To challenge some easily held notions and convictions I like to read ‘Adbusters’. They write very provacative articles about consumerism, materialism, branding and our culture in general and the often unrecognized ill affects they have on us as individuals and as communities. Sometimes some of their messages would seem more at home being preached from pulpits than coming from people with little or no faith background as they are truly seeking to be counter-culture and ‘strangers in the world’ (1 Peter 1:1).

I got an email from them recently asking their readers to post and forward a visual meme. A meme is a unit of cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena. They contest that the predominant ‘memes’ in our culture are brands that are put forward by corporations and businesses with only their own interests at heart.

This is one of the visual memes they are asking their readers to forward:

Most people will look at this image and think the people at Adbusters are wack jobs. I look at it and notice a number of companies whose logos are shown that I have in the past been loyal to, or are still loyal to in some ways. There are others that I have little or no repect for because of their products, image and business practices. What I can agree with the Adbusters on, is nearly all of the companies whose logos are shown have little or no long term vested interest in anything other than their bottom lines. When you also factor in that by the age of 2, 10% of toddlers vocabulary is composed of brand names (James Twitchell, Branded Nation, p. 2), that the way in which businesses and corporations intentionally advertise to young children, are the people at Adbusters being overzealous in labeling it as ‘Organized Crime’?

Sometimes I’m just not that sure.

I like bikes. I like riding my bike. I like checking out other people’s bikes. I like wandering through bike stores even when I don’t need anything. I like bike related art work. I like people who like bikes. I like anything that causes people to like bikes and ride bikes more. And I like bikes that look beautiful…like this one.

I love the color of this bike. I love the contrasting color of the bar tape. I love the shape of the handlebars. I love the fenders on this bike. I love the old school Brooks saddle. I love that this bike is beautiful yet functional…

The other night I watched a really interesting show on BBC. The Great British Waste Menu was designed to reveal two things, 1) just how much food gets thrown out everyday and 2) just how good the food is that usually gets thrown out. They did this by having four top flight english chefs compete to create dishes to for a banquet dinner for 60 VIP guests, most of whom were food critics, broadcasters and TV show presenters.

If you want to see the show you watch it on the BBC iPlayer, it’s 90 minutes and it’s pretty fascinating and depressing at the same time. If you can’t watch it because you live in the wrong region or can’t be bothered to watch the whole thing, check out this clip on youtube.

I had already read somewhere that about 20% of all food produced, sold and bought in the UK goes to waste and gets thrown out, but this show put some hard numbers and images to it to help understand what 20% actually looks like. 3,500 potatoes a minutes get thrown out in the UK…every minute! The show also tried to make the point that a significant amount of fruit and vegetables gets thrown out because it doesn’t match a very specific set of requirements in regards of size, color and texutre that the supermarkets set, in part because the ‘consumer’ only wants perfect looking food. A tomato must be a certain size, be perfectly round and the perfect color, for example a courgette (zuchinni in America) can be no longer than 30cm, so farmers are screwed if they actually have a better than usual growing season and their vegetables are too big!!! If it doesn’t match it is thrown out. None of these factors affect the taste, but it is deemed un-sellable and therefore un-eatable. The additional point of the show was to not throw out any food because it is not only still eatable, but can be used to make a very delicious dish.

An even greater point the show could have and should have made was that as ‘consumers’ we need to begin buying less food to begin with. A significant portion of the food that gets thrown away is food that sits for too long in the backs of our fridges and ‘expires’ before we remember that we even have it. If we bought less food, we would actually be able to eat all the food that we actually buy. In addition to throwing out less food, as families, we’d save quite a bit of money as well.

In addition, the show points out ‘best before’ dates, ‘sell by’ dates and ‘eat before’ dates actually have little to do with freshness, quality and taste. They are marketing techniques used by supermarkets to get us to buy more food, to increase their sales…so if something is a day or two passed the prescribed date, then give it a sniff and use it if still smells good.

The bottom line is we could stand to have a bit less of everything, decrease our footprint, decrease our usage, decrease our waste.

I’ll admit I enjoy watching the MoneySupermarket.com commercials. The Iranian comedian, Omid Djalili, has great presence, a great delivery and makes an otherwise dry insurance/banking script pretty amusing.

