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Are We Seriously Going to Eat the Bugs?
Hard Truth? Yes, Most People Will.
Most people are going to hate this, but whatever… I’m not Jordan Schachtel.
Last year, it was that special time of the year when global elites convened in Davos. Or, it would have been, if not for the unwelcome “presence of Covid.” Due to the Omicron wave, the World Economic Forum in 2022 had to be postponed.
However, there was no need for despair. In lieu of the customary gathering, which most of us likely couldn't afford to attend and wouldn't have received an invitation for, there's now an online event called The Davos Agenda. This virtual gathering kicked off featuring a special address by none other than Xi Jinping himself.
What could epitomize the essence of Davos more than China's communist dictator addressing a virtual assembly of capitalists and advocating for the removal of barriers, not the erection of walls? It's undoubtedly inspiring rhetoric — though one might question its resonance with the people of Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Tibet.
However, for those skeptical of Davos and its ideals, this episode merely reaffirms their suspicions that something has gone awry in the realm of global capitalism, with the World Economic Forum at the epicenter. One concern stems from the extensive outsourcing of our productive capabilities to China and other nations. Yet, the more substantial apprehension revolves around what we are gaining in return from the globalized economy.
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For Westerners, capitalism has largely been framed as a consumer-centric experience. In the 20th century, capitalism triumphed over its socialist counterpart because it delivered on its promises. After enduring centuries of scarcity, we suddenly found ourselves in an era of abundance. We were appreciative, but it's essential to note that our gratitude was far from servile. In fact, what truly cemented consumer capitalism's appeal was the empowerment it bestowed upon us.
Motorized transportation, particularly the automobile, bestowed upon us the freedom to travel wherever and whenever we desired. When coupled with modern construction techniques, this newfound mobility significantly augmented the availability of fresh housing options. Space and privacy, once the exclusive domain of the affluent, became accessible to the general populace.
Then there's the matter of food. In contemporary times, we tend to romanticize the kitchen table as the heart of traditional family life. However, in most households, it also served as a traditional—and highly necessary—tool of rationing. Consumer capitalism brought about a transformation in this regard. Above all, it heralded the everyday miracle of having meat on our plates, not just on special occasions; the modern world is as much defined by beef and pork as it is by steel and silicon.
Certainly, abundance doesn't come without its costs. There are the apparent drawbacks of excess, along with our increasing detachment from age-old customs: the rhythms of nature, the bonds of community, and the dignity of craftsmanship. However, we didn't trade these profound connections for mere comfort. Instead, we were presented with an alternative form of vitality: the freedom of the open road, the mastery of homeownership, and the visceral satisfaction of unrestricted carnivorous indulgence. It may appear unusual to label these aspects as cultural treasures, but within a specific framework of consumerist values, that's precisely what they represent.
Beyond its mere material comforts, consumer society—especially in its American iteration—ushered in an empowered, self-reliant, and, some might dare to say, robust way of life. Regardless of one's approval or disapproval, it undeniably birthed a distinctive culture—a culture that most of us continue to hold dear.
This concern is palpable in the realm of food. A glaring example lies in the concerted efforts to promote meat substitutes. Most unsettlingly, there's a proposition that we should sustain the world's population with insect protein. A cursory search of the World Economic Forum website reveals an obsession with this idea. Here's a small selection of articles from recent years: “Worms for dinner? Europe backs insect based food," "Good grub: why we might be eating insects soon," and "Fancy a bug burger?"
Even the foremost publications representing global capitalism, such as the Financial Times and The Economist, champion this perspective. Both journals advocate for entomophagy beneath buoyant headlines like “Eating bugs: a culinary idea with legs” and “Why eating insects makes sense”.
Nonetheless, a counter-movement is gaining momentum. “I will not eat the bugs!” has become a resounding chorus, echoing not only among alternative but also within mainstream conservative circles. The heyday of capitalism provided us with affordable meat, and there exists a substantial segment of public opinion adamantly resistant to the idea of substitutes.
But this resistance extends beyond mere culinary preferences; it encompasses an entire way of life. Let's delve into the second part of the anti-Davos rallying cry: “I will not live in the pod!” This expression pertains to the proposal that we should thoroughly reassess how we allocate living space in densely populated and prohibitively expensive cities. And when I say “reassess,” I mean “downsize”—both in terms of physical space and personal privacy. Instead of conventional apartments and houses, a report from the World Economic Forum encourages us to contemplate “tiny homes” (essentially, compact living units) and experiments in “shared living” (essentially, communal living arrangements).
