Sunday, March 20, 2011

Guilt and fried chicken

I picked up some fried chicken at the grocery store and had it on the check out counter waiting for them to finish with the people in line before me. The woman behind was a bit oddly dressed, very odd looking baggy pants, two-toned hair and a piercing of some sort on her face that I didn’t pay much attention to. I would have thought nothing of it until she commented about the chicken.

She asked if that was my chicken on the counter and I said it was. She told me that it smelled so good and told me how much she liked the chicken from this store. And then she said something odd: “But it makes me feel so guilty.”

I assumed she was using guilt in the sense of feeling bad about a diet and was speaking about her health. Otherwise, guilt was an odd word. I certainly understand the concept of guilt, as in hurting someone else. I don’t believe people should feel guilty merely for violating the law. Hell, considering the law guilty ought to be attached to obeying it, not violating it. In the legal sense, guilt is something I attach to violating the rights of others.

The only other form of guilt that I can understand is that attached to religion. Typically this is associated with the pleasures of life. Some guilt is attached to hurting others; in the line of thou shalt not steal. But, in my experience, guilt is too often involved with things such as “thou shalt not feel sexual pleasure,” “thou shalt not enjoy life,” and so forth. This guilt is attached to NOT denying the flesh.

