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[casi] In Defense of Fast Food

Tuesday, April 14, 2003
In Defense of Fast Food

A sinister new threat is looming over helpless Iraqi civilians, one that
may rob them of their health, take away their freedom, and destroy their
culture. Is it the Iraqi dictator? No, Saddam is dead or missing. Is it
American bombs and bullets? No, the U.S. military took great care to
avoid civilian casualties (putting our soldiers at risk in the process)
and besides, the war is nearly over. What is the nature of this
insidious threat? According to Voices in the Wilderness, an anti-war
group in Chicago, one of the greatest threats to Iraqi civilians is fast
food. After complaining for years about millions starving due to U.S.
sanctions, liberals are now whining about overeating and obesity due to
American food. As member Stephanie Schaudel explains, “Some people would
think that seeing a KFC on a street corner is a sign of progress, I
certainly don't.” Why the opposition to fatty foods? “You can just look
at what those kinds of businesses have done to the diet and health of
many Americans to think that it might not be the number one thing we
should be exporting…Iraqis have really good food, they don't need a
KFC.” Now that the pacifists’ hopes of bloody resistance to the
liberation of Iraq have been dashed, they are once again uniting to
oppose U.S. “colonialism” and “cultural imperialism.” A spokesman for
A.N.S.W.E.R., an anti-war group worries that fast-food corporations
“will enter this homogenized McDonalds culture and of course we will see
a loss of local traditions and a local way of life.” What is the nature
of this unspoiled native “way of life” and what kind of threat does
McDonalds pose to it?

Iraq has a 4000-year history of being ruled by one despot after another.
In 634 AD, invading Muslim armies kicked out the Persian rulers and
offered the people the following ultimatum: “Accept the faith and you
are safe; otherwise pay tribute. If you refuse to do either, you have
only yourself to blame. A people is already upon you, loving death as
you love life.” For a time, Islamic civilization was a thriving center
of intellectual discourse, in stark contrast to the barbaric tribes and
religious fundamentalism dominating Europe during the Middle Ages.
However, around the 8th century, the Islamic world was split between
teachings of the Arab philosopher, al-Kindi, founder of the school of
Mu'tazilites and advocate of a rational interpretation of basic beliefs
of Islam, and the followers of Ahmed ibn Hanbal, a traditionalist who
argued against the use of reason and for the reliance on faith and
tradition in interpreting the Qur'an. When the Mu'tazilite school lost
out in the ninth century, Iraq, along with the rest of the Arab world,
were plunged into an era of religious fundamentalism and traditionalism
that persists to this day, effectively isolating themselves from the
intellectual Renaissance in Europe that brought scientific discovery and
progress back into the Western world. Like many of his predecessors,
Saddam was not religious, but he used religion to skillfully exploit the
beaten and brainwashed people of Iraq.

The rediscovery of classical thinking during the Renaissance led to the
formation of the “ethnocentric western culture” that liberals love to
demonize. The foundation of Western culture is the reliance of reason
rather than faith to find out the basic facts of reality. By the use of
reason, great thinkers like Thomas Aquinas, Francois Voltaire, John
Locke, Adam Smith, and Thomas Jefferson, discovered that man had certain
unalienable rights, among them the rights to life, liberty, property,
and the pursuit of happiness. While the Islamic world plunged ever
deeper into the stagnation of religious fundamentalism, the great minds
of Europe and America woke up and asserted the right of every man to
live for his own sake, and the proper function of government as an
obedient servant, not master of the people. They recognized that
voluntary trade to mutual benefit was superior to slavery and servitude,
whether to a king or to a mob. When the Founders established the United
States of America, they set up the greatest experiment in history to
test their newly-found values. The experiment, for a while at least, was
a great success. The civilized world experienced never-before seen
prosperity, economic growth, and increases in the longevity and quality
of life. Religion did not die out in the West, but the Founders
recognized that the role of government was to protect men’s rights, not
to enforce morality, and allowed men to their own meaning in the
universe. Western civilization was far from perfect: slavery, war, and
suffering persisted -- but to the extent that men recognized the right
of every person to his own life, their societies flourished.

This is then, the “Western imperialism” that liberals condemn as
inferior and destructive to the “fragile” Iraqi culture. McDonalds and
KFC are the products of a wealthy society, one that is able to
mass-produce cheap, dependable goods more efficiently and safer than
ever before. Certainly, fast food may not be good for one’s health – but
the rapid growth of low-fat items on menus and health-oriented
franchises like Subway shows that the markets respond to consumer
demand. Peter Cook, an organizer with a radical pacifist group claims
that “Iraqis have really good food, they don't need a KFC” – but is he
worried that Iraqis will be dragged into KFC at gunpoint and traditional
eating venues bombed into extinction? No, he is scared stiff that Iraqis
will choose to eat cheaper, safer, and yes, even healthier food paid by
productive and free Iraqi workers, rather than thrown the scraps of
international handouts after their dictator decided which city was going
to starve that day for not bowing down to his regime.

The pacifists are clearly not concerned about Iraqi civilians. They did
not care about the millions who died under Saddam’s brutal regime, and
they do not wish to bring Iraqis the values that brought the Western
world out of the Dark Ages and into the light of liberty and prosperity.
They volunteered as human shields to protect Saddam’s weapons factories,
but they now wish for Americans to get out of Iraq without restoring
order or reconstruction by turning over Iraq to the incompetent and
corrupt hands of the UN. Now that they have failed to keep the United
States from asserting the right to its own existence (albeit weakly),
they seek to prevent the United States from asserting the values that
give us the right to that existence. Having failed to save the Iraqi
dictator, they seek to save the values that created him. They claim that
all cultures are equal, that even the claim that freedom is better than
slavery, prosperity is better than poverty, and life is better than
living death amounts to ethnocentric imperialism and racism. It is not
fast food that these peaceniks oppose, but civilization and life – as it
should be lived. They have made their stance clear. Let us now make ours.

David Veksler
College Station, Texas

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