Then there's the issue of mobility. Never mind the ongoing “war on the motorist”; the emergence of vehicle automation poses a significant challenge to the traditional motorist. During the heyday of capitalism, individuals operated their own cars; however, the Davos narrative envisions a future where cars autonomously transport passengers.
It's not challenging to interpret these developments as a process of disempowerment—indeed, it might even be seen as emasculation. It's no surprise that right-wing factions, particularly in the United States, are at the forefront of this resistance. It appears as though some external force has seized control of capitalism, redirecting it along a new and seemingly un-American path. Equally unsurprising is the fact that the World Economic Forum, with its discourse centered on “The Great Reset,” has become a symbol of this apparent shift in direction.
However, as reluctant as I am to admit it, Davos isn't the root of the issue. All the trends that right-wing critics perceive as threats to their version of capitalism are, in fact, outcomes of it.
It's a productivity paradox. The more goods and services we produce in abundance, the more people can partake in their benefits. Unfortunately, this also leads to a heightened consumption of the foundational resources that cannot be as easily replicated. A glaring example is the automobile, or more specifically, the space needed for cars. There was a time when the concept of the open road symbolized true freedom. However, as roads become increasingly congested, we're left with no choice but to implement speed limits, one-way systems, road tolls, and other measures aimed at preserving lives and maintaining urban mobility.
The advent of self-driving cars, if and when they become a reality, represents the next logical step—an avenue to curbing human error and, consequently, optimizing the utilization of limited road capacity. After all, this is precisely what free markets are theoretically designed to achieve: the maximization of resource efficiency.
The same principles extend to the realm of living space, which is especially constrained in urban centers. Consequently, we can anticipate the inexorable influence of supply and demand. While you might not aspire to reside in a pod, economic realities come into play: if that's the only affordable option, you face a decision—either accept the offer or seek housing in a more budget-friendly locale.
The trend of “eating the bugs” is yet another response to market dynamics. Meat is undeniably delectable, and as more people worldwide ascend to affluence, the demand for meat escalates. Supply adapts to meet this demand but also exerts greater pressure on natural constraints, such as the availability of land for livestock feed production. Ethical considerations further compound this shift, prompting producers and consumers to explore alternatives. So, when you see supermarkets expanding their selection of meatless meat products, it's likely not due to a directive from Davos.
What some critics perceive as a conspiracy is, in reality, the market functioning according to its intrinsic dynamics. Davos, in essence, serves as an elaborate trade fair for a global economy that endeavors to offer its wares at competitive prices.
Indeed, there remain numerous compelling reasons to stand against the "Davos agenda," as I've extensively outlined in previous posts. Whether it's the pervasive surveillance, the firm grip on what you're expected to consume, when, and if at all, or the imposition of medical treatments, there are various valid concerns at play. However, it's a common inclination for people to resist the concepts of “ze bugs” and “ze tiny homes” because these changes seem more immediately tangible in their impact on daily life—and easier to market for profits and clicks—, as opposed to discussions surrounding geopolitical shifts, social engineering, total surveillance, or trade wars. Nevertheless, if you opt for the path of complete resistance against the Davos Agenda, be prepared for a much more profound departure from consumer capitalism than the alterations Davos suggests for your day-to-day existence. However, we need to acknowledge that most individuals may not be inclined to embark on such a transformative journey, no matter how often they tweet that they won’t eat the bugs. However, when faced with the choice between “eating the bugs” and subsisting solely on carrots, most individuals are likely to choose the former.
It's often easier to sit at home, nod along to pundits like Tucker Carlson, watch a presidential debate, and then check what the pretty right-wing TikTok influencer has to say, before posting a funny meme, and feeling as if they “are fighting the good fight, rather than taking the responsibility to overhaul their own life, and building it on their own terms.
Our way of life-may you consider it ideal, healthy, or worth striving for (or not)-is now facing an impending threat. While the global economy churns out more products than ever before, a growing unease lingers, suggesting that the sense of empowerment that accompanies it—what we might term the quintessence of capitalism—is on the brink of being wrested from our grasp. And given that how most people live right now is far from healthy or fulfilling, this might not be an inherently bad thing.
The question that remains is this: Will you be the one to reshape your life and a society based on ethical values, or will Davos do it for you?
The true power to shape this world has always lain in your hands. Choose well!
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