Tag Archives: Society

The Scientific Age vs Food Culture

Words cannot express how good it feels to finally type away at my laptop, stringing words together to make sentences, which in turn fill a post up with an idea. It has been pretty hectic in Farrah-land, but I have gotten better at maximizing all the small tid-bits of time amidst the bustle.

So, what have I been squeezing into these time gaps you ask? A book that I have been itching to read for quite awhile now: “Outside the Box: Why Our Children Need Real Food, Not Food Products” by Jeannie Marshall. This was definitely one of those eye-openers at the North American Food Culture compared to the cultures that exist all around the world. Now, I could write about everything I had originally planned on writing about, but it would be at the risk of writing a lengthy post about Marshall’s entire book – yes, that is how informative of a read it really was. Decisions, decisions! To be quite honest, it was a tough decision to choose one set topic as they all flowed quite nicely into each other like rivers into the ocean, but I settled on the concept of science and food culture.

©Farrah Merza: Outside The Box: Why Our Children Need Real Food, Not Food Products by Jeannie Marshall
©Farrah Merza: Outside The Box: Why Our Children Need Real Food, Not Food Products by Jeannie Marshall

Marshall (2012) talks about how North American culture is nutrient-specific, which means that instead of focusing on the meal, we focus on our nutrient intake (p. 63).  I was blown away! I mean, I have never thought about my motivation behind eating… who does! But it is so true. I catch myself saying “oh, I need to include some protein in my dinner”, when I really should know better and enjoy food. Thank both the German chemist Justus Von Liebig and his research into the “essential elements in food that sustained us”, and American chemist Stephen Babcock for continuing that line of research in collaboration with dairy famers (Marshall, 2012, p. 61). Liebig discovered the “percentages of protein, fat, and carbohydrates that he thought were needed in a healthy diet” (Marshall, 2012, p. 61). However, it was Babcock who found the vitamin link when he devised his experiment of controlling what certain groups of cows ate: one group was limited to corn, one to wheat, one to oats, and the last group to a mixture of all three grains (Marshall, 2012, p. 62). All four groups were not allowed to graze on the farmer-recommended plants they usually graze on (Marshall, 2012, p. 62). The cows fared okay, but when it came time for breeding, the real results were more than evident in their calves: The calves born from corn-fed group were -for the most part- fine, but the calves begot from the other three groups were a different story; they were weak and sick, and the wheat-fed group’s offspring were blind (Marshall, 2012, p. 62). Interesting eh! However, it is important to note that the famers knew that the cow’s varied plant-based, grazing diet was the best without any research; they knew from their agrarian culture, which was passed down from their forefathers. It was a shame that culture was never really credited for their vast knowledge of locally produced food. Unfortunately, research and nutrients was the game, which later skyrocketed when certain diseases (i.e. rickets, linked with vitamin D deficiency; and scurvy, linked to a vitamin C deficiency) were attributed to a deficiency in certain nutrients.

Now please do not get me wrong, I am not against science by any means! However, the research conducted on food has turned on us, the public. Food companies use this research to convince us to buy packaged junk by fortifying them with nutrients or getting rid of the high sodium/sugar levels that are usually present (Marshal, 2012, p. 67). That’s all I ever see stacked on the grocery store shelves. It’s a sad sight, and we need to smarten up. And yet, and the same time, how can we? There’s no time to cook, no consistent, warm climate to grow gardens, no emphasis on locally grown produce with all the exports we’re all exposed to, and no one set food culture because of our diverse demographics. Furthermore, ever since I can remember, I have been drilled with the North American food chart outlining the allotted daily grain, protein, dairy, and fruit and vegetable servings; however, never about local produce, their cycles, and how to use our Canadian soil (aka, never about a healthy, Canadian food culture). But, times are changing as now because thanks to Toronto’s non-profit group called FoodShare, there are schools who pride themselves on their green gardens, which are maintained by students (Marshall, 2012, p. 133). Marshall (2012) talks about Bendale, a technical high school located in Scarborough, which, with the help of FoodShare, created their own food gardens (p. 133). [NOTE: If you clicked the Bendale link, you will be able to see that their specialized skills will include horticulture and landscaping (p. 3). They also have a “Blooms and Bargains” market place open to the community (p. 5)] I was overjoyed reading this segment; my eyes were dewy for the first time with hope for a healthy food culture in Canada. It is a safe bet to say that this is where the shift has to start, from our youth. I actually wrote about educating our youth for the post carbon era last year in Part 2: Educating the Masses (click and read if you have not read it!), which ties quite nicely into this post as I touched on greenhouses and gardens in schools.

So yes, the scientific age versus food culture… but why should it be versus? Why can’t we, the consumers, strip this incessant, profit-based food culture we are saturated in so we can focus on rebuilding a healthy, food culture with the knowledge researchers have amassed? It is about respecting food culture (more importantly the local food culture), but tending to our scientific endeavours as well without our knowledge being abused.

