Democrats and Meat

I’ve noticed an increase sense of cynicism lately about the way I think and write about American politics. It’s nothing out of the ordinary. It’s probably the usual dull realisation that one administration is about to be followed by another administration that will largely disappoint me.

But perhaps that makes it sound worse than it is.

I’m certain that any Biden administration would be infinitely superior to Trump’s in the places where it matters. It won’t swing crazily into the outside lane all the time, pandering to extremists, or generally treating politics as cynically as Trump has done for the past four years. Yet in recent days, I’ve also been reminded of my long-standing frustration with Democrats, who are too often ineffective in the moments when they’re called to make a difference.

I somewhat stupidly sat and listened to five hours of William Barr’s testimony yesterday as I was drawing. In the dim shadows cast by my 40-watt brain, I thought I might actually want to write about it today. By the end, I was happy to turn off the lamp and go to bed.

Barr was shameless. There’s not much more one can say about that, though if I was forced to do so, I’d say that I was surprised at how shameless he was. He reminded me of the school bully who had been expelled so many times that he knows there’s nothing and no one that can touch him. Barr’s attitude was too often a shrug and a “so what?” His attitude towards Democrats was that he just didn’t care. There was nothing they could do to punish him. Somebody needed to remind him that they could. Or perhaps they can’t. He also reminded me of a man who has only months to live. He really did have that far way look that Michael Douglas develops in Falling Down. If you’ve ever wondered what looking into an existential void feels like, simply look at William Barr’s face.

Democrats, on the whole, were pretty underwhelming. I know Republicans are playing a game when they get prissy about the process. If the roles were reversed, they’d be laying into the Attorney General rather than lobbing him softballs and tickling all three of his chins. However, I found myself agreeing with their complaints. Democrats just didn’t want to hear what Barr had to say. They rarely afforded him a right to reply and instead simply made speeches for the cameras.

The argument in favour of their approach was that it allowed Barr less time to spin nonsense about Antifa and violent protests.

Against the approach: it just made them look histrionic and as bad as Republicans.

Yet perhaps I shouldn’t be so rough on them. Yesterday was a reminder that America will still have a badly flawed system once this president has gone. Giving interrogators 5 minutes and then docking them the time it takes the witness to reply is simply an invitation to witnesses to do what Barr did: claim he didn’t hear half the questions and ask that they be repeated. There surely has to be a better way. Constantly they’d ask him as simple question and he’s pick it apart. “Don’t worry, the answer is X” they’d reply, quickly because they were so aware of the clock.

It was also shocking how they didn’t hit him with simple questions that weren’t easy to spin. The few that did were a class apart. I’ve said lots of things about Eric Swalwell over the years, especially about his love of the camera, but he’s always impressive in committee. It’s easy to be distracted from noticing what a good politician he’s become. Val Demmings too, though it’s harder to overlook how good she is since she’d still be a good outside bet for the VP slot. Myself, I still think Harris has it but in a way I’d prefer the longer odds for Demmings. She’s from Florida which will be a key state. Biden leads at the moment but I’m minded by Rick Wilson’s advice. He says that if Biden is leading by 10% then the state is tied.

Another who surprises me – to the extent that I’m always surprised that people don’t speak about her more often – is Mary Gay Scanlon from Pennsylvania. Just an understated but intelligent politician who knows how to marshal her material. All three, I thought, really got under Barr’s skin, especially around the subject of Roger Stone. The more he said about Stone, the guiltier that he, Stone, and Trump began to look.

Right, tonight I want to finish some cartoons. I’m going to replace the baby in my meal cartoon. I think it was too on the nose. I’ve been a vegetarian all my life but I’ve never made that a conscious decision. Since I was a child, I’ve never understood the appeal of meat (red meat in particular) and I don’t know why. It just seems like a weird thing to eat and, to put it bluntly, I’ve never quite got over the reality that you’re eating something that once had an arsehole (or, indeed, you might be chewing on a bit of anal meat along with the usual beak and gristle).

