Fast Food Culture Task 3: AQ Response

AQ Response to the core summative reading on “The McDonaldization of Society”

 

The writer presents 3 main arguments in his piece “The McDonaldization of Society”, which reflects upon the impact and the cultural influence fast food companies, notably McDonald’s, has had on modern society. He proposes the idea that fast food companies have created a society as obsessed with efficiency as they are, a society that is becoming increasingly dehumanised, and one approaching homogenisation. While I do not agree that his first two arguments are the doing of the fast food companies and feel that first argument does not apply to the Singapore context, I agree with his last point, and can testify to the latter 2 arguments being applicable in Singapore.

The writer first supports his thesis with the argument that the obsession for efficiency by fast food companies has translated into modern society. He first presents multiple examples of the many, almost maniacal, methods that McDonald’s has employed to increase efficiency. From the buns that were completely sliced in half to save the trouble for workers in the kitchen having to slice the bun, to controlling just the right amount of wax on the paper between the patties so they would slide off nicely off the paper onto the grill. He then proceeds to provide multiple examples of similar efficiency being strived toward in society. He cites education where students were once graded individually by professors, but are now simply given multiple choice questions which can be machine graded. He then cites a slew of other examples like the microwave meal, departmental stores, package tours, on-demand video and much more to showcase how society has become increasingly efficient. While I completely agree with his finding of society becoming more and more efficient, and am impressed with his ability to cite the many examples he used, he seems to have committed the fallacy of mistaking correlation for causation. While no doubt both fast food companies and modern society strive for efficiency, to say that modern society was influenced by the fast food industry to follow this model is absurd. Human society has been striving for efficiency since its very conception, long before the first McDonald’s started popping up. When we needed sharper claws, we invented tools like knives and swords. When we needed more efficient bows, the Chinese invented the cross-bow. When we needed more efficient horses, Henry Ford came around. Human societal obsession with efficiency was occurring long before the fast food industry. And while I cannot disagree or fault his application of efficiency to America’s society, Singapore’s society is less particular. The multiple choice question is being increasingly phased out in favour of long answer questions and essays in our education system. While most households own a microwave, most households here also have a maid which more than often doubles as a cook. Drive-throughs are a rare commodity in Singapore and theatres are often packed with people preferring to leave their homes and watch it there instead. Perhaps this is because of Singapore’s small size where drives are no longer than an hour and everything is always a stone’s throw away, but it is clear that efficiency is not as obsessed about in Singapore.

The writer then goes on to claim that families are now spending less and less time with each other because of fast food companies with many now choosing to have their meals without each other. He links the disintegration of the family to it by providing examples of how small snacks have diminished the need for formal meals, and time that could have been spent talking to each other while eating is now spent in front of the television. He also claims that limited interaction between the customer and the employee, which recites repeated lines over and over, can result in dehumanisation where people become ruder, communicate less, and distance themselves from each other. While I once again agree with his finding of anti-socialism and the breakdown of the family, he once again has incorrectly put the blame on fast food companies. In my opinion, technology companies are equally at blame. The invention of the smart phone has turned us into a society of screen glued zombies, where our attention is no longer on the people around us, but the devices around us. Take the subway and majority of the people onboard have their eyes on their screen. People now send text messages to people right beside them instead of simply talking. Gatherings are now silent from friends choosing to check notifications instead of interacting and catching up. His own example of the television is another example of technology rather than fast food corporations being the one to blame. Long working and school hours are also another reason for less interaction between family members. In Singapore, this is extremely apt. Most households have both parents working, the child is often left alone at home to play with his tech gadgets. The MRT and busses are filled with people staring blankly at their screens and family gatherings often fall into awkward silences as one by one, people pull their phones out of their pockets. 

The writer then suggests another impact of fast food companies, that they have caused independent businesses to die out, and mega franchises to thrive. He cites American fast food in Beijing, but stops there. The major fault of his last argument is the lack of examples, which is surprising considering the largest strength of the writer’s previous two arguments were the excessiveness of examples supported with elaboration. His final argument is left seeming rushed and merely an afterthought as a result. However, this is the argument in which I fully agree with the writer as being caused by the fast food industry. They have set up a system of uniformity, of routine which is ingrained into the consumer’s mind every time they enter the restaurant be it in Beijing or New York, the process is exactly the same, other than the difference in language of course. This leads to a customer which is familiar with the brand and is more likely to be loyal. These companies with multiple chains have since become so chock full of loyal customers that companies everywhere now seek to employ the same method. This is very applicable to the Singapore context. Enter any shopping mall, and you are bound to see the exact same stores in a mall across the street. MacDonald’s, Starbucks, Subway, H&M, Challenger etc. Even hawkers in food centres across Singapore have started opening stores in other parts of the country. Hotels now have hotel chains, cinemas now have cineplexes, theme parks like Universal Studios and Disney also set up parks and rides that are exact replicas of the ones in the U.S. Franchising is a phenomenon that has taken over Singapore.