Critical Thinking

Don’t you think we’ve lost the capacity for critical thinking? For losing our discretion when it comes to making decisions… blindly following the strict rules and regulations?

Take for example, the simple yet controversial use of travel mugs. Controversial? Yes, controversial. Allow me to explain. Travel mugs are meant to lower your ecological footprint, making the use of paper cups obsolete… well that is the theory isn’t it. Well, I’ll have you know that I cannot finish the entire contents of my mug IF filled to the brim. So, I always ask for them, the wonderful people behind the counter, to only pour the equivalent of a small in my mug. However, I find myself figuratively scratching my head when they proceed to fill a paper cup first before pouring it into my mug. Heaven forbid they give me a drop too much or a drop too little. Kinda defeats the purpose of using one now doesn’t it. I’m happy to say that this doesn’t happen all the time as now I’m accustom to telling them to fill it half way instead.

Right, back to being a little bit more serious about critical thinking. It is really easy to take everything that bombards us on a daily basis at face value, not digging deeper into the context. Now I’m not going to lie, it’s an arduous task to sift through all the media broadcasts, but is it worth it when the credibility (or lack there of) behind the messages is uncovered? It’s just like thinking about the purpose of that travel mug before filling it with whatever beverage that the customer wants. It’s about using your judgment in estimating that small-sized amount and then asking the customer if that’s enough. It’s about using your intelligence, taking a step back, and processing our intricate world.

Now I could be wrong, so what do you think? Is critical thinking on the decline?

The Norm

I admit, this post is a premature one considering I have not finished reading this novel yet. However, in that being said, I am already struck with the idea that suspicion surrounds Nick because of his persona and actions during his wife’s (Amy’s) disappearance. Granted the police have to start somewhere and of course, it is those closer to the victim who are always suspected first. But, the concept just got me thinking of how people are perceived and how important those perceptions really are in certain situations.

“The news reports would show Nick Dunne, husband of the missing woman, standing metallically next to his father-in-law, arms crossed, eyes glazed, looking almost bored as Amy’s parents wept. Then worse. My long time response, the need to remind people I wasn’t I dick, I was a nice guy despite the affectless stare, the haughty douchebag face. So there it came, out of no where, as Rand begged for his daughter’s safe return: A killer smile” – pg 64

Not going to lie, that killer smile makes him seem pretty guilty right? So what does this all have to do with the title, “The Norm”? Well think about it, if we don’t act/react the way society dictates us to, we’re perceived as weird and depending on the situation, guilty. See, the thing with Nick is that he was taught to hide emotion, to hide it from his father and the world because quite frankly, emotion was a sign of weakness. So maybe his way of dealing with it is to not show his inner turmoil. So is it fair to deem people as scrupulous in nature if they do not meet our reaction standards? I mean you have to admit, categorizing people based on their reactions/actions is a well-oiled survival mechanism allowing us to instantly distance ourselves from a potentially shaky individual. But again I say, is it fair?

As I said before, I haven’t finished the book yet, so the question of whether Nick is guilty or not still hovers over me. However, I have a sneaky suspicion that no matter how guilty he appears to be, a Red Herring will be thrown in and give an unexpected twist. I’ll just have to find out for myself now won’t I.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
©Farrah Merza

The Corner

A place where if a snake was backed into, would instantly strike viciously at its attacker(s). It is a well coined expression based on this absolute truth of what actually happens. So this begs the question, do we humans always strike back without a second thought if faced with a similar predicament to that of the snake?

I believe it is instinctual, ingrained in our basic need to survive. But, can we ever overcome that instinct with out intellect and squash that behaviour if we feel it to be self destructive? Sounds like an intellect vs. instinct topic doesn’t it.

So I will leave with this: What will happen if one is backed into a corner? An even scarier notion, what if that person had nothing to lose?

The Void

We all have one don’t we, that metaphorical hole which we fill with something or another to make us feel whole. Its substance unique to the individual as, of course, everyone has different priorities. The putty, if you will, could be anything from socializing and shmoozing, shopping, family, religion, health and fitness, etc.

So where exactly am I going with this seeing that the above paragraph is ridiculously obvious? Well, what happens when it’s barren? When life is void of meaning? It’s dismal to think about the idea if yours is filled to the brim with nothing but positive things, but for some people this is their reality. So is this when people turn to scrupulous activities and become self-destructive? I mean, it’s undeniable that many negative outcomes to such a bleak outlook on life exist. For instance, a prime example would be the unfortunate and deadly, last-ditch-attempt-to-make-the-world-a-better-place suicide. So this begs the question, shouldn’t there be more effective safety nets installed in any given society that helps these said people? There are so many factors which can deprive someone of a full void like, for example, losing their job. So does that mean that we, as a collective, are responsible for these people? That the government should be more active in helping those who risk severe depression? Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that our society has installed a plethora of groups specific to treating those that fall into self destructive habits. But, are they as effective as we think?

Thoughts?

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With all these questions swirling about, it would have been nice if I were qualified to research further into this… maybe a major in sociology wouldn’t have been such a bad idea.

