Whats So Bad About World Domination?
By Catherine Clyne
Whats so bad about aspiring toward world domination? This is the
question I keep bumping up against as I sift through all kinds of information
on one of the greatest symbols of global dominance, McDonalds.
Reading their corporate strategy to capture all possible
meal occasions, their term for exhausting a market of all
its potential to spend money at McDonalds or one of its partner
brand restaurants, it seems reasonable to think, if they can do
it, why shouldnt they? If fast food is what people want, whats
so bad about taking every opportunity to give it to them? Its
cheap. Its designed to be tasty. Its convenient. Weary parents
can get a moment of peace as their kids are distracted by junk food,
sugar water and cool toys. Plus its familiar. (Dont underestimate
how important the comfort of familiarity isto some it offers a
modicum of stability and cultural identity in a frequently chaotic world.)
The new BK Veggie burger has many vegans and vegetarians
in an uproar. Burger King has introduced a near-vegan burger in some
of their U.S. restaurants. On the one hand, Hooray! Finally mainstream
America is putting vegetarianism on the map, er, menu, which gives burger-eaters
an alternative to animal flesh, and just might turn more people on to
veggie food. Most importantly for ethical vegetarians, if just one animal
is saved from the slaughterhouse disassembly line, then its something
to celebrate. On the other hand, the idea of praising anything even
remotely related to the fast food industry makes the stomach turn. Burger
King wouldnt serve a veggie burger if they didnt think theyd
profit from ittheyll drop the option faster than you can
say BK Veggie if it flops. This may not seem like a big
deal, after all, its the way of the market, but it raises a much
deeper question: Should ethical vegetarians support multinational corporations
Fast food giants like Burger King and McDonalds are fueled by
exploitationbe it nonhuman or human animalsand theyve
made it clear that they dont intend to change anytime soon, which
goes against the very essence of ethical veganism: compassion.
When is Enough Enough?
The sun never sets on the American fast food empireseriously.
McDonalds has 30,000 restaurants in 121 countries with a collective
average of 46 million customers a day. Ironically, their busiest restaurant
is in the middle of Moscows Red Square. In 2002 they plan to add
more than 1,300 McDonalds restaurants and to open 100 to 150 of
their partner brand restaurants (like Boston Market and
Donatos Pizzeria. But is a respectable four percent sales increase in
2001 enough? McDonalds doesnt think so.
McDonalds is the worlds number one consumer of cow and chicken
carcasses. It employs some 1.5 million workers (not including the people
who raise and slaughter the animalstheyre contractors, not
employees), the majority of whom receive the legal minimum wage, and
is the single largest employer of teens in the U.S. While their 2001
Annual Report boasts that Fortune magazine ranked McDonalds
among Americas Most Admired Companies in the area of social responsibility,
they go through great pains to ensure that minimum wages worldwide do
not rise. McDonalds is the muscle behind the industrys trade
groupthe National Restaurant Associationwhich has successfully
lobbied Congress to block an increase in the federal minimum wage since
it was raised to $5.15 in 1996, and puts the pressure on whenever states
or cities dare to propose an increase. Rather than small businesses,
McDonalds is a major recipient of millions of dollars in federal
subsidies for the training of employees, even though their restaurants
are so mechanized that little training is required and the average tenure
of a McDonalds employee is three months. Add on top of this the
elaborate reasons given by the board to justify why CEO Jack Greenberg
deserves a bonus of $1.2 million in addition to his nearly
$1.4 million annual salary (which increases an average $100,000 a year),
and the world seems absolutely inside-out. To examine the absurd, its
best to listen to a master.
The Wisdom of Dr. Seuss
In Dr. Seusss childrens fable, The Lorax, the main character,
the Onceler, sets up a factory and begins to chop down trees to make
thneeds (a fine-something-that-all-people-need).
