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Gilkes: Keep Feeding Contempt; or imagine a better world for the ‘small man’

Interesting how fried chicken could bring to light so much issues that explain what’s wrong with our society. One chicken drumstick is all it takes to expose certain realities, all of which are integrated, interlocked and in some aspects, results of deliberate actions.

For one thing, this farcical episode involving KFC showed us that once you can package something right, you can easily get away with any expression of contempt. How else can I explain the indifference of people who didn’t think there is anything wrong and we are making too much fuss and are overly-sensitive about everything?

Photo: KFC’s controversial 2020 Emancipation Day advertisement.
The company subsequently took down ad and apologised.

This includes many people who belong to a Facebook group dedicated to Black-owned dollars. And, not surprisingly, a media that could hold surveys and issue statements to condemn Ancil Roget’s use of the term ‘house nigger’ but not seem to have a problem when the word ‘nigger’ was masked as a chicken drumstick.

Yuh fine ah too crude? Okay, explain how all Prestige Holdings had to do was offer a half-ass apology.
Did they make restitutions? No? They agreed to channel some of their profits to develop social programs in the urban communities, where many of their customers live? No?

And people still going and buying from them? Yeah? Well I go insult allyuh and apologise too.

‘Haul way all allyuh morocoy! Ah sorry dey; now go yuh way… Hold up; buy a two-piece and fries for mih dey. Breast, thanks.’

Wha yuh wa mih tell yuh? If we had deeper self-respect, the time Stephen Broadbridge did that shit a couple years ago would have been the last time anyone try that. And then KFC defenders, just like Broadbridge’s defenders, want to say they didn’t know it was racist?

All sorts of frivolous nonsense in the States these people make themselves aware of; white people’s farcical imitation of the Harlem Shake was done even on UWI campus, but people want to say they didn’t know that that fried chicken imagery was a long-standing racist stereotype?

Photo: KFC apologised for its controversial 2020 Emancipation Day advert.

Okay, easy to tie up allyuh head, jed. Anyhow, I done with that: next thing

Now even if one ignores the racist innuendo—which is easy to do if one only is presented with a very narrow definition of what racism is—there are a couple other elephants crowding the room that kinda need to be faced.

I know a lot of you cyar believe that even after that insult on Emancipation Day, black hen chicken still went and salute the Colonel. But like ah say, we talk all this already.

KFC did us a favour. It exposed how much this society remains shackled to the Plantation economic model—one trait of which is cultural imperialism that seduces you into determining what you must eat, to the point that there is almost no decolonised food identity.

It exposed the existence of a cynical mindset that developed an industry, based in another country, built around food, that is only concerned with market share, profits and piss all else.

It most certainly ent about your health and living longer without making the pharmaceutical magnates richer. Yeah, it is presented as that; any number of cereal commercials on children’s cable channels will drum into their impressionable heads that (GMO) corn flakes and fruit loops laden with fructose and artificial flavours are ‘part of this complete breakfast’.

Photo: A child enjoys a bowl of cereal.

But, as this interview illuminated, all that is just more hymns in the Holy Mass of the Market Economy, dearly beloved.

And, as Dr Nestle says in that interview and in her book, if it means funding scientific research to ‘prove’ the Kraft cheese slices in your fridge are healthy or even real cheese; shit dat. Scientists have bills and mortgages too inno.

Three words people: Student. Debt. Loan.

The fact that a great many people are still in KFC outlets, probably as you read this, points to the success of an aggressive marketing that began back in the late 70s and steadily grew over the years. But that also points to the insidious links connecting low, depressed wages, fast-paced work culture, under- or unemployment and cheap unhealthy foods.

KFC is just one of many foreign fast food chains that over time made themselves the provider of a readily available meal for the steadily growing numbers of working poor people.

So we could waste time discussing the indifference and innocence—I’m trying not to say ignorance. Or we could analyse the fact that the most loyal customers seem to be the working poor and underemployed.

Photo: A KFC advert with actor Darrell Hammond.

We could examine how the roots of that said indifference was largely an all-round bankrupt education system that since the 1980s was influenced by the IMF, in collusion with self-serving local merchants and elites.

They, being neoliberal free-market capitalists to be precise, only ever saw money, markets, profits and opportunities. The radical challenges in the 1970s to the established order that remained almost intact from colonial times—‘Independence’ made almost no difference (Drs Alison McLetchie, Richard Drayton and Adom Gatachew explain why in their respective works)—unsettled many powerful people and a golden opportunity to push back decisively was presented in the 80s when global oil money dramatically fell.

They all used the opportunity to root out the progressive, self-reliant culture that was making a resurgence, along with the international networking of ideas and activism projected by NJAC, the OWTU and other labour unions that had gotten traction after 1970, but were already being sidelined when oil money flowed in the mid-70s.

They gradually, very slowly, began replacing it with models that promoted competitive individualism in the form of entrepreneurship. We are still deeply cemented in that ideology because, as we see in a Facebook group dedicated to channeling African-owned dollars, for many people that is the only form they have ever known.

They cannot even contemplate the notion of forming a multi-purpose cooperative, utilising, say, the Montdragon model of Spain or the informal self-help systems our great grandparents used.

Photo: A corn soup vendor in Trinidad.

The economic model that was projected, the one that KFC represents, was developed by people like Milton Friedman, Friedrich Von Hayek, Ludwig Von Mises, Ayn Rand, James Buchanan and others—all of whom were deeply opposed to collective action, public welfare and unionising. And that was itself built upon the colonial structures.

Why? Because, oh yeah, they were also deeply racist and class-separatist, with entrenched notions of ethnic/class entitlement; and it’s all right there in some of their writings.

