Fast Food and Rousseau’s Civil Society
While engaging in some late-night television surfing, I was aroused by the sight of a chicken leg—golden brown and crispy—casually defying the laws of gravity as it rotated on screen. Hunger overcame me and as I stared at the smiling face of Colonel Sanders, I became aware of my craving: KFC. Naturally, I became conflicted between what I should do (eat food that wouldn’t kill me) and what I wanted to do (stuff my face with extra crispy). KFC’s team of marketers must have anticipated this moral dilemma because within seconds, the words “No Trans Fat” appeared in bold lettering.
I’m not delusional. Regardless of trans-fatty acids, I know KFC is hardly doctor recommended; however, I feel that the restaurant chain’s attempt at nutritional reconciliation relates to Rousseau’s view of society. Rousseau stated that the very essence of civil society takes away from the natural equalities of man in the state of nature: “But as soon as one man needed the help of another…equality disappeared, property came into existence, labor became necessary.” (Rousseau 399). Rousseau acknowledges that man was bound to form civil society, and his written pieces are intended to make civil society, which he deems as inherently evil, the best it can possibly be. I think that the modern-day crusade against trans-fatty acids serves as a parallel. We all know that the average item on a fast food menu is unhealthy, but we keep eating for a multitude of reasons: fast food is quick, easy to manufacture, readily available, and, above all, satisfying.
The truth of it is that fast food, just like civil society, will always be a part of our lives. It is inherently unhealthy for us to consume fast food just as civil society inherently deprives us of the equality that we find in the state of nature. But will we ever rid ourselves entirely of fast food? Most likely, no. The best we can do is to make fast food healthier. Will we ever revert back to the state of nature and get rid of civil society, so we can return to our fundamental liberties? No, we can’t simply forget and erase what we have learned with human reason. The best we can do is to establish democracies over monarchies so that freedom will be enforced. Rousseau remarked that “only the general will obligates private individuals, and there can be never be any assurance that a private will is in conformity with the general will until it has been submitted to the free vote of the people” (Rousseau 443). In conclusion, civil society and fast food are staples in our lives. It is our job to mitigate their negative effects through whatever means we deem necessary.