I’m lovin’ it: burger all dressed with guilt

Is McDonald’s the ultimate symbol of imperialism? It seems to be a composite symbol of many factors. Sometimes what we think it is acts as a facade, a narrative of disavowal that is a bit superficial since these stories are necessary because its a bit dangerous and into uncharted waters to approach the truth. So, we need stories when we are involved in something bigger than ourselves that might be revolutionary and risk lives. So we content ourselves for the most part on a generalized critique of society, commodify dissent it as an industry. And rant. …

Walter Benjamin comes up with a simple and brilliant response to Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit Of Capitalism. For Weber, the “Spirit of Capitalism” draws from Protestantism a teleological postponement of materiality through the ethics of work. Rejecting Weber’s division between the ‘spirit’ and structure of Capitalism, Benjamin determines that it is instead “an essentially religious phenomenon”: “Capitalism has developed as a parasite of Christianity in the West…”, but now it reaches “the point where Christianity’s history is essentially that of its parasite”. More interestingly, though, Benjamin concludes that rather than a dogmatic religion, “Capitalism is a purely cultic religion, perhaps the most extreme that ever existed”. Capitalism refuses the religious structure of the eternal deferral of salvation and the permanent futurity of the fulfilment of the Weberian ‘calling’ and exchanges it with an immediate and actual potential for salvation in the here and now. Under Capitalism “there are no weekdays”, writes Benjamin, “there is no day that is not a feast day, in the terrible sense that all its sacred pomp is unfolded before us”. This rejection of dogma, of the supposition of a higher and external truth that ethically guides the individual in a pursuit of unattainable perfection, historically served as the axiom for most eschatological heresies and cults. Read More:http://www.kollectiv.co.uk/Capitalism%20As%20Cult.html

Remember that in spite of industrial standardization, McDonalds does not possess total control over its meaning to its customer base, try as it may. At a base level, the dissent is fairly universal: its a stupid hamburger and not really a meal. Or food. Its a metaphor for a caloric indulgence that has little intrinsic value. The stores are also the center for a certain social life that stretches the limits of expected meal duration. Would Lenin and Tristan Tzara have played chess in a Zurich McDonalds? Did Mayo deserve a break today after the long march?  So, there is an element here of the moxie and a bit of elan in a subterranean control over what is really a giant machine that prints money.But its not all negative.

In new markets, or non Western markets, McDonalds is often a symbol of lifestyle. The emerging middle classes who flash a little bling on a very reduced scale and are conceptually open to American influence that have found their way into their culture and are, to some degree, willing to show it, advertise it, through consumption of burgers.


---A writer named Steven Shapin, reviewing a book that deals with the globalization of food, in "The Guardian," on Dec. 1, 2003, had a perceptive passage about this: Globalised products such as the Big Mac and Coke have secured their spread across the world by travelling in the special channels carved out by American power, capital and culture. While Big Macs are now everywhere -- you can avoid them in Bhutan and Afghanistan, but that's a high price to pay -- it would be impossible to explain their global distribution without attending to those channels and to their identification with the powerful idea of America. Just as Château Lynch-Bages has a Pauillac Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée, so the Big Mac is AOC USA. You can't account for why so many people throughout the world want to eat it - or, indeed, why so many others use it as a reference for globalised abominations - without understanding their ideas about the place called America. Read More:http://etymonline.com/columns/graffiti.htm

In Korea we can telescope all of this contentious debate on modernization into an argument over the merits of McDonald’s. The sine qua non symbol of aggressive, American capitalism, McDonald’s is the subject of endless peroration in newspapers, on television, and in the day-to-day conversations of Korean people. More than simply a question of market share, the effects of McDonald’s and other fast food on Korea is a question of identity, the authenticity of the Korean self, culture and social life amidst the anomie of global “McDonaldization.” Yet, whatever their fears of Western imperialism, Korean people flock to McDonald’s, stuffing their faces with Big Macs and slurping down shakes, each consumer in happy, geosynchronous concert with their counterparts in Russia, India, France and Canada.Read More:http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=2239a