In conclusion, the writer’s points while mostly being valid, often commits the fallacy of mistaking correlation for cause leading him to mistakenly point the blame at fast food companies. However, he presents very valid findings of society today, and is able to draw examples which are relevant and support his points to great depth, as a result, his points are mostly applicable to Singapore excluding the first argument.

Advertisements

Fast Food Culture Task 1: Summary of Fast Food Nation

Original Article: http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/s/schlosser-fast.html

 

The fast food industry has rapidly expanded over the last three decades in America and the world to the point of almost unavoidability. It can now be found at stadiums, airports, zoos, high schools, elementary schools, and universities, on cruise ships, trains, airplanes, gas stations and even hospital cafeterias. And Americans are buying into it, literally, spending more on fast food than almost anything else, be it high education, cars, personal computers, movies, books etc. Part of the reason for this is the uniformity and routine of fast food restaurants which has become second nature to many customers. The process of which has now become so simple, streamlined and mundane that people no longer think about it, which led to it being instrumental in creating the franchise model that has now taken over America, where 1/9th of its population can now live a life without ever spending money at an independently owned business. The fast food industry has now become almost representative of the entire service industry in America, with McDonalds alone being responsible for 90% of the country’s new jobs, with 1 out of 8 Americans having been at one point employed by McDonalds yet it pays some of the lowest wages and provides little opportunity to rise the corporate ladder, causing a widening income gap. Not only has it disrupted the service industry, but also the farming industry where family farms have now been replaced by corporate farms, with many farmers losing independence and now simply being hired by giant businesses or being forced off their land. Food preparation has also been forever changed by fast food companies which mechanise and automate large partitions of their production. Food has since been heavily modified, going through extensive processes which seem more like factory assembly lines than kitchens. It has tremendous impact on pop culture, with McDonalds overtaking Coca-Cola as the world’s most famous brand through nothing but marketing. This marketing has also targeted children with McDonalds now owning the most playgrounds in America and wing the largest distributor of toys. It is the second most recognised fictional charter among school children behind Santa Claus, which could not be more telling of how children feel about McDonalds. As such, due to its enormous impact, it is necessary that people understand more about the food they eat, and know what goes on behind the fast food industry.

Political Philosophies

Summarise the following 4 political philosophies in less than 100 words.

Libertarianism – It emphasises heavily on individual rights and individual freedom over group rights and freedom. As a result, the government of such societies often do not have much authority over the people, only serving to ensure that basic security and peace is observed in a country. The government will not interfere or interject into its people’s affairs, taking a backseat in their role of managing all aspects of a country. It is very much a concept of citizens running themselves, where they are given much more freedom to do whatever they want.

Social Democracy – It is a system where there is a focus on justice, freedom and group interests. It incorporates both socialist and capitalist concepts. It gradually shifts from a capitalist economic system to a socialist economic system. There are welfare services that the government provides to the needy, but the country continues to ensure that people are doing their part as well, and not just settling for mediocrity which is what happens in socialist societies. The system would still ensure innovation and improvement through capitalism.

Communism – It emphasises heavily on equality, where everyone would be given the exact same privileges as everyone else. Such societies would have all methods of production come under ownership of the government. The government would divide all resources and opportunities equally among its people, but with needier folks receiving more. A larger family would have more food sent their way compared to a smaller family is an example. The society works toward a common goal and a greater good for all its people, and it focuses more on group rights and freedom over individual.

Utilitarianism – It is about aiming to provide the most number of people possible with happiness, and reducing suffering. It targets the majority and ignores most individual rights, and thus neglect a lot of people’s ideas. Should a majority be very narrow, you would still be left with a very unhappy nation, as many of the people are not appeased. There is a contradiction in its definition. When you aim to provide the most number of people with maximum happiness, that actually refers to everyone, and you would thus need to take into account group rights.

English HBL 28/5/2013

Ken Robinson talks about the need to reform education. Do you agree with his views? Refer to the speaker’s arguments as well as your own experiences with the education system in your country.

We have created a presentation instead of a mindmap for this project as we feel a presentation will be able to convey our ideas in a more systematic and neat manner, and it can offer us more space to work with. The link to that is below.

“Science and ethics must exist in tandem.” Do you agree? Expository Essay (1st Draft)

Think about a world, where people are genetically modified perfect yet seem lost in identity, where clones becomes slaves, and humanity forced to take fight or flight as robots exceed our intelligence. Now think about a world, where people are satisfied with mediocrity, where new ideas are shot down for being too radical, and humanity actually regresses. With science alone possibly spiralling out of control, ethics alone promoting a society of little progress, a balance between the two is needed. Therefore I feel it is a given that science and ethics must exist in tandem for humanity to reach its optimum.

