The Truth About Chicken
“So everything comes down to packaging?” I asked, conscious of the shape of my words.
“Exactly,” said Mr. Savarin, nodding with his glass. “That’s how capitalism works. I can sell anything as long as it’s packaged correctly. Doesn’t matter if it’s a car or a politician or an idea. The packaging is all that matters.”
“That can’t be true,” I replied. “Packaging helps you sell your product, I’ll grant you that. But at some point, your gullible buyer gets home with his precious little purchase, and he tears the packaging open. Then what? If there’s nothing beneath the packaging, people will catch on.”
Mr. Savarin laughed, but not a hearty belly laugh. The laugh was more like a wheezy, dry whisper localized entirely in his throat. I looked down at my drink, which indeed tasted like whiskey, although I didn’t remember asking for whiskey. I sipped, feeling a responsibility to do so.
“You’re an idealist, I see,” said Mr. Savarin. “Dreams of changing the world, I bet. Well, sorry to say this, but no, people don’t catch on. For some, the packaging is all they care about anyway. Give them a pretty package with the right name and they’ll knock each other down to give you their money. The rest, and let me tell you this second group is in the minority, may be angry when they realize the truth. They may even put up a stink about it. But they only have one option, and that’s to go out and buy more.”
“What if they buy something else? What if they buy someone else’s product?”
“There is no else’s product. It’s all the same. The packaging is the only thing that’s different. All that matters is they keep buying.”
“What about the law of supply and demand?” I asked.
“You mean the illusion of supply and demand? There is only one law, and that’s the law of control. The system is what it is. You either control it or you get controlled.”
“There has to be something that people can do, though. Some way to change the system.”
Mr. Savarin started laugh-wheezing again. I couldn’t take it anymore. My anger blew over and that’s when I made a horrible scene. I spoke loudly so everyone could hear. I was outraged, I told him, and I was going to work tirelessly to expose the lies of the system, to shake the spell of the illusion. How could he stand there and admit to being part of the problem? I was going to devote my life to righting these injustices and I didn’t care who I upset or what the repercussions were. I yelled it aloud. Or maybe I didn’t yell, I’m having trouble remembering now. Perhaps I simply thought all these things, and swore the promises quietly to myself, so as not to make a scene or anger anyone since it wasn’t my family. But a promise is a promise, whether you say it aloud or to yourself. I definitely made a promise.
Mr. Savarin put his empty glass down. I don’t know if he had just finished his drink or if it had been empty all along, but who carries around an empty drink at a party, right?
“Now here’s something they don’t tell you in college,” said Mr. Savarin. He got close to me at this point, so close that I could feel his breath pushing at the tiny stubs of hair on my face. His tone changed and I knew I’d pissed him off, but then I thought that I’d just been misreading him and maybe he’d been angry all along.”It’s been decades since the average American actually ate a real chicken. Decades. What they eat tastes like chicken, that’s for sure, but it’s not real chicken. I’m only telling you this because you’re a good guy and maybe one day you’ll be my son-in-law. I like you but you have to be realistic about this world and about human nature. I have a question for you and don’t bother trying to answer it because there is no answer. It’s a simple one: How can the average person ever be expected to understand the system they live in, let alone change it, when they don’t even know what it is they’re eating every day.“