Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Disconnected Society

Sometime ago, one of my cousins - Hui Ling - made a perceptive comment.

"Did you know it thinks a great deal of effort to harvest these cashew nuts we are eating (gobbling by the handful)?"

I vaguely nodded, using my wise vague nod.

"If we had to do harvest it for ourselves, we would have to be expending a lot of time and energy into the activity." She added.

That comment has stayed in the back of my mind for a long time.

In one word - we are "disconnected".

We are living in a disconnected world. (When I say "we" - I mean citizens living in developed nations. A world where we do not need to plant, forage, run, harvest for our food.

We work in totally unrelated environments from our source of food.

With our hands, we type, draw (with our computer mice), and work in non-farm activities.

We do not need to run and hunt for buffalo, boar, deer, etc..

We do not need to plant, harvest, forage for our crops, vegetables and fruits.

In fact, most of us live very sedentary lives. When we work, we are sitting down in an office chair. When are relaxing, in front of a TV, in front of a computer, in front of a video game, we are sitting down. When are traveling, we are sitting down in a passenger seat, in our car.

The amount of effort it would take to acquire a food item - hunting and gathering - is no longer required. We just go to a supermarket, 711, fast food outlet, restaurant and buy it. In fact, we could probably order it over the internet.

The amount of physical activity required is negligible - practically non-existent compared to our ancestors.

Its unreal. And its also not healthy.

In the past, we had to really exert ourselves physically to acquire meat, berries, rice, wheat etc.. We also had to put in a lot of effort to obtain the basic essentials like drinking water, firewood for cooking, heating etc..

Now its all there. And we can sit in our comfy sofas, eat buckets of fried chicken, eat steak, eat whale meat (imagine the extraordinary effort it would take to acquire that in the past!!!), and do very little in the way of physical activity that would correlate to the direct manufacture of the food source.

Of course, it happens in every part of our modern lives too. We live in homes built by construction companies. We do not build our own motorized vehicles (I tried. Not good idea). We fly in aeroplanes without the need to understand the laws of aerodynamics. We use a banking system with scant regard to the flimsy state of our monetary system.

Do we really understand how things work. Or are we caught like little cogs in a massive mechanical machine moving about unthinking, ignorant?

When I was a child, I was so ignorant that I was actually shocked that cha-siew paos were prepared/baked. I actually thought they grew from trees!

But I digress - we are disconnected from our surroundings in this monetary based society and it distorts realities.

It distorts realities in the sense that people living in affluent nations can destroy the habitats, and wipe out entire species - not because they are living in their proximity - but because with their cash they can place an inexorable demand for shark fins, whale meat, bison flesh, seal fur, etc..

Fishing trawlers cross the globe laying miles of nets that catch literally everything in their path, including dolphins, manta rays, endangered species - most of which is thrown back into the sea or ground down to become cat food or "fish paste". Merchants tempt local fisherman to wipe out their fish reserves.


Teddy Ursa said...

Actually most of us do not really know the labour of the farmers or the fishermen. Of course, many of us are aware of the labour or the risks but I think not many truly comprehend what they really, really do. Including myself... so the least I could do, and wish everyone would, is not to waste food. Itadakimasu...

Yauming YMC said...

Itadakimasu!! Was it the Japanese who coined the phrase - It takes 6 pairs of hands to prepare food? One to plant, one to harvest, one to take to market/sell, one to cook, one to serve, one to eat! (One more to wash up!)

Teddy Ursa said...

Is there such a saying?

I like the word "itadakimasu" very much... it is the humble form of saying I receive to someone with higher statue. In this case, saying "itadakimasu" before eating is like an acknowledgement of the blood and sweat that went into putting that plate of whatever on my table.

Yauming YMC said...

Forty Hands!!