All my life, however, I’ve been told to not judge a food until I’ve tasted it and every time I have to explain all of the above. Hence the baby in the cartoon. To me it’s that level of “obvious”. I mean, it even transcends moral choice. I don’t know much about the ethics of eating meat. I don’t even know much about the pros and cons. I just can’t get over that fundamental hesitation I have about eating something that might once have been running around or harbouring something akin to a consciousness. Maybe I was a Buddhist in a previous life, though I’m not sure that makes much sense either. I thought they only reincarnated as plant pots or wind chimes.

4 thoughts on “Democrats and Meat”

  1. We’ve trapped and eaten three rabbits in the last 10 days alone, fourth one in the fridge as we speak. We cure the furs and will eventually have a rabbit blanket too which should be nice and warm. We are overrun with them at the moment beyond what the cat can make a dent in, not entirely sure why, perhaps a knock effect from lockdown. I love meat personally and couldn’t imagine it not making up the centrepiece of most of my meals, but have no time for people who try to tell other people what to eat.

    What I don’t like to see is waste, all of an animal should be used if you are killing it, the offal is the most nutritious part. Meat eaters in the UK especially seem to have become addicted to the most tasteless forms of meat, broiler chicken breasts that taste of precisely nothing, anaemic lamb rather than mutton (a side effect of wool prices collapsing). In France and Portugal they grow chickens on to be a bit older and thus tastier and offal is widely eaten, you still see brawn which used to be a mainstay in shops here when I was a kid. I also don’t like the way people are allowed to be divorced from what they are eating in terms of meat, but beyond making kids attend slaughterhouses or something similar I’m not sure what you could do about that.

    With you talking about eating anus, it reminds me of eating andouillette in France, it stinks of shit basically because it is made with pigs innards, quite enjoyed it myself but you get plenty of write ups from squeamish folk decrying it.

    1. I think your point about being divorced from the reality of food is really what I understood at a very early age. Thing is: I was never in setting where I could get a better sense of food. I was born into the generation that didn’t see live animals, though the old woman who lived next door apparently kept chickens and used to chop their heads off in the garden. Never saw it myself and sort of glad I didn’t, though perhaps that’s my problem. These days I think it’s also linked to class. Rural life is better than city and town life where we can live a ten minute walk from the nearest bit of green and never see a wild animal all year around.

      I noticed Annunziata Rees-Mogg catching grief on Twitter yesterday for lecturing people on food. She was right — these people are always right — but fail to miss the larger context which is the patterns of our lives. I know I could buy cheap tomatoes etc, though probably couldn’t make pasta cheaper than it is in the shops, and make better meals than I have using prepared ingredients but still… It’s not as simple as that. We all get locked into the habits and routines of our lives and that includes what we eat. I know people who work 8 till 5 and get home and eat nothing but prepared meals from supermarkets. It’s why I do get slightly pissed off with the likes of Jamie Oliver lecturing us on food. Yes, we could all eat better but it’s not as simple as buying fresh food and learning to cook. It’s about space (no room in the kitchen for a proper oven), having room and money for the right tools, and, even more important, the inclination to spend the time learning to cook. It’s partly laziness but part habits of mind. It requires a cultural shift that I don’t see the government making. The government tell us to eat less sugar but we know the extraordinary measures they’d take if that meant the collapse of the sugar industry. I think in their ideal world, we’d all buy the same amount of chocolate as we buy but we’d never eat it. Much as I don’t like big government, I’m not a libertarian who would leave everybody to solve these problems themselves. We need to change society in a way that isn’t merely tinkering at the edges because so much of this comes down to mental health (in the broadest sense). So long as people are working ridiculously long hours for very little pay, we will never become a nation of healthy eaters. We’ll remain a nation of snackers eating comfort food to cheer ourselves up (and I definately include myself, though lockdown has helped me learn not to).