The Lorax, who speaks for the trees for the trees have no tongue,
chastises the Onceler for cutting them. After protesting that he means
no harm, the Onceler tells the Lorax to buzz off so he can increase
production and profit. For efficiency, he invents a super-axe-hacker
to cut four trees in one whack. While the thneed factory flourishes,
the neighboring creatures flee, one by one, because theres no
fruit to eat, no trees to roost in, and the water and air are polluted.
As the spokes-creature for the animals and trees, the Lorax confronts
the Onceler again, who finally gets mad. All you do is yap-yap
and say, Bad! Bad! Bad! Bad! Well, I have my rights, sir,
and Im telling you I intend to go on doing just what I do! And,
for your information, Im figgering on biggering and biggering
and biggering and BIGGERING, turning more trees into Thneeds, which
everyone, EVERYONE, EVERYONE needs! Of course the Onceler cuts
down every single tree and only regrets the destruction once theyre
all gone. Whats left is a barren wasteland. Its a sobering
tale and illustrates just what is wrong with world domination. People
not knowing when to stop, and not taking responsibility for the negative
consequences of their greed.
Its amazing that this story was written more than 30 years ago,
because its so familiar. Is this ultimately our fate?
World Meat Production
Guidelines for the humane treatment of farmed animals are needed. Although
theres no such thing as humane slaughter, if an animals
sheer terror and misery can be reduced at allin life and in deaththen
its worth fighting for. Of course, I would rather that someone
I love be killed swiftly, rather than scalded, flayed and dismembered
while still conscious, but this either/or scenario is absurd
and misses the point because there should be no misery or death for
me to choose for any creature in the first place.
The glaring truth to all of this is that the UN recently reported that
last year meat production went up, particularly in developing countries;
and domestic birdspoultryare the fastest growing
sector of the meat industry. Regardless of how many BK Veggies we eat,
the reality is that meat eating is on the rise globally. Which gets
me back to the question, why is world domination bad?
One of the fundamental ideas on which Gandhis philosophy of nonviolence
rests is the noncompliance and noncooperation with injustice. What rattled
the very core of the British empire was that people refused to comply
with their oppressors; they simply removed their actions from the equation.
If the British wanted the Indian people to purchase imported clothing,
well, theyd just spin their own clothes. If the government was
going to tax people when they bought salt, theyd just retrieve
their own from the sea.
Sure, Id love to see fast food chains start serving only vegan
food tomorrow. Id love to see major apparel brands stop using
sweatshop and child labor, and pay everyone a living wage. Even so,
the underlying problem would remaina structure built on greed
churning out stuff, with clever advertising convincing us we need and
want that stuff. Is there a real choice in this? One McDonalds
is just like another, with the same limited options. A BK Veggie in
suburban Virginia is just like one in the heart of Manhattan. Fast food
is designed to have the exact same taste everywhere. When did the world
become so convenient that we stopped having to think for ourselves?
In the big picture, BK Veggies and animal welfare guidelines are next
to meaningless in a world where vast numbers of people are still starving
and cant have a reasonably clean drink of water, the environment
is still being rapidly destroyed, and animals are still being slaughtered
in numbers I cant even begin to comprehend. Most of the people
in this world cant afford a one-dollar McMeal. Its clear
that multinational corporations are comfortable with the status quo;
they benefit greatly from it, and so fight to keep the world just as
it is. Well, thats not acceptable. We need to take Gandhis
philosophy deeply to heart and take ethical vegetarianism to the next
level. Its radical but very simple: noncompliance with cruelty;
to refuse to participate in a rapacious system sustained by greed. If
we refuse to cooperate with cruelty in every aspect possible, sooner
or later, the worldview of dominance at all costs will become unsustainable
and fall away.
What scares a bully most? Intentional indifference. A bully feeds on
fear, otherwise, if people dont care, bullies becomes impotent
and unimportant. The British werent ousted from India overnight,
but with perseverance, persistence and, most importantly, love, they
were defeated. We can do the same, for each other, for ourselves, and
for every being we share this planet with.