Plastic bunnies, polystyrene eggs. The artificial and cruel Easter today has difficulty pretending to its original meaning – A2larm

Plastic bunnies, polystyrene eggs. The artificial and cruel Easter today has difficulty pretending to its original meaning – A2larm
Plastic bunnies, polystyrene eggs. The artificial and cruel Easter today has difficulty pretending to its original meaning – A2larm
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Late capitalist society, which stands for the all-pervasive economization of life, at the same time maintains symbolic relics of traditional thought and cultural concepts – for example, the celebration of religious holidays. Of course, the most popular in our region is Christmas, whose material form today is characterized by an influx of plastic and electrified decorations long before Advent, but in the most convenient places, i.e. in shopping centers. With its traditional act of gift-giving, Christmas thus established itself as the most commercially exploited holiday of the capitalist year. At the same time, the birth of Jesus represents a distinctly positive emotional quality, one that marketing knows how to handle properly, however much its Christmas iconography focuses on gifts, decorated trees or the now-out-of-place snowflakes.

Easter is much more complicated. Their Christian foundation is based on a dark story of betrayal, death and torture and culminates in the somewhat difficult to understand mysticism of the resurrection. Their commercial adaptation is thus saved by the level of celebration of the arrival of spring. So while Christmas can be seen as an omni consumerist holiday, Easter is a bit more modest and specialized mainly in food. This hard-to-miss secularization is evidenced not only by the symbolism of Easter decorations, which are overflowing with spring flowers and colorful shapes and colors, as only plastic materials allow in the processing of the motifs of baby rabbits, chickens, eggs, lambs, etc., but also by the parliamentary effusion, which is the opening law during the holidays. In the Czech Republic, it is thus possible to open on Good Friday, while larger stores are ordered by law to close on Monday, an extra day from the Christian story, in which various folk forms of alcohol celebrations are concentrated. At the same time, the flood of images of cubs, rather than the own celebration after the winter of the awakening life, is directed towards an egg-meat feast, in which the spring shoots of herbs are replaced by green-colored beer for everyone.

Retail chain flyers, ubiquitous decorations, and television commercials may be teeming with bushy bunnies, Easter eggs, and tender yellow chicks. But this vicarious plastic and photoshopped visual optimism only masks the true nature of the consumer system.

The Easter message is thus broken not only on suitable holiday menu recipes that are spread to the world by celebrity chefs, but above all on messages such as “Easter will be more expensive this year” or currently “Eggs will be cheaper this Easter, compared to last year there is no risk of shortage”. Experiencing holidays in this elementary gastro way is far from being a legacy of communism, as it might seem at first glance in a post-communist country.

The character of the current world, in which man is deeply interfering with the biological systems of the planet, is sometimes referred to as the Anthropocene in terms of geological eras. But this has its critics, among whom are Jason W. Moore and Raj Patel, authors of the book History of the World through the Example of Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature and the Future of Our Planet (Unrest 2020). The mere appearance of Homo sapiens on Earth is far from being a sufficient condition for attacking natural processes, but it is necessary for people to organize themselves in a specific way – to remove man from the natural world and place him in the role of master who subdues nature, exploits it, massively reorganizes it in a way that he can accumulate profit. Moreover, not every person becomes this plunderer and prey, many, on the contrary, remain de facto at the level of a natural resource, when their work is capitalized. A more appropriate term here is the capitalocene.

Cheap Easter as a result of history

Conveniently, it is precisely the Easter holidays, on which the mechanism of capitalism, which boasts many paradoxes, can be demonstrated. It is the authors of the mentioned book who describe the birth of capitalism as the result of early modern processes that are deeply related to the colonization of the world, the subjugation of territory, natural resources and the human labor of the underprivileged, which can be both the natives removed from the human community and the unbaptized, as well as women or finally the poor people across genders and ethnicities. Moore and Patel describe these processes of modern civilizational rebirth as cultural apartheid (in the original sense of “separation”) based on Enlightenment rationalism, proletarianization, and privatization.

Nature gradually became a raw material base mapped in detail by scientific positivism, as well as the masses deprived of a self-sufficient rustic way of life and their proletarianization and transformation into an urban poor whose physical strength drives industry. The paradox of capitalism thus contradicts its propaganda, through which it describes itself as an almost inevitable civilizational mission, where growing wealth trickles down to the poorest.

This is exactly what Patel and Moore disprove when they show, using many historical and contemporary examples, that capitalism works on inequalities, which it exacerbates. The condition for its successful existence is cheap inputs such as energy, human labor or food. Capitalism thus grew precisely on cheap food for the masses producing cheap labor. We don’t have to look far for examples.

Cheap eggs and chickens, which happen to be a pillar of not only Easter eating, show this principle perfectly. The post-war green revolution in agriculture represents its complete industrialization, where natural processes are intensified with the help of many scientific discoveries. It is the agrochemistry of fertilizers, protective sprays, mechanization, irrigation, etc. In animal production, we tear young dairy cattle from their mothers, we cull the unproductive and unsuitable ones, we tear farm animals from their natural way of life in herds or herds, we take away animals’ relationships, the meaning of life, we harshly reduce them to matter that needs to be ruthlessly extracted – with the help of veterinary preparations, we intensify breeding far beyond the boundaries of any ethics. All this before self-defeat, which is the most taboo stage of the whole process.

