Here at Casual Kitchen I often criticize elites who "know better," telling us what we should buy, what we should like and even how stupid we are.
Today, however, I'm going to criticize myself after coming face to face with my own elitism (and hypocrisy even). It was after reading this quote from The Locavore's Dilemma by Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu:
True, the world is becoming more homogenized as each city or town increasingly features the same stores and restaurant chains. This reality hurts the sensibilities of well-off tourists, cultural critics, and activists who would rather have each location be more "authentic"--except typically for the one where they personally reside, which must readily offer the best of everything.
I'll admit it: it thoroughly bugs me to see, everywhere, the same USA-based chain stores and restaurants. McDonalds, Starbucks, KFC, Taco Bell, and so on. "Generica" to use the derisive term.
And if I were to try and analyze exactly why it bugs me, I'd probably fall back onto the quote by G.B. Shaw: "I dislike feeling at home when abroad." Shaw was an elitist too by the way.
Unfortunately, in the USA we've gone far beyond Generica. Now, here, you don't just see the same chain stores in every town and city across the country. You see the same shopping plazas, the same gas stations, the same department stores, the same strip malls, the same convenience stores, the same grocery stores. In the past year, I've done three major road trips (to Ohio, to Omaha, and to central Florida), and, to me, even our homes, apartments and office buildings--nearly all architectural structures!--are starting to look exactly the same.
Granted, Generica is barely getting off the ground in some countries. But it's clear where things are headed. I'll give an example: At this point there are three Starbucks in Gdansk, Poland (fortunately, for now, there are none in the old town tourist district). Do you think in the next few years there will be more? Or fewer? And for how long is Gdansk's old town district likely to remain Starbucks-free?
So, here's where I bring up my hypocrisy in front of all my readers. Stipulated that it bugs me to see Starbucks everywhere in the world. And stipulated that it depresses me to know that in places like Gdansk, there are Starbucks (and many other examples of Generica), and in time there are going to be more.
But who the hell am I to say that the people of Gdansk should or shouldn't have Starbucks? Gdansk doesn't know or care what I think, nor should it. Much like a stock I might buy, Gdansk doesn't know who I am.
Most importantly, Gdansk is for the people there, not for me. I'm just an annoying tourist who, while passing through, happens to come down with a really bad case of the sads because some chain store, inexcusably, made him feel at home while abroad. The nerve!
What this really boils down to is disallowing for others the things that you dislike.
It's one thing to talk about how you wish places like Gdansk, Poland would hold onto the types of cafes, restaurants and shops that they've had in the past, and you hope that exported American chain stores won't displace them. But it is culturally superior, even arrogant, to decide for others what they should choose for themselves.
And yet as aware as I am about the hypocrisy of feeling this way, it still bugs me to no end to see American chain stores and restaurants throughout the world. I can't get past it.
Readers, what do you think about all this?
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