Suits, Ties, and Higher Education

I’ve been watching Suits after some extreme nudging from those around me and I’m not going to lie, it’s an amazing show. I mean, what’s not to love! The music is great, the characters are believable, and the fashion is incredible… but it’s the premise of the show that really got to me. Mike Ross, one of the main characters, never went to Harvard and yet he landed an associate position with an extremely popular corporate lawyer Harvey Specter all because of his wit and his gift of memorizing and understanding everything he reads. Aka, he gets a chance to make a lot of money without the education to back him up. But, of course, this is illegal. VERY illegal.

*lightbulb*

This got me thinking about real life. There are brilliant people like Mike Ross out there and yet, they don’t reach their full potential because they lack the higher education. It’s a bold statement to say, but unfortunately it is true. They say that this is the era for opportunities which are readily available to all those who seek it… but is it really? Higher education is expensive and with the economy in such bad shape, why should people spend so much money on degree after degree when the promise of a lucrative job available upon graduation is non-existent? Furthermore, for some families, scrounging up the money for higher education seems like a burden, so some people are deprived of the vital support and funds.

Granted that there are some fields where higher education is needed like, for instance, the medical field. Personally, I would feel a whole lot better being treated by someone who has their credentials. But in that being said, getting the essential education shouldn’t be so hard. Solution? What if obtaining higher education wasn’t so expensive? What if it were, dare I say, free? I’m sure you’d agree with me when I say that that would tap into a wealth of brilliant, disadvantaged people. Then, this would truly be the era of opportunities.

Propelling Michael Phelps

Right now I’m watching a news broadcast on the jaw dropping (and not in a good way) results of Michael Phelps’ 400 IM event in the London 2012 Olympics; the same prodigy athlete who dominated swimming in the 2008 Olympics. Now when I say dominated, I mean won by a ridiculous amount of time, every single time. It really was a genuine treat to witness such mind-numbing, perpetually achieved victories. But oh how the tides have turned. According to the article “London 2012: Michael Phelps admits he swam a ‘crappy race’ vs. Ryan Lochte” in the National Post, Lochte beat Phelps by 4 seconds in the 400 IM event. Yikes!

Now back to the broadcast. The anchors and specialists were not only talking about how disappointed fans must have been, but also touched on the reason as to why the disappointment was so intense. Ever since that picture of Phelps smoking marijuana surfaced, his career and reputation took a nosedive. They went on to state that the North American culture is to “propel people on a pedestal too quickly”, thus causing an intense negative reaction when they fail to meet our standards…

To me, this sounds all too familiar as I did write about a similar subject in a previous post of mine called The Plight that is Teaching. Needless to say, I could not stop grinning as I witnessed this theme weaving its way through this broadcast and how it was taken one step further. In my post, I had talked about how we tend to do this to our teachers, but of course this can be applied to our idols whether they are celebrities or teachers.

To be honest, I think we need to keep things in perspective and not put our idols through ridiculous standards. Once we realize that they are indeed human beings as well, we don’t risk suffering needless, severe blow to our psyche.

Accessibility

“…we believe that everyone can have access to yoga and everyone can walk into a Moksha studio and know right away that they belong – all religions, body types, injured bodies, all political views…”

– Moksha Yoga

A beautiful and idealistic notion isn’t it, to include everyone regardless of their differences. To have that one sanctuary void of judgement, a place to find internal peace and a strong sense of community.

This increasingly strong Moksha subculture has taken root in the Western world despite being around for centuries. Why? Because of this promise of inclusivity. The Western world is a conglomerate, a heterogenous mix of differences all bombarding each other. There are different institutions and facilities based on strong diasporas, but has anyone thought of an attainable union? Now, that goes without saying that there are institutions in the public sphere aimed at embracing differences, but I have never come across a pure place of union – of different people with different religions, political views, etc – like a Moksha studio. Granted, I’ve never tried to search for places like this. I just only happened to stumble on Moksha because I wanted to try hot yoga. But, needless to say, places with this ideology are much needed, especially in an increasingly hostile environment towards differences.

Intoxicating in the promise of sheer bliss, this – dare I say – social movement is taking the Western world by storm. With all the scrupulous activities, global conflicts, and hectic lifestyles, environments like that of a Moksha studio is seemingly the white knight we all need, the white knight that is accessible to all who seek out the peace and belonging they desire.

©Farrah Merza: The Buddha statue that, upon entering the Moksha studio, you first see. Peaceful isn’t it.

The Few

In the name of “The Few”, the worst atrocities can be committed. They twist themselves into the roots of humanity like a weed, slowly choking our trees we’ve so lovingly planted (reference to blog post: Toast to the New Year). And, if The Few deem it necessary, The Many’s reputation is forever tarnished, as they peel it off like skin.

What makes The Few so powerful enough to taint the rest? That any bad news can spell T.H.E. E.N.D.? Perhaps it is humanity’s flaw that we regard the negative more important than the positive? If so, can we ever overcome that flaw?
 
… thoughts to ponder I suppose…