The current so-called quick chickens, of which Czech farms produce up to 140 million per year, therefore do not look much like the cute chick from the commercials. As a result of chicken breeding, its weight is multiple compared to natural. Back in the 1950s, a two-month-old chicken weighed less than a kilo, the current deformed one weighs four times as much. His small skeleton breaks under the massive muscles, his natural movement is prevented, he also dies of hunger and thirst in overcrowded kennels, with burnt legs from aggressive feces.

The situation is similar for caged laying hens. Eggs as a symbol of life are thus literally produced in some halls of suffering and death, in denial of everything that represents life for poultry. That is, so that the laying hens have enough space, can move freely, rummage in the litter, function in a flock of natural relationships (what a convenience!). Legislation aimed at limiting this exploitative way of farming collides with the harsh capitalist reality when farming does not “pay off” and, for example, with the approaching deadline of the national ban on cage farming in 2027, many producers are considering to stop doing business in the industry.

Of course, cheap food also produces cheap labor. The hands and bodies of impoverished Czechs and migrants – agency workers, people without backgrounds and ties – are hired into operations that are hidden in the deep shadow of an outwardly prosperous flourishing system. My colleague Saša Uhlová wrote about the conditions in one of the most famous enterprises – Vodňanský kuřet, which belongs to the agrochemical empire of the former prime minister and one of the richest Czechs, Andrej Babiš, in one of the reports in the Heroes of Capitalist Work series.

In this sense, the Czech Republic, as an example of a global economic semi-periphery, perfectly illustrates the theory of the Capitalocene. The production of cheap food for the cheap labor of the service economy of the West. And just as you don’t get rich evenly in capitalism, you don’t get poor evenly either. After years of historically record inflation, some may find it absurd that I mention cheap food here, because, apart from energy, it was food that rose in price by leaps and bounds. In the end, even the top politicians advised us that we should buy food in neighboring countries.

Cheap food here means cheaply produced, under enormous pressure under the conditions in which animals exist for a short time and people process them. It is a meal created in the ratio of minimum cost to maximum calories. This cheaply produced food enters the market, into often complex resale and regulated relationships, the goal of which is ultimately not to provide quality nutrition to as many people as possible, but to accumulate capital. While, on average, the opportunity for people here to eat quality food (e.g. meat and eggs from ethical farms) and variety recedes because they are getting poorer in real terms, some have become richer due to the inflationary crisis.

And of course we know who. They weren’t small farms where the chickens run around the yard. Unsurprisingly, they were mostly foreign retail chains or Agrofert. And it was far from the fact that Agrofert was successful “because it managed to reflect the increased costs of energy into the prices”, as appeared in the media. That wouldn’t multiply the profit, just maintain it. It was precisely as a result of political disasters that the expected inflation was an opportunity to deviate prices by putting pressure on the market, when powerful entities benefited from the imbalance of power between producers and distributors, small farms and large farms, etc.

Retail chain flyers, ubiquitous decorations, and television commercials may be teeming with bushy bunnies, Easter eggs, and tender yellow chicks. But this substitute plastic and photoshopped visual optimism only masks the true nature of the consumer system, where today’s human can see bunnies scattered around the roads, the own lives of impoverished pale chickens are hidden in halls and tortured hens are crammed in miniature cages all their lives.

Memories of spring

Just as Easter does not hold up as a Christian celebration of life or even its resurrection, if it serves mainly to market a massive “animal farm” built on animal cruelty and human abuse, it suddenly looks absurd as a celebration of spring. The cycle of the seasons is disappearing before our eyes, when not only the ancients appear to be a verbal heritage that is completely out of date and detached from contemporary life, but climatologists are also talking about its disappearance. Just as white Christmas and skiing have turned into a civilizational chimera, even after the temperature record February, which statistically surpassed almost all Marches, the joy of the “arrival of spring” is somewhat ambiguous and is overshadowed by the fear of a dry summer with extreme temperatures. On a shattered planet, Easter turns into only fragmentary memories of spring. In addition, the year-round food offer washes away not only the geographical character of the menu, but also the seasonal one. Our work performance is held up by highly processed foods, starches, a flood of sugar, salt, cheap fat and of course protein, not only eggs, but especially meat consumption, which is growing worldwide. We then supplement the micronutrients with pills and other business with so-called superfoods, for which the same applies as for other foods – that the main producers come from the global South. Regions dependent on agriculture are among those that are most threatened not only by decreasing biodiversity directly caused by the production of cheap food, but also by the fundamental problem of climate disruption.

The problem with capitalism is that it cannot function sustainably and ethically, because the prerequisite for its growth is endless and cheap natural resources. It rarely and very reluctantly includes externalities such as pollution, climate disruption, disruption of the biosphere or social impacts in its economic balance sheet. Sometime at the beginning of the early modern age, we messed it up when we took humanity (primarily white Western men) out of the bonds of nature through the religious idea of ​​god man and eternal life. Such a ridiculous mistake, purely trivial, which in the end acts as the destruction of the meaning of life and its essence. Therefore, Easter today, with its plastic decorations and carnivorous celebration of “life” and its resurrection and redemption, is one of the most absurd and hypocritical holidays.

The author is the editor of Alarm.

The article is in Czech

Tags: Plastic bunnies polystyrene eggs artificial cruel Easter today difficulty pretending original meaning A2larm

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