WTF did we talk about?
This was our final WTF session of the spring and it didn’t disappoint! We started out with two recommended articles on microplastics (see here and here) but ended up talking more broadly about transhumanism, powdered nutrition, and the ethics of food, topics which raise important questions about sustainable living and human health, labour, and desire. On an aggressively farmed planet where the appetites of rich nations are catered to at the expense of so much, replacing food with powdered nutrition may seem like a step in the right direction. By just eating what we need instead of what we want, can we live more sustainably? By cutting out the time taken for buying ingredients, cooking, and sharing a meal with others are we freeing ourselves of needless drudgery and reclaiming our time for more desirable forms of productive or unproductive labour? Hmm…
Eating frugally and purely for sustenance in this context arguably aims to suppress desire itself by denying all the good stuff (flavour, choice, abundance, and all the joys of food) and saving us from ourselves (human greed got us in this mess in the first place etc.). Oversimplifying here, but if we follow this logic we start to treat the body like a machine we can control with sheer will power and exact measurements of fuel (good luck with that). Feed us only what we need, not what we want, and only the very minimum to make us productive labourers (thinking here of gruel in Victorian workhouses) and suppress those messy and disgusting bodily impulses (see the reason why Kellogg’s cornflakes were invented) – we’ll all be better for it!
We spoke at great length about the slightly sinister minimalist design and branding of Huel (the modern day gruel perhaps?) which offers bulk unflavoured and flavoured powders and liquids in sleek and sterile monochrome packaging. Unlike gruel, Huel isn’t likely to be consumed by anyone poor – they are targeting those privileged enough to choose bland food as a lifestyle choice. Though many savvily branded as well as genuinely innovative food technologies will no doubt continue to shape how we imagine the future of living on this planet with its ever-dwindling resources (3D-printed “meat” anyone?) and may provide some genuine solutions, widening the gap even further between the food we consume and the planet we rely on is a perilous path to take. Like plenty of food we already buy and consume (which is completely divorced from the raw materials and labour that produced them), powdered meals and lab-grown food allow us to continue to perpetuate the myth that we are separate from Nature. We are not.
There were some really great recommendations for further reading on these topics from the group. So for anyone who missed out, see the the full list below.
WTF are people reading?
David Graeber, Bullshit Jobs: A Theory, 2018 – yes, this gets yet another mention, because once again it has added to the conversation!
Timothy Morton, Being Ecological, Pelican, 2018 – Morton has written a bunch of excellent stuff about ecology, philosophy and lots of other interesting topics (more of which can be found here), but this short book in particular is a great introduction to some of his key ideas and is also quite a nice entry point to learning about object-oriented ontology.
Get drunk without a hangover? Expensive but now possible.
The surprising origin story of Kellogg’s cornflakes. Cornflakes as a cure for masturbation? Errr….
Rachel Laudan’s excellent piece in the Jacobin, ‘A Plea for Culinary Modernsim‘, which explores our ‘obsession with eating natural’.
Non-fungible tokens – for more on this see this recent article on a destroyed Banksy piece. Ctrl members are also watching out to see if NFTs make an appearance in Clare Birchall’s upcoming book Radical Secrecy.
The Meghan and Harry interview – yep, this came up too. See Charles Yu’s short story ‘Systems’ in the New York Times, which explores the pandemic through the lens of shifting public interests through changing patterns in popular internet searches. David Olusoga wrote an interesting piece on Meghan and Harry today in the Guardian, and Ash Sarkar’s article about aristocracy is also worth a read.
The DuPont scandal – another harrowing example of the far-reaching environmental and public health impacts of manmade pollutants, recently dramatised in Dark Waters, starring Mark Ruffalo:
WTF is next?
This was our final WTF is Going On? session of the spring, but we hope to run more later in the year. In the meantime, we still have three more Postcapitalist Desire events and an exciting special Alluvium Editorial over the next few months – check out our schedule! In the meantime, you can join the conversation on Discord.