With humanity removed from science, technology is allowed to run free, and while this may benefit us in the short-term, it could pose many long-term challenges. Take cloning as an example. Cloning, seen in many people’s eyes, is a means to an end of having to work. Clones could become slaves to actual humans, and be forced to work, while the actual human reaps the reward of heir labour. However, as these clones are genetically identical to a human, it may not be long before they realise that they are being taken advantage of, and since they are genetically humans, just like any one of us, they deserve human rights as well. This could cause social turmoil and a dark time for humanity. Another example would be genetic modification. While again, it may allow new-borns to have the ideal genetic make-up, the poor unable to afford such technology may be further put at a disadvantage and cause even more discrimination. Jobs may only be offered to people of a certain genetic makeup, people may not befriend others simply because they may not have an ideal genetic makeup, so on so forth. Brilliant people may not be given places they deserve simply because of minor flaws they posses. And yet, this is what makes them human, their flaws and mistakes, their drive toward perfection and the lessons they learnt. Such are qualities the genetically perfect people may not have.

But, with ethics placed at the forefront of the development of society, genuine advancements in humanity may not be accepted as they may seem too radical, and may pose a few issues that could again cause uproars and disorder in the society. If this were to be the world we live in, several of the world’s biggest breakthroughs may not have been a reality. The Internet, for example due to the anonymity it provides, could give rapists a new platform to target victims. It could be viewed as a new platform for bullies to remain anonymous, yet still provide just as much pain. It could even serve to aid drug dealers sell drugs to new customers causing even more problems for society. Yet, the Internet has aided collaboration between research institutions, providing them with the ability to share knowledge and work on new projects together to benefit mankind. It could connect long lost buddies, loved ones that are overseas at instantaneous speed, no matter how far apart they may be. GPS could also be seen as a means for dishonest companies to start giving out the location of their customers to other sources for money. As such, putting the public in greater danger of terrorism or even kidnapping. However, it has enabled many lost travellers to better ensure they get to the places they need to be. It has also enabled the police to nab many thieves by tracking the location of the tech devices equipped with a GPS that they stole. By being too conservative a society, some of the most important things in the world right now, that have benefitted and connected a world, could be nothing more than a mere fantasy.

As such, people cannot live in both extreme ends of the spectrum. From humanity losing its essence and even being driven to another period of social turmoil, to having society regress and not thus causing a lot of trouble to people that could otherwise be solved, as such a coexistence of the two, which will strike a balance in the world, is required. What is needed is a compromise between the two. While cloning humans could seem too controversial and blurs many lines of what a human is and what is not, cloning organs, however, for donation to help others that due to health issues are in desperate need of organs could be seen as more humane, as well as something that could greatly aid humanity. Genetic engineering could also be used to eliminate the risk of inheriting fatal diseases as well as disabilities from parents.  This could also be seen as a way to ensure that great minds do not go to waste simply because of a few natural disadvantages. While the Internet cannot be controlled, seminars on cyber bullying and cyber wellness could be used to educate the general masses (especially students) to not give out sensitive information like their address, as well as to not befriend people they do not know on the Internet. GPS technology can in the same way be also limited to only a few corporations that have the public’s backing and trust. A survey could be put out for the general public to vote on which companies they put their trust into to have location tracking services.

While it is important to ensure that a happy medium is found, it is easier said than done. What we need to do now, is to continue ensuring that ethics are not violated, but scientific breakthroughs are also not ignored due to a few imperfections. Just like creation a new food recipe, continued experimentation and testing will give us the happy medium eventually, but until then, it is important that we keep on striving for the continued progress and the peace and stability of humanity. One question still remains, however. In our ever-changing world, will it be long before what we deem as ethical twists to cater for our thirst for technology and knowledge and the unprecedented boom in science and technology?

150 Blog Project – Transhumanism: The Most Dangerous Idea? (HBL 15/2/2013)

This is my summary and analysis of the article by Ronald Bailey, Transhumanism: The Most Dangerous Idea? (http://reason.com/archives/2004/08/25/transhumanism-the-most-dangero)

This is how I have analysed this article, using Paul’s Wheel of Reasoning:

Pauls Wheel of Analysis

And this is my summary of 150 words on this article:

Contrary to what Francis Fukuyama believes, Bailey believes that transhumanism is something that won’t signal the end of world and society, as we know it, but rather, it will allow people to lead better, happier lives. He believes that transhumanism is what humans have always been striving towards, and is what humans have been doing for years. He cites airplanes, telephones and antibiotics as examples of how humans have used transhumanism in the past, and bettered our lives. He suggests that humans have always been using transhumanism, and yet, it has not spelled the doom of mankind. It instead has made us more equal, contrary to the belief of Fukuyama, who thinks transhumanism will make the world unequal. Bailey argues that transhumanism is what has allowed the abolishment of slavery, and made the world more equal. Bailey concludes that not allowing transhumanism is not allowing people to improve their lives.