---Visor-clad, burger-handling teens wrapped in eau de deep fryer beware: Your days are numbered — at least in Europe. McDonald’s Europe is replacing their front line cashier McJobs with touchscreen terminals and swipe cards in 7,700 of their locations. The move by the fast-food giant is an attempt to ensure more convenient dining keeps customers flocking through their doors despite hard economic times. “Ordering food has not changed for 30 or 40 years,” Steve Easterbrook, president of McDonald’s Europe, told the Financial Times. But in an era of convenience, Ronald McDonald decided that the time for service with a swipe instead of a smile, was now. Easterbrook told the Times that the introduction of the terminals would decrease customer serving times by three to four seconds per transaction. McDonald’s Europe serves two million customers each day. The introduction of the machines will also spell the end of cash payments in locations that introduce them across the continent, as they only accept credit or debit cards.---Read More:http://www.thestar.com/business/article/992516--mcdonald-s-set-to-end-service-with-a-smile-in-europe image:http://laughingsquid.com/billboard-liberation-front-to-serve-man/

…Faced with a uniformity of production, consumers are nevertheless free to creatively appropriate apparently homogeneous product into the Geertzean webs of local culture and localized experience. To borrow a metaphor from Re-Made in Japan, a collections of essays on Japanese consumption edited by Jeffrey Tobin, the West is less borrowed than “domesticated” into East Asia (Tobin 1992). That is, for “the foreign” to have meaning in Japan, Korea, China or Taiwan, it must first be incorporated into a context of cultural practice, nationalism and identity uniquely Korean, Japanese, Chinese or Taiwanese….

---Now why would a people who would burn out a McDonald's in the name of cultural integrity turn around and suck down this sort of cultural poison? For that matter, why do they tolerate the awful American pop music that flowed from the radios and CD players everywhere we went? For a people to loot a McDonald's,

n turn around and deface their own historic treasures with Bronx-born graffiti styles, seems to me as stupidly self defeating as a man refusing to wear American-made clothing and then tattooing "Made in the U.S.A." on his forehead. --- Read More:http://etymonline.com/columns/graffiti.htm image:http://thefreeonline.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/anti-mcdonalds-huge-resource-center/


McDonald’s now has a firm hold on Asian markets, from its first restaurant in Japan in 1971 to its first restaurant in Beijing in 1992. Anti-U.S. imperialism notwithstanding, McDonald’s is devastatingly popular and, together with other fast food franchises that make up what has been called the “first industrialization of eating,” has changed the foodways of a nation. This involves much more than the industrialization of food–the hamburger Taylorism for which McDonald’s is famous–but also the industrialization of the consumer. As James Watson explains in his chapter on McDonald’s in Hong Kong:

For the system to work, consumers must be educated –or “disciplined”–so that they voluntarily fulfill their side of an implicit bargain: We (the corporation) will provide cheap, fast service, if you (the customer) carry your own tray, seat yourself, and help clean up afterward. …

---empathy? :....And says one of the anti-this and anti-that crowd: The local member of parliament, top Green party lawmaker, Hans-Christian Stroebele concedes there is no legal way to stop the restaurant but says: “I fear McDonald’s, with all its media power, will tempt the students not to eat their sandwich and apple for lunch,” he said. First off, I’m not so sure anti-globalists and anarchists actually eat sandwiches and apples, that seems far too normal. I’m also not sure that kabobs are that much better for a person that McNuggets. What the smelly crowd seems to hate more than anything, is change. I’m not the biggest fan of change myself, but I understand that with change comes progress (most of the times). The smelly crowd doesn’t understand that, or if they do, they don’t care for progress. What is so idyllic about a small community of squatters and lazy kids that hang out, eating kabobs and chewing on organic foods? The answer is nothing is idyllic about it, it’s only idyllic in the brains of short minded people. The great thing about free choice is that if people hate McDonald’s so much, they won’t eat there. Without a profit, McDonald’s will shut down, that’s the way things work. Read More:http://mitchieville.com/2007/07/ image:http://mr-nethead.com/?p=778

