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The Archetypal Arches of Global Ruin MAG
They sit on the horizon, thefirst and last beacons of global Americanization. The glowing plastic signsbeckon the world to come and sample the goods - goods prepared "fresh toorder," to your specifications, into a 500-calorie conglomeration ofready-made ingredients. This is America today: a nation of ever-presentconvenience, stolid uniformity, and boundless appetite. It's an appetite forfamiliarity, for the one thing remaining constant in our hectic, demanding lives- the Big Mac. We sit content with our sandwiches with their 34 grams of fat,"America's Favorite Fries" and our Extremely Hot Coffee, and we sitsecure in the knowledge that someone halfway around the world has exactly thesame opportunity for convenience we do.
This is the way America worksnow, and this is the way the world is becoming. Hundreds of new stores haveopened every year for decades, spreading the blight of American consumerism farand wide. The fact of the matter is that there are far too many McDonald'srestaurants - 30,000 total in 121 countries. Less than half of them are in theUnited States.
As comforting as McDonald's food is, it isn't something youwould want to eat every day. So why are there so many locations on every possiblethoroughfare that make this possible? The health issues alone make the suggestionimplausible. A steady diet of fried burgers, soda and deep-fried potatoes wouldquickly turn America into the obese laughing stock of the world. The fact that weare approaching that status already is beside the point.
Not only would afast-food lifestyle affect our waistlines, we would soon find ourselves in thethroes of malnutrition. Protein is available in abundance at the franchisepalaces, but even the sliced tomato atop their sandwiches wouldn't be enough tostave off scurvy or other serious maladies. The curse of the Daily Double wouldinflict the two-fold damage of portliness and sloth, two conditions we should dowithout. Convenience is well and good, but ends up depleting the energy wedesperately need in the hectic world that made us yearn for establishments likeMcDonald's.
The strain on the wallet is yet another consideration. A BigMac meal, fries and Coke included, will set the busy citizen back about fivedollars. Super- sizing, which has become a habit thanks to aggressiveadvertising, will further increase the monetary (and caloric) injury. A smartbuyer may be able to shave a dollar off the overall expense by going à lacarte, but such consideration greatly decreases the convenience that made therestaurant appealing in the first place. Even breakfast, possibly the mostreasonable meal available at the arches, is about twice the price of a comparablemeal elsewhere. But the ability to drive to a window and receive a hot breakfastis worth the money to some. The fact is, though, that a week of McDonald'slunches will cost at least $30. Extra Value Meals these are not.
Whilewalking down a quaint city street, one expects to see quaint shops and bistros,among other quaint things. But chances are that amidst all that quaintness, therewill be a thoroughly modern McDonald's lurking. This must be recognized as anunavoidable facet of Americana.
The problem, however, occurs when thatquaint street exists not only in America but in some old-world village. Whetherin London, Paris or Rome, the very epitome of America corrupts almost every citywhose history predates ours. A pub as old as the castles on the horizon may serveup schnitzel from a recipe just as dated, when through the window is visible theneon lights and deep-fried convenience that Americans crave. Is this far-flungfast food meant to cater only to traveling Americans? Certainly not, asforeigners patronize the restaurants for the same convenience, gladly
sacrificing culture. And so McDonald's is a somewhat unwelcome catalystfor the merging of cultures.
In areas where cultural difference is aprimary attraction, we see Americanization at work. It is hard to believe, butsomething as insignificant as fast food can carry an entire culture along withit; when that culture is as toxic as America's, chaos can result. We must alsoconsider the message that these fast-food establishments carry abroad. In Chinaand India, they may be the only exposure many have to the American lifestyle.Extravagant portions, and extravagant prices will lead foreigners to perceiveAmericans as pampered and excessive, an undesirable first impression. Theunbalanced menu offered by the restaurants will befuddle our friends abroad,convincing them we have no nutritional sense. The notions that McDonald'scommunicates about America show our worst side when we should be showing ourstrengths. Certainly it may be comforting for travelers to find trustworthyAmerican food when surrounded by unfamiliar delicacies, but it is hardly worthembarrassing our nation.
Whether or not we like it, McDo-nald's is both anAmerican and an international institution. Others may laugh at our silly Americanways, but with every Quarter Pounder they consume, they become more like us.