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Hungry for McDonalds

October 5, 2010

It’s a real privilege at Breathe to have friends and supporters round the world. It also helps you realise how complicated this simple living business is. Dave, a friend in Pakistan, writes the following thought-provoking observation:

You wouldn’t often think of eating at McDonalds as an aspiration, as a dream, something to long for. Maybe for small children who can’t get enough of the happy meals, but for adults and whole families? Yet for many in the developing world that is exactly how people view a McDonalds meal. An aspiration, indeed often an unattainable aspiration. McDonalds is a sign of Western consumerism, a sign of a dream of prosperity and wealth, a sign of something wonderful and exciting beyond them, something to long for, to hunger for (in both senses). We were surprised when we first moved here at how people dressed-up for a visit to McDonalds, how it was the richer families and the more educated families who went to McDonalds. In fact, locally people refer to the upper-middle class as “burger” families because they can afford to go and have a Western-style burger.

People are aspiring for a piece of Western consumerism, they are hungry for a small piece of what we in the West would view as everyday, as the bottom end of consumerism, the bit of our culture that many of us look down on. Of all the pieces of our culture to have chosen as your icon, McDonalds seems a poor choice. But not for them. Perhaps I should wish that they aspired to eat more of their local equivalent, the ever-present, far tastier and significantly cheaper chicken tikka? Perhaps I should prefer that if they do aspire to a Western culture, then they might focus on democracy or effective primary healthcare? Perhaps it would be better for them to focus on the aspects of their culture that we in the West hunger for, close family connections, hospitality and generosity, or a prime focus on the value of relationship. But they don’t. You’re not hungry for what you already have, and people here are just hungry for the simple opportunity of one Big Mac.

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