“Queuing” and “self-service,” for example, are neither a natural nor inevitable response to crowds and congestion, yet McDonald’s had to discipline its customers into orderly lines. This has meant adapting the rigor of McDonald’s factory-dining to the exigencies of local culture. In Hong Kong, the “queue” and “self-bussing” separate the cosmopolitan from the country yokel. In Japan, customers’ long relationship with McDonald’s has introduced a host of eating practices heretofore antithetical to polite society. While an older generation of Japanese has long equated “eating while standing” with the behavior of animals, the practice has been institutionalized in restaurants too small to accommodate seated diners. In Beijing, customers bus their own tables to signify their middle-class respectability (and middle-class aspirations): “Interestingly enough, several informants told me that when they threw out their own rubbish, they felt they were more “civilized” (“wenming”) than other customers because thy knew the proper behavior” .

McDonald’s has also introduced a new concern for public hygiene in restaurant kitchens and bathrooms, an innovation that has transformed consumer expectations in all of the countries studied. In Beijing, the newly emergent, professional middle-class worries over foods served from street stalls by recent migrants. These middle-class consumers look to McDonald’s for its beneficent “health food.” As Youngxiang Yan finds, “The idea that McDonald’s provides healthy food based on nutritional ingredients and scientific cooking methods has been widely accepted by both the Chinese media and the general public” . In Hong Kong, McDonald’s has changed perceptions of “clean” and “dirty”: bathrooms once considered acceptable are now suspect and customers have become, in general, more careful about the restaurants they patronize. “For many Hong Kong residents, therefore, McDonald’s is more than just a restaurant; it is an oasis, a familiar rest station, in what is perceived to be an inhospitable urban environment” . And in Taipei, McDonald’s hamburgers are considered a fitting–even nutritious–school lunch. As one school principal told David Y.H. Yu, “They learn hygiene behavior and proper etiquette by eating hamburgers. What is bad about fast food?” Read More:http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=2239

Read More:http://www.mcspotlight.org/media/press/mcds/indymedia200102.html
Read More:http://clamormagazine.org/issues/25/feature4.php
…The sad part is that while the neoleftists are worshipping symbols, McDonalds is taking care of Paris’ poor. Many French retirees and low income workers go to McDonalds to buy a coffee or just a bottle of water because it is so much less expensive and they can drink it sitting down. Paris cafés charge higher prices for drinking anything sitting down. But the limousine leftists, who of course would never be caught dead anywhere near a McDonalds, do not know this. They are too busy chowing down where-the-elite-meet-to-eat in the 8th arrondissement right next to their PR firms. Read More:http://etymonline.com/columns/graffiti.htm

…If in Capitalism transcendence is replaced with immanence, Benjamin continues, salvation is replaced by guilt. If the potential to achieve absolution exists in the actuality, if one can be saved in the here and now, then any failure to do so, any disappointment or unhappiness in the present immediately manifests itself as guilt: “Capitalism is probably the first instance of a cult that creates guilt, not atonement”. In this formulation, the substitution of salvation for guilt correlates to the fulfilment of desire and the production of guilt in Freudian psychoanalysis, as well as to the consumerist cycle that ties self-actualisation to debt. As a consequence, “Capitalism… is a religion which offers not the reform of existence but its complete destruction”: the fulfilment of its prophecies can only come true in a complete eradication of its most basic assertions. This is why the counter-cultural absolute rejection of reformist and participatory politics and its flipside, the ethos of uncompromising political purity against a more benign realpolitik are essentially the greatest expressions of belief in the system laid out by Capitalism, a system in which one is forever complicit in one’s own passive collaboration. “God”, writes Benjamin “may be addressed only when [man’s] guilt is at its zenith”.[Read More:http://www.kollectiv.co.uk/Capitalism%20As%20Cult.html


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