’s part of being human, we differ from one another only in more or less. A few tranquil ones, with little conflict, suffer less; at the other extreme, stretched by despair to some dreadful cracking point, one goes berserk. In between are the rest of us, not miserable enough to go mad or jump off the bridge, yet never able if we are honest to say that we have come to terms with life, are at peace with ourselves, that we are happy”.

It may sound depressing, but strangely relevant across time. Are we eating “tasty” food that we know isn’t good for us because we are suffering or unhappy? Is it possible that we are a culture of emotional eaters covering our discontent with life? Further, if we recognize this is happening, can we do anything to stop it? What do you think?

No comments:

Post a Comment