Our supermarket fantasy

Tim Burton had tried to say it in his version of Planet of the Apes.

In this film Man’s downfall was his forgetting of how to do things for himself (I will use the masculine here since it is generally his fault). Mr Burton’s representation was one of Man not being able to find food for himself without a supermarket nearby. That men in the future cannot grow their own food, cannot live off the land, unlike the apes (in the film) that become the dominant species.

An apt image, I think.

I will have to admit that when I was young, I too had no clue about where food came from and how it was grown. I had lived in a kind of bubble-like existence I like to call a supermarket fantasy. But I doubt I was alone in this. Urban living simply meant one never saw, first hand, where these produce came from. I had believed, just like many other young naive urban children, food came from supermarkets, because that was what I saw. A logical conclusion to draw if these are the only clues you have. And it did not help by calling food food and not produce. We tend to forget food needs to be produced by someone somewhere rather than miraculously appearing on the supermarket shelf.

So the problem, I believe, begins with the urban lifestyle.

City living has two main problems. One is the already mentioned supermarket fantasy where one just does not directly see where our basic needs come from. The other is the image the city projects – an image of a false superiority of human ingenuity. In his creation of superstructures Man constructs a world of his own individual greatness, when all the time he forgets his own insignificance in the long march of history. It is as though the previous four billion years played no part in his creation, that he is where he is because of his own will and determination. He forgets his reliance on the things of the world to create this delusional image of himself.

But don’t misunderstand me. I am not a believer in Determinism. Nor am I a believer that we can do everything though our own will. I believe it is a mix of both. Life is partly determined. We are where we are though a serious of chance. And where we go from here is partially in our hands, for chance still plays a role. Man has a tendency to overstate the case.

Returning to the subject of urban living, Man is now in a place a where he believes that he must live in cities, that city living is good. This is understandable considering its benefits. But in doing so he also has forgotten that he still relies on the land for survival. All he sees is that he needs to make enough money so as to buy the vegetables from that supermarket shelf, when all the time he forgets that it is though his labour, and not money, that he obtains his needs.

So money and city living are, in a sense, one that the same root cause. They both promote the kind of abstract thinking which causes Man to forget about what is necessary.

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