Sunday, February 20, 2005

American Impressions

by Skald

So all the crazed activity took its toll apparently.... almost missed my flight back to Thailand. Was thinking I was flying on Monday afternoon and happened to look at my ticket on Saturday-- and was shocked to discover that I was flying out of Atlanta on Sunday morning!! After almost two months of hectic activity (thesis/portfolio, presentation, flights, driving, preparing to move to Japan, etc...) it is time for me to take my own advice about DOING NOTHING!

Once again in the Tokyo-Narita airport passing time till the flight to Bangkok. Significantly less enthusiastic after a six day period that included 28 hours from Bangkok to Atlanta, a 10 hour drive to Winchester, Virginia,... a 10 hour drive back to Atlanta (jet lagged, gut churning, exhuasted), and now another 20+ hour odyssey back to Thailand. Looking forward to several days of sleep and complete laziness-- before departing for Hiroshima.

Its a bit difficult to put together coherent thoughts at the moment, but here are some random impressions re: America.

* The first impression, the one that jumps at you right away: America is the fattest nation on the planet. Suddenly it seems like everyone is supersized. I can only imagine the impression this makes on foreigners who are visiting the country for the first time. I know to expect it but still its a rude shock every time I return. I used to be snide about this... so easy to take pot shots and chalk it up to individual weaknesses. But when an entire nation is this overweight and unhealthy-- something is wrong at a much deeper systemic level.

The food is the first culprit, of course. For a year and a half I've eaten mostly unprocessed food (or lightly processed). Most mornings in Thailand I begin the day with half a fresh pineapple. American food is horribly unhealthy. It seemed more like plastic than food. Especially because we were on the road so much, it seemed the only "nutrients" I could get were fat, salt, and sugar. No vitamins other than those that have been injected into otherwise lifeless food. No fiber.

Do Americans prefer this crap? I think that they probably don't... not if they had decent alternatives. But the food industry, like most American business, is all about churning out cheap shit at rock bottom prices in order to reap massive profits. Food in America has been Wal-Martized. The excellent documentary "Super Size Me" was constantly in my head as I waded among a sea of obese people. When you are relatively thin and healthy, its easy to feel snide about this. But its not so funny to me.... I find it sinister. And far more nefarious than cigarette smoking.

Of course, America has the worst healthcare system of any quasi-developed nation... so when the ill effects of all that junk food kick in, people are screwed.

*That was another strong impression-- how medicated many Americans are. In the land of "just say no to drugs" people are popping a fucking pharmacy of pills. Its reflexive. Ive learned to be very careful about complaining about symptoms... because if I mention the slightest discomfort someone will aggressively push pills on me. I mention that my stomach is upset from jet lag, and everyone wants to give me phenergen or pepto bismol or various other concoctions. Sleepy? Take a sleeping pill. When I mention that I'm dehydrated (from the flight) and have a headache... then they are pushing Advil.... or something stronger.

And when I insist that I just need sleep, time to adjust, water, etc... they think Im crazy. "Why let yourself feel bad" they insist... and keep on pushing the pills. Everyone seems to ignore the fact that these things have side effects... and that addressing the root cause (jet lag, dehydration) is much healthier than masking the symptoms.

And yet these same people express horror at the thought of smoking a joint or eating a mushroom. The only good drugs, apparently, are those that enrich pharmeceutical companies.

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