  2. It’s a strange one obesity as you try one path towards explaining it and then find you can come up with something that debunks it. I think the tired after working long hours argument looks good on the surface, but then you look at the global indices and see several developed countries with lower obesity rates and longer or equally long working hours. You then look at wealth and find yourself in the same situation. What about climate?, again you draw a blank. Why should countries as diverse as Portugal, Italy, Bosnia, Austria, Denmark and Japan all have significantly lower obesity than the UK?. Activity levels?, access to fast food?. I just looked up Mcdonalds per capita and thought I was on to something, till I noticed Japan France and Sweden had more branches than us. Alcohol consumption?,most of the Middle East have higher levels of obesity while the French consume more alcohol and are thinner, so that’s a bust.

    The Jamie Olivers of this world should let people get on with their own lives, if they shorten them through eating too much crap, and this may sound callous, it is their problem, not mine and not Jamie’s. I would hope that the pleasure of eating what they like is worth it for them.

    Ultimately it has to be up to people to watch their own weight, foods should certainly not be taxed. I think we allow people to abdicate too much responsibility for their own actions. Strike that, as a society we actively encourage people to abdicate responsibility. The fast food companies don’t abduct people and drive them at gunpoint to the takeaway and force feed their victims, yet every time the debate comes up it is they who are criticised and not their customers. Personal responsibility, it’s a thing.

    1. It’s a tough one and I think there’s unlikely to be one cause. Culture is complex in that we are shaped by so many different factors in our tastes and habits. Japan, perhaps more a fishing nation than we are(?), certainly different in terms of genes (I’m guessing there’s a genetic component to obesity), very different geography… Less red meat (I guess), more rice. I could go and check the exact facts but, even if these are wrong, others will be correct. Probably religion informs their habits. We’re shaped by our weather, the dark winter nights, etc. etc. It’s a bit like literature. Why does the UK produce music and art unlike other countries? Byron always spoke about the sensuality of Italy and how it informed a very different outlook on life and art: “I love the language, that soft bastard Latin, Which melts like kisses from a female mouth, / And sounds as if it should be writ on satin, / With syllables which breathe of the sweet South”. This isn’t accidental. He wrote differently in Italy than he did in England. I think it changed him for the better. He lost so much of his English cynicism he ended up dying for a cause…

      As for personal responsibility: it’s a fair point but the reason I’ve moved away from the point of view is that assumes some kind of level playing ground. I was probably far more libertarian when I was younger. As I get older, I see people trapped by so many things around them that I have sympathy when they make mistakes. It’s like masks. Like a lot of people, I get angry when I people not wearing them. Herman Cain has just died after boasting about not wearing masks at Trump’s rally. Personal responsibility, I want to scream, yet I can’t. Not entirely. I hear so many stories of people locked into the Fox News cycle, only to emerge to realise how much they’d been seduced into a false reality. As far as food is concerned: if we could all have the liberty to eat good food, I’d agree. It’s personal choice. I just have grave misgivings about how much freedom we have. The corporate culture is overwhelming and also seductive. An individual or group of individuals haven’t the power to overcome the maliciousness of certain companies when it comes to selling crap. Nobody should have smoked and they bear the responsibilities for having smoked. But those people also have my sympathy. The tobacco industry was so malivolent and powerful that it needed government to step in or, at the very least, monitor what’s being sold and how it’s being sold. It’s hard not being cynical when you have former tobacco lobbyists in government posts.

      Not saying any of that is a good answer to your answer. When talking about the UK, we’re very different to other nations. I’m not sure why but I think if we could unpick it long enough it would come down to a point you’ve often made about London being the base of power. There is a natural submissiveness to the British which is a benefit at some times but at other times leads us into dark places, such as our national problem with alcohol.

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Yes. It also helps that it’s also my favourite satire written by Alexander Pope, one of the most metrically pure English poets who also knew his way around a crude insult or two. If you’ve not read it, you should give it a try.

So this is satire, right?

Can’t deny it. There will be some. But it’s also an experiment in writing and drawing, giving work away for free in order to see how many people are willing to support a writer doing his thing. It’s the weird stuff that I wouldn’t get published elsewhere in this word of diminishing demands and cookie-cutter tastes.