Agency, in any fullish sense of the word, requires particular conditions which are only rarely met. What robs the poor of dignity – to use Peter’s phrase – is not my pointing out the degree to which they lack free will, but rather the existence of those social conditions that limit it.
I tweeted it rather less gently here:
Don’t have probs with being imaginative with stale bread. Do have probs if you need to do so ‘cos the rich are buggering up the economy.
A fucking massive TV is probably about the price of a night out at the theatre/opera/races for top chefs & society bods like Jamie Oliver.
I shouldn’t, of course, have lost my rag.
After all, it’s not how much you have but – rather – what you do with it, right?
The body of a homeless man who was crushed to death after dustmen emptied the wheelie bin he was sleeping in into their lorry has been found at a Wirral recycling plant.
It is thought the 50-year-old man climbed into the large wheelie bin the night before.
(More cases, if you care enough to read, can be found by clicking here.)
Anyhow, I thought that today – in the light of all the above – I’d regale you with the interview I would have liked Radio Times to have conducted with Jamie Oliver. Hope it makes you think. We all need to – and sharpish:
Me: Hello mate!
JO: Fucking fantastic, bro!
[We both brush fringes - mine yonks ago receded, his still vibrantly attacking - away from our respectively magnificent foreheads.]
JO: Have a Spanish breadstick. Does wonders for your wallet.
Me: ¡Gracias, hombre! My wallet needs a bit of help.
JO: Ever eaten real Spanish food?
Me: Sure have. Whenever I go to Spain. Mediterranean diet. Extra virgin olive oil. Lentils. Acorn-fed pigs. Seafood. Pescado azul. Pimentón. Burgos cheese. Tomatoes. Onions. Lettuce. Citrus fruit.
JO: Whoa! Hey! Cool, man! Right on! Have a drizzle of aceite on your barra!
Me: Biscuits. Magdalena cakes. Torrefacto coffee. Chocolate drink. Churros. Chuminadas de todo tipo.
[I continue with a tad of mala leche.]
Me: Haribo. Coca-Cola. Pepsi. McDonald’s. Burger King. KFC. Pizza Hut …
[JO frowns for a calculated moment under his cooperative haircut.]
JO: Yeah. But that’s just the younger generation.
Me: Well. The younger generation which lives in Spain probably still eats half decently. The younger generation which has had to leave Spain – ‘cos there aren’t any jobs for the fifty percent who are now unemployed – now eats like the rest of us when we’re not in Spain: which is to say, like corporate shit.
[Another studied frown from JO comes my way. Not that he ever gives up.]
JO: Anyhow. If you know how to eat right, with a min of dosh you’ll eat right whatever.
Me: Hey, man! Right on the button!
JO: Yup! You bet! Nothing like being right on the button to
jack up those book salessave the nation from itself.
Me: But what if you’ve spent the past thirty years in a country where food corporations of dubious quality have posted thousands of monthly messages at your latch-key kids, whilst you’re out the home working your bloody socks off on a miserable minimum wage?
JO: Spend more time at home. Hey! Lifestyle change, caballero. Your choice. You don’t need that TV. You don’t need that phone. You don’t need that tablet. You don’t need that dishwasher. You don’t need that washing-machine. You don’t need that microwave. You don’t need that cooker. You don’t need that central-heating boiler. You don’t need that hot and cold running-water. In fact, you don’t even need that roof over your head.
[My turn to frown. Even so, I decide to ask the obvious question.]
Me: So, dear mate Jamie, what do I need?
[And thus, here endeth the interview. As well as my confusion about JO's real underlying motives.]
If truth be told, Mr Oliver may think he acts out of the very best of intentions. But the world is strewn with the results of well-meaning individuals. Nothing worse in politics and biz than the pig-headed certainties of those who look only forwards.
Mr Oliver thinks the solution to poverty lies, in part, in teaching the poor to ignore the overwhelming weight of discourse of a hugely consumerist society. He’s right here, of course. This is something we cannot deny. But we shouldn’t start with food habits themselves. We should start with the kind of people who cleverly identify a niche in the humongous cookery book market and look to exploit it with controversial allusions (“Let them eat stale bread!”) to an apocryphal Marie Antoinette.
Yes. The poor do need to rid themselves of the exhortations of the rich to consume more and more. So why couldn’t he just come out of the closet and admit that capitalism is broken?
Why all this coded language? Why all this focussing on a small part of the pyramid of needs? Why all this reducing the scope of the poor in Western society to behaving more efficiently in relation to the base needs of breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis and excretion?
We do still have excretion, right?
That is still a right of the poor, I take it.