Shakespeare and McDonald in Vietnam

illustration of David's statue before & after McDonald. on the Alps It is reported thou didst eat strange flesh, Which some did die to look on“…on the Alps
It is reported thou didst eat strange flesh,
Which some did die to look on …”

(Antony and Cleopatra, act 1, sc. 4)

The corporate US media reported, with thinly disguised pride, that the McDonald franchise has now entered Vietnam. The implied narrative can be condensed as follow, “You kicked us out of Vietnam and look! Now you are welcoming the wondrous products of freedom and democracy.”

The source (New Your Times) adds, with further satisfaction, that “… attitudes have made Vietnam attractive for American fast-food brands, which view the country as one of Asia’s last consumer markets with significant untapped potential, according to industry analysts.”

The segment is introduced via the routine hacked word-byte interview with a Mr. Nguyen Hoang Anh who “adores Western-style fast food”. As for his girlfriend, “Sometimes I want to try something different, she said, before taking a bite of her Whopper hamburger.”

In essence, the assault on the Vietnamese people’s health by the fast food joints, is a kind of delayed substitute victory. Unbeknown to the hapless Vietnamese, fast-food is rated as one of the foremost health hazards in the nutritional park of the US of A.

To draw a historical comparison, McDonald’s fare is not immediately as nefarious as agent orange, liberally delivered to the Vietnamese people for their immediate benefit and for the benefit of their unborn crippled children. But the proven and predictable consequences of fast-food are shown in the above image.

A brief excursus into other hidden or implied messages. The quotes come from the same article.

“Vietnam has a surging middle class, and most of its 90 million citizens were born after the Vietnam War ended, in 1975. Many young Vietnamese are insatiably curious about foreign (US) cuisine and culture.”

Message. Local cuisine is for “poor” people. Middle class, being more curious (read more intelligent) than the proletarians, want US cuisine and culture.”

The prime mover for McDonald’s entry into Vietnam is a “Mr. Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American business tycoon who moved to the United States as a child and returned with degrees from Harvard and Northwestern University to run the Vietnam office of IDG Ventures, a network of venture capital funds based in San Francisco.”

Message. See what you have missed, poor Vietnamese dullards, by defeating our invasion and delaying to receive the benefits of a man with “degrees from Harvard and Northwestern University”.

“Food industry experts say that McDonald’s and other American fast-food brands typically market themselves in Asia as a lifestyle choice for the middle class, rather than as an inexpensive option for the poor, and that their Vietnam strategy is no exception”.

Message. The poor must eat inexpensively hence let them have fast-food junk. But we… “can add colours to the chameleon, and set the murderous Machiavel to school.”  Or rather, we are so clever as to transform even poison into a longed-for luxury, a status-symbol of capitalistic life-style.

Also untold, in the above sniveling, are some other pretty obvious truths:

  1. There are many more Vietnamese restaurants in the US than fast-food joints in Vietnam.
  2. The Vietnamese food-carts in myriads of cities across the US offer food as cheap or cheaper than McDonald’s. And their fare is nutritious and not poisonous.
  3. He who has observed fast-food workers will note their close resemblance to human halt-less machines. Any slow-down in the time-optimized operations would mean loss of profit for the franchise.
  4. McDonald workers do not earn enough to make a living. McDonald’s president, paid millions of dollars, told McDonald workers to supplement their meager pay by seeking assistance from the US government and collecting rent-aid benefits, food-stamps, etc. That is, it falls on the taxpayer to finance an operation that makes enormous profits by paying poverty wages to their employees.
  5. The very idea of fast-food, inculcated by millions of promotional messages repeated non-stop for decades, is an insult to the intelligence of man. And a crime against the poor animals who are raised and killed in conditions that are beyond description. It is meaningful that various US courts have recently declared it a crime to photograph or film the conditions in which animals live and how they are tortured and killed. Clearly, if the information became public, it is assumed that McDonald & similar  chains would see their fortunes and profits drop.
  6. As for insulting the intelligence, Brillat-Savarin, early 19th century author of “The Physiology of Taste” (La Physiologie du Gout), opens his classic book with the following statements,
    1. Animals feed themselves, man eats; but only a man of class (homme d’esprit) knows how to eat. (‘Homme d’esprit’ does NOT mean man of money, on the contrary).
    2. It is usually believed that good food (bonne cuisine) is tied to wealth. Refutation – certain countries where wealth is greater are among those where eating is worst.
    3. Cuisine can be good and cheap as well good and expensive. Equally, there is cuisine that is simple and bad, and cuisine that is bad and complicated.
  7. A quick online search will bring out  articles from reputable scientific sources connecting fast-food to obesity, diabetes and other diseases.

To conclude, in “Antony and Cleopatra”, Octavian refers to reports that Antony had the courage to “eat strange flesh, that some did die to look on”. Given the above, those reports were but “prophesies, of this, our time, fast-food prefiguring”. (adapted from Sonnet 106)

I should also add that, “On what I hate, I feed not”. (Timon of Athens, act 4, sc. 3) – besides, I am a vegetarian.

In the play. In Rome Octavian recounts to Antony some of his (Antony’s) previous exploits.

Shakespeare at Work. Include the quote when you are inspired to write a review on a bad restaurant.

Image Source.

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