Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Flashback: Brave New World ... at Breakfast

While I'm involved in another project, I am re-posting some of my favorite essays. This essay was originally posted on March 31, 2014.


... That is how our “brave new world” level of distopia has come upon us. It was not evil dictators, it was not the communists, it was not some fearful atheistic socialist government. It was the promise of a dollar that caused us to slowly and willingly hand our lives over to someone else’s control. The result is a poverty of will, a poverty of ideas, a poverty of community spirit, and a deep indebtedness to the corporation.



During the summer of 1974, I took my first job away from home. I was one of those college students who sold books door-to-door with the Southwestern Publishing Company. My roommates and I found a room to rent and we set out to make our way in the world. It was a great time to get a taste of the work-a-day world and to test our mettle. That summer I discovered for the first time the small private restaurants that were open for breakfast and lunch. My buddies and I found a couple of nice places to start our day with a hearty breakfast. These were homey spots. They were often Mom & Pop operations equipped to get breakfast orders out quickly to people who were on their way to work. Often, when they got to know your breakfast preferences, they would begin preparing it when they saw you getting out of you car so the wait time was almost non-existent.

 A Loss of Community?

There was something else about those breakfast spots. They were places where friends met before starting the day. They provided a sense of community where you could keep tabs on how folks were doing and what the latest happenings in town were. “Fast food” breakfast was virtually unknown. I can remember when McDonald's first ventured into the breakfast market with the “Egg McMuffin.” It seemed a little weird, but we began to get accustomed to the idea of a “hamburger joint” selling breakfast food.

All of these thoughts came back to me this morning when I saw on television a news piece about the “breakfast wars” as Taco Bell attempts to take some of that breakfast revenue from McDonald’s which, according to the news report, has the lion’s share of the breakfast business. All of this highlights where we have come and how we go about life in the city. We are people who are serving the corporation, are informed by the corporation, and are fed by the corporation.

Finding Hope at the Drive-thru Window

That same corporate mentality fuels our fantasy of democratic ideals as big money influences “grass roots organizations” to support candidates and legislation which favor the big-moneyed corporations. Since those days in the mid 1970s when I was first venturing into the work world, we have slowly been handing our lives over to the corporation even as we warned ourselves of the evils of totalitarian government. That is how our “brave new world” level of distopia has come upon us. It was not evil dictators, it was not the communists, it was not some fearful atheistic socialist government. It was the promise of a dollar that caused us to slowly and willingly hand our lives over to someone else’s control. The result is a poverty of will, a poverty of ideas, a poverty of community spirit, and a deep indebtedness to the corporation.

To quote, Pink Floyd, all in all we're just another brick in the wall -- a brick in the wall of a system that controls our choices and actions. Not by way of totalitarian government, but by way of a pervasive media that keeps happy faces on the air to assure us that we are free. We buy our breakfast alone and on the go as we head off to office cubicles and other similar shackles to work for “the man.” All the while television jingles reassure us that we are buying hope and value at the drive-through. 


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2 comments:

  1. Your essay here, Charlie, reminds me of Neil Postman's book, "Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business." Are you acquainted with it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Drexel, I'm not familiar with it, but I'll have to go find it. Thanks for stopping by.

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