Friday, August 01, 2008

Vonnegut and Chocolate

After coming to USA , one of the best things has been the access to a wonderful local library, where everything is free and unlimited. An unheard of concept in India; was pleasantly surprised.
Hope to utilize the opportunity to the fullest and devour through a diverse collection. Have started off by diving into the works of famous American writers like Vonnegut, Tom Wolfe, Gore Vidal, Paul Theroux. Really enjoying going through them as one gets to know a cross-section of American society, philosophy and evolution of lifestyle.

Vonnegut is a riot as he dishes out over-the-top, satirical stuff. Especially Thank You Dr Kervokian , Galapagos, and Cat's Cradle which is about a mad-cap nuclear scientist. The punchlines in his plots are always directed at the traditionally pro-war and hawkish American establishment. He has a strong pacifist streak in him, which he brings out through his strident anti-war tirade, which he masks so effortlessly in humourous and wacky scenarios.
Dr Strangelove is the closest a movie could resemble a Vonnegut plot. One of Vonnegut's favourite example is to point out that the only successful genocide in the history of mankind is the obliteration of all native Tasmanians, who were hunted down similar to dodos by the White Settlers, as they thought that those aborigines were sub-human in nature and like vermin who should be exterminated. So much for the superior Western civilization.

Also read a brilliant book by Carol Off called Bitter Chocolate, in which she has laid out bare the sordid reality of the sugar coated chocolate industry over the years. Starting from its Mayan origins superseded by the Aztec civilization which was in turn plundered by the Spanish Conquistadors led by Hernando Cortez for its Gold. What followed was the slavery of the Native Americans , to satisfy the cocoa appetites of the Europeans.

Then she talks about the Anglo-American chocolate barons, Hershey, Cadbury, Mars, Rowntree, who popularized chocolate and brought it to the masses. But inside the benign chocolate candy, lies a brutal history of slavery and persecution of the African and Native American people who have throughout the ages borne the brunt of the burden, but have hardly enjoyed the fruits of their toil. In Ghana and Ivory Coast, none of the poor cocoa farmers have ever tasted what the end-product is like. Currently ravaged by Civil war, changing climates and extreme poverty these cocoa farmers have a really miserable existence and Big Cocoa is doing precious little to ameliorate these conditions. She has brought out the issues quite starkly and in an engaging manner in her book.
After reading it one feels that the Chocolate industry is one that could definitely do with a dose of Fair Trade


Post a Comment

<< Home