I was attending a conference on local food production this week, and one of the speakers talked about how children have become disconnected from food. She described children in downtown Philadelphia who had no idea that peanuts came from a plant that grew in the ground or that milk actually came from cows.
It made me think about the many ways that people have become disconnected or distanced from reality. Just as processed foods keep us removed from the reality of farmers tilling the soil, credit cards keep us distanced from the reality of money flowing out the door; automatic payroll deposit does the same thing for money coming in.
Text messaging and email keep us distanced from friends. Why bother to walk down the hall and talk to someone if you can text them your question? Hair dyes and plastic surgery keep some folks distanced from the reality of aging. Junk food ads and jingles—especially the ones that stress the kind of “you deserve a break today”thinking—have brought about a disconnection between our mouths and our brains. Obesity is at the highest level it has ever been in this country, but it’s hard to make us realize our own role in making ourselves fat. It’s much easier to hope there is a new type of pill or surgery that will make the fat go away quickly.
News shows, with unending pictures of people fighting in Afghanistan or children starving in Somalia keep us distanced from the realities of war and human suffering. If everything fits into a YouTube video, which we can choose to watch or not to watch, it makes it easier for us also to choose not to think too hard about those things. I remember on September 11 having the disturbing realization that I was grateful to be able to turn off the TV picture of the towers falling—even while knowing that the people who lived or worked near the World Trade Center would never be able to turn off the picture in their heads. (more…)