Wednesday, March 27, 2019

on the cereal box: morning meditation

Breakfast cereal is an emblem of the industrialized food system. If the system had a totem, surely the faces of Captain Crunch, Tony the Tiger, and Snap, Crackle and Pop would be displayed on it. The cereal box I opened this morning to feed my boy, Kellog’s Smacks – which features a froglike creature with big eyes, an open mouth, a startlingly human tongue, and human like hands, splashing about in milk and wheat stalks and larva shaped honey smacks, against a vivid red background – tells me that it provides me with “50 % Vit. D. Daily Needs”. I’m never sure if I should believe this kind of thing, or even really what it means – one bowl? The whole box? On the back it provides me with a printout of “ingredients” and”nutritional facts”. That the words are in English and Arabic points to the global system – this Kellogg’s cereal box has been somewhat vaguely routed or controlled by the Kellogg’s office in Casablanca.
This box is a marvel as well as, given the ecological tragedy of agribusiness, a horror. Marvels and horrors are the familiars of my ordinary life – and no doubt yours, reader. We flip between them with every app and every birdless sky.
The world of commerce, the system of global production and circulation which brought that box to my kitchen, seems, sometimes, to fill the world. It depends, however, on the act of giving. I give the cereal to my boy. My wife gave her time, labor and money to go out and get the box and bring it back home. My definition of neoliberalism is that cultural regime which attempts to completely embed the social in the economic (defined narrowly as capitalism, a market based system of goods and services controlled by capital); however, it is always limited by the fact that it depends, fundamentally, on what Georges Bataille called the “general economy” – the economy of unexchanged energy, generosity, sacrifice and giftgiving. The further neoliberalism digs into the general economy, the more it undermines itself. In this contradiction, myth is generated.

olivier blanchard and the free lunch: a comedy of errors

  The neolib economist Oliver Blanchard tweeted a very funny comedy bit, in which he played the part of “social democrat”. And he wrote: “As...