Sunday, November 18, 2012

Organic food

In France, consuming organic food is seen as something only the rich (or the pretentious) do. At the supermarket, the organic food section is usually small and secluded, and looks like an afterthought section created once every other section is done. At peak times when the whole supermarket is overcrowded and the lines at the cashiers snake into the aisles, one section remains deserted - the organic food section.

Normal people would maybe pick a carton of organic almond milk or some gluten-free energy bars from this section, but I have yet to see anyone filling their carts exclusively with organic foodstuff. The French are a bunch of highly critical people, and most of them do not really buy into the idea that organic food is really organic, and they might be right. After all, the ecosystem consists of a very long and complicated chain reaction where everything is related and nothing is standalone. So imagine an organic farmer who stays away from DDT in the hope of growing beautiful organic lettuces, while just a mile away another farmer is heavily using fertilizer and pesticide for his cabbages. Both farms are interconnected by soil and underground water. Who's to say that the organic lettuces are not contaminated by fertilizer and pesticide used a mile away?

Besides, despite all kinds of apocalyptic warning about the world's energy supplies running low, we still pollute on a daily basis to maintain a certain level of comfort at the expense of the environment. It would be extremely pretentious to consume organic food when one spends half an hour in the shower, wasting hundreds of gallons of heated water.

Of course, these arguments are used to support - or mask - the real reason why very few people choose to buy organic food: price. Organic food in France is very expensive. People are not willing to spend three times the amount they would pay on normal pasta, because pasta is part of their staple diet. On the other hand, they would be more lenient towards the idea of splurging on the occasional organic raisins or sunflower seeds.

Which brings me to the core of my thoughts this morning: how do the Germans keep their organic food at low prices?

When I was living in Germany, one of the things I loved was how cheap foodstuff was. I particularly loved their approach to introducing organic food to the masses. Instead of making it the food pariah stashed away in some remote corner people would usually overlook, they would put organic spaghetti next to the normal ones, and they cost exactly the same. They have eliminated the most crucial deciding factor, so I have no excuses left not to buy organic food. In the beginning I was almost always guilted into buying it, but that kickstarted my conscience about eating healthier and it quickly became a habit. I would automatically pick out organic carrots and rucola at the veggie aisles, and I would quickly scan the muesli row for the big green BIO label before rushing off to the checkout. After a while, it became unthinkable to buy so-called chemical foodstuff when organic food was widely available and cheap. I was not a firm believer in the wholesomeness of organic food, but at those prices, 'why' easily turned into 'why not'.

And I felt healthier and happier when I was there. Maybe it was the breathtaking nature surrounding me everyday. Maybe it was the positive energy of the Germans in contrast to the whiny, cynical behaviour of the French. Maybe it was because I loved my job. But I am somehow convinced that organic food played a big role in it. Now that I am back in France and buying organic food is financially challenging, I do not feel as healthy or happy as I was back in Deutschland.

So I am thinking of switching back to organic food, but that will require a substantial budget change. I am not famous for my thrifty ways, and eating organic food will definitely put a huge dent in my wallet. But I guess like it or not, well-being comes at a price.

I cannot get a beautiful home by the river like I had in Germany. I cannot get amazing view of apple and prune farms out of my bedroom window anymore. And I certainly cannot get the sincere smiles people gave me when they said 'moin moin' every day. The only thing I could try to emulate is the food I ate when I was there.

So I am pencilling that into my list of resolutions: eating more organic food.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A macaque who votes is a dangerous primate

"Taken out of context."

The oldest, most worn-down excuse ever existed to explain verbal slip-ups. As the most undiplomatic person on Earth, I am at the risk of having to resort to using this excuse very often in the future, given my whimsical and outspoken nature. Every day I come home regretting at least 5 things I've said during the day. Good thing I am constantly surrounded by intelligent people who are able to take everything into context, think over and analyze my statements instead of passing swift judgement and taking offence easily.

The only problem is that in the future, I might not have the luxury of always being surrounded by smart people. Now that my tertiary education is coming to an end, I have to prepare myself for the prospect of having to face the real world where people may or may not be as smart as those I'm used to having around me, and worse, of having to carefully weigh my words instead of just blurting them out.

I am only capable of conveying my words according to my own understanding of the logic behind them, but I cannot be in control of the listener's interpretation of those words. I can only hope they would ask me to clarify should there be any doubt, and not simply jump to the wrong conclusion that is the complete opposite of what I am trying to say.

Let's take Nurul Izzah for example. A demure, pious and intelligent Muslim Malay young woman with a striking beauty to boot. She had the misfortune of having to deliver an intellectual public speech in a country like Malaysia where politics are run by idiots, and where a lot of people are so badly infected with acute stupiditis that they always put two and two together and get five. In her case, people get "Izzah supports murtad (apostasy)" from her sentence "there is no compulsion in choosing faith, even for Malays." A perfect case of affirmative conclusion from a negative premise.

I am apolitical, thus I do not adhere to any particular party. But I pity her. I pity her for having to explain herself to people who have the IQ of a retarded macaque, time and time again, in the most rational, diplomatic and unnecessarily apologetic manner, just to be met with immature reactions from her opponents who may only be satisfied once Nurul Izzah has been lynched.

More importantly, I pity my own people who - even after the government has institutionalized critical thinking into our education system - still manage to make idiotic assertion on a fairly simple concept.

The saddest part is that most of these people are deliberately dumbing themselves down for the sake of politics.