My Fried Bologna Soul
There is a general fear that the Chinese industrial complex is poised to knock the United States off the world stage and wear us down to a squeaky nub. The Chinese establishment is plotting an ever-accelerating takeover that will sneak over and engulf us without warning. This played out recently in the Presidential campaign, with both candidates using this notion of how the other side is “Selling us out” to China. Romney set up companies and took tax breaks for sending jobs to China. Obama gave money to the auto industry so they could build cars in China. All our American might has been shipped overseas, draining us of our last remaining scraps of dignity. Just watch the news to see how they are plotting to take us over, forcing their citizens to work insane hours at low pay to feed our appetite for goods. Look at the gains in the past twenty years, and the erosion of our self-esteem as a nation. They must be stopped before we reach a tipping point, an out of control spiral that ends with us auguring into the economic waste heap of the world. Let’s create indignation, fear and do something! They are the problem! Right! Right? Maybe? Maybe not. (insert thoughtful doubt) I have a theory.
The holidays are upon us, which holidays do not matter. Pick one. Halloween, Christmas, Valentines, the Fourth. Any one will serve for this example. We recently went to a Menard’s and wandered by racks of plastic yard creatures, several of which were snowmen. These were nothing more than big white plastic carcasses in the vague shape of a hypothetical snowman. I understand a real snowman may not be in reach of everyone’s ability, since it requires snow and work to conspire at the opportune moment. However, when I looked at the $80 hollow plastic marvel, I could only gasp at what a waste of money this was. I will be the first to admit that I have made too many useless purchases, so I am as guilty as anyone. Still, this was $80 for an item that would be outside for several weeks, look ugly, only to be thrown away or spend the next 50 weeks as a nuisance in the basement.
$80. Where was that snowman made? Where does a good portion of the money go? Take a guess. I often wonder what the Chinese think of Americans as they churn out millions of similar products and in return receive money. Easy money, really. They have to be giddy that a society will buy so many things that are not just odd looking, but absolutely, indescribably, perpetually, useless. From their perspective, please look at ourselves and see how we really are; impulsive, with no sense of the future, buying things for the sake of buying them. It is not just the auto industry or electronics companies that are feeding the Chinese system. It is the $80 plastic snowmen made from $2 of raw materials. Better yet, we do this on a massive scale. China is not taking us over. Rather we are giving the country away at an astounding rate one cheap trinket at a time. There is a basis for why we do this, and it goes to our very core, the center of our reasoning ability. This is what I refer to as the Fried Bologna Soul.
I once had a roommate from India who was proud to demonstrate how to fix fried Bologna sandwiches. In retrospect, he may not have liked fried bologna, but it was probably the only thing he knew how to cook. In case you do not know how this goes, you put a few slices of bologna in an oily pan until they curl up into little meat Yamakas. Then you try to flatten these between two pieces of bread and eat it. It tastes almost as good as it sounds. The point is we all know what bologna and hot dogs are, and probably more importantly we know what they are not. For edification, my mother taught me the difference between “All Meat” bologna and “All Beef”. “All beef” is cow in origin though the place on the cow the meat originated from is undefined. “All Meat” could be any assortment of say chicken faces and pig snouts. This is not new knowledge to anyone, but we keep eating them. We know what goes into Bologna, and how it tastes when we burp it back up. The nutritional value is suspect at best, but we gobble these down.
It is the inherent ease of cheapness of Fried Bologna and plastic snowmen that brings us back. The false impression we are really getting something of worth which pulls us in and takes away our money. We as Americans are drawn, or more accurately think it is our proud right, to have plastic lawn people and fried miscellaneous animal part sandwiches. We live in a culture that has come to value the momentary thrill of an expensive bauble over the fact that the money will be needed later for something important or useful. There must be a center portion of our brain that processes these stimuli and then swamps our higher powers of reasoning. Make no mistake; fried bologna has insidious powers of persuasion.
This game has played out as long as one person had something of perceived value and another wanted it. I have many times been pulled in to buy a cheap item only to have to buy it again when it breaks. Being stingy by nature and not real swift, it has taken me years to realize this. Today I am willing to pay extra for good tools, shoes, whatever, rather than going through the frustration of the item not working. Fried Bologna is a metaphor for all our consumer ills. Short-term enjoyment followed by heartburn, guilt and bad breath. This is a tough habit to break. Since we live in a consumer driven economy and the organizations selling products realize this, they will continue to offer us whatever we are willing to pay for. I say take a stand, or better yet, leave it on the shelf. Eat your remaining all meat hot dogs and never buy another. Back away from the plastic $130 gargoyle with the glowing eyes and disturbing demeanor and keep your money in your pocket. Take our country back. Take it back one blow-up yard Santa at a time!