The interesting thing is how well these commercials work at making a very unfriendly industry appear caring and interested in the individual. Historically, the insurance/banking/investment industry is viewed as being helpful until it is time for them to fulfill the purpose that they serve. They are more than helpful when it comes to signing you up, taking your payment and keeping your protected from the things that you need protecting from, but the moment something goes wrong and you actually need to rely on your insurance, they are known for feeling distant, uncaring and uncompassionate. Omid Djalili and his ability to make you laugh during these commercials helps restore faith in these industries, in this case Money Supermarket. This faith is increased when you realize just how many other things they can do for you.

Watching this last Money Supermarket commercial on TV the other night, made me laugh again, particularly when the woman gets swamped by the broken acquariam. I know, I laugh at pretty juvenille things that 13 year olds find amusing…oh well. But I wasn’t laughing much by the end of the video.

Click here to watch the video.

Maybe I’m being oversensitive, but I struggle with the end message of this commercial. Saving a fortune is better than having your life saved? The embedded message in this commercial is that money is of primary importance in our life, reflected by the fact that they have everyone in the resturant applaud following the closing statement and reflected by the fact that most viewers probably won’t even flinch when they hear that statement.

Saving money is good, but is it better than health, community, close loving relationships, an understanding of God working in your life, better than life?

The irony of this commercial is that it doesn’t actually promote saving money. The commercial is for discount vouchers so that you can spend less money than you would have spent otherwise. So you’re not actually saving money…So the commerical is actually promoting spending money so that you can save money. But if you really wanted to save money, wouldn’t you just not spend it anyways? This spending in order to save has actually spawned a new word in our language, it’s called ‘spaving’.

Instead of being focused on ‘spaving’, we need to be more focused on living simply, decreasing our footprint/impact, living within our means, being satisfied with what we have and taking joy from the blessing we’ve already received.

I think the following poem from Wendell Berry summarizes some of my thoughts, feeling, concerns better than anything I can say and gives me a vision of how I would love to live more ‘simply':

“Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.”
— Wendell Berry

Despite growing up with Michael Jackson on the radio I’ve never really been a big fan. The guy had the mix of freak and genius on a total lock like no one else. Maybe it was all the slightly over weight kids rocking their parachute pants and faux leather jackets with 312 zippers, or the fact that Tito is just a way cooler name than Michael. Either way, it just never worked for me.

Listening to Trance Around The World episode 331 featured a guest mix by Jerome Isma-Ae. He dropped a remix of Beat It in a song called ‘Flashing Lights’ that is really really good. Check it:

In the same TATW mix they played a track called Sanctuary by Gareth Emery featuring vocals by Lucy Saunders. I heard this song while on a bike ride and the combination of the setting (an english country road) and the lyrics (see below) made this a real song of worship for me.
escape the shadows that were haunting me
…….flesh and bone
In the circle where we know we’re free
This is the place that we call home.

When there is no where left to run,
run with me
Let the moment be a…. century

When it’s all that you’ve become
Set it free
let this moment be a … sanctuary.

I watched the video on Youtube also, which has some very interesting spiritual imagery, including the subject of the video being offered and apple by a woman, who then takes a bite out of it.

I find more and more lately that it is songs by secular music artists that describe their search for spiritual depth, knowledge, understanding and experience that speak more to me and my desire for intimacy with Christ. In this case, thank you Gareth Emery for helping me to experience the Sanctuary that is Christ.

The average American family will use more energy created by fossil fuel between the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve and dinner time on January 2 than a Tanzanian family will use all year long. (New Economic Foundation, Real World Economic Outlook 2003, p. 61.)

I’m not ok with this…too often we assume that this is simply a right we have because of where we live, but this is an example of economic injustice. The solution isn’t just to increase the quality and standard of living in Tanzania (in this case) but to also decrease our energy consumption so that it is more consistent with the average usage of people in other first world countries (like the United Kingdom which uses less than half the energy per person as the United States does: 166BTUs per person vs. 350 BTUs per person annually).

A failure to do so is arrogant, prideful, selfish and deeply unstewardly.

I love my bike and love riding my bike, so there is no doubt in my mind that this is probably the coolest flash mob ever! Imagine what they would have done if Tom Boonen had actually factored in any of the stages in the TdF.

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