But the average person will not know that or read any of that because the average person is caught up daily trying to hustle to make a dollar to pay bills and food.

All this is understood and exploited very well by the fast food outlets. That’s why they spend so much money to pay psychologists who study your weaknesses.

So, progressives, again, we need to study in detail the system that was structured in such a way that the average working person would have less and less time to read and meet to discuss; and organise.

We need to study the evolution of a project of colonisation through consumption and the gradual corralling, the slowly, creeping enclosure of arable lands, delicate water tables, ecosystems and common green spaces, into the hands of an ever-shrinking circle of elites.

Photo: A sugar plantation owner oversees the work of his slaves.

History has a funny way of repeating itself. It’s just so capitalism did start off: closing off of fields, kicking out the farmers who was feeding deyself and dey communities, herding them into cities and factories and then vex when the people and them resist.

How many people have the time to consider that the modern day police began more or less around the same time on both sides of the Atlantic?

On the English side, they were to contain the working classes who were descendants of the peasants displaced through enclosures; and, in the Americas, they were slave patrols.

That policing also ensured that independent growing of food was severely restricted. Right here in Trinbago, some of the depressed communities began as settlements set up by Africans who engaged in small-scale farming—a cultural retention from Africa itself—that was independent of the capitalist plantation system.

They pooled together resources into cooperatives and Friendly Societies and, judging by the writings of the white planters, were threatening the primacy of the Plantation Economy.

This is a system that does not tolerate any competing model, no matter how much the West loves to boast about liberal freedom and democracy and free choice. Economists like David Harvey, Richard Wolff, Michael Hudson (who predicted the 2008 economic crash) are just a few of the scholars who break down how capitalism and democracy do not go hand in hand.

Photo: A satirical second look at globalisation…

At present cheap, healthy food is getting scarcer, you have housing areas that prohibit, prohibit, the growing of food; arable land is slowly being privatised—think back to the terrorising of farmers in Chaguaramas right opposite where that obscenity known as Five Islands is now—and used to put buildings. As the elites embark on a new enclosure, cheap unhealthy food is made easier to get…

And by the way, this translates into foreign policy. The US invaded and colonised Hawai’i to develop a Plantation Society to export pineapples—Dole still making money and its products are in your cupboard.

United Fruit, which is today Chiquita, played a huge part in the coup in Guatemala in 1953 and the crime situation in Jamaica. And the US wishes to invade Venezuela not only to seize its oil and coltan deposits, but also because this huge potential market banned GMO seeds.

I know you would like to believe it was about human rights and elections, but if that were really the case, they would dust off those old plans they had to invade Saudi Arabia in the morning.

So progressives, we have real wuk to do. The disruption caused by the pandemic offered many a window of opportunity into what could be. All in the Beetham and Morvant and Union Hall, little fried chicken and burger places began springing up as the lockdown eased up. So more people had the time to figure out that a different reality is possible.

Photo: A roadside vendor in Debe.

But it is not going to come about naturally. The massive KFCs and Coca Colas of the world have ways of adjusting, as Dr Vandana Shiva tells us HERE and Edward Snowden and Naomi Klein point out in a more unsettling discussion HERE.

But that world is possible; and it is coming either by the ballot or the…

About Corey Gilkes

Corey Gilkes is a self-taught history reader whose big mouth forever gets his little tail in trouble. He lives in La Romaine and is working on four book projects. He has a blog on https://coreygilkes.wordpress.com/blog/ and http://www.trinicenter.com/Gilkes/. Vitriol can be emailed to him at coreygks@gmail.com.

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2 comments

  1. It wasn’t KFC in the USA that made that ad, it was the local KFC corporation franchise, in other words, whoever came up with the idea for that ad probably lives in Trinidad and Tobago, and may or may not be black. What is the racism, is it the connection between black people and chicken through the chicken leg, is it the idea that a chicken restaurant would support a black cause, where is the racism, the racism might in fact be a fiction produced in the minds of those who are outraged. How dare a chicken restaurant chain support a black cause by showing their product in their ad. It however also shows that companies should stay away from political messages, KFC should simply stick to advertisements like finger licking good, or even better make no advertisements at all and instead lower their prices, KFC doesn’t need advertising, people know exactly what it tastes like and where to get it just like the doubles man or the coconut man.

  2. We must continue to push for a peaceful resolution to the Venezuela dispute based on international law. We must be smart and not allow another Iraq, Syria, Libya style situation to happen right next door to our country. So called interventions don’t work very well, just look at Iraq, yes Saddam gone but so are 1million Iraqis, of course western media only mentions the 3000 dead US and coalition troops. Who sent them to another man’s country, the same americans who complain about illegal migration of poor people from south of their borders, the same americans strapped on uniforms and guns and went into Iraq which is nowhere near the USA.
    Now the same USA that bitches and moans about Russian meddling in a US election has been meddling in Venezuelan internal politics for well over a decade. Venezuela has not attacked the USA. Venezuela just wants to be left in peace, but if you know the history of empires then you know that the USA just can’t help it. It needs these wars so it’s leaders can claim to be leaders, remember when Trump bombed Syria the media was saying that he is presidential now.

    The USA has a doctrine that it will not allow any other nation on the western hemisphere to reach a point where it can challenge US dominance, Venezuela with it’s resources, geographical location and it’s sizable population could have been ideally placed to in the long run become a leader in this region, especially if it could rally other nations together under 1 flag.
    The US intervention isn’t about socialism, it is about power, resources and outright superpower power plays. The reason Saudi Arabia is the USA’s best friend forever and Venezuela is not is because the Saudi’s know how to play the USA, the Venezuelans on the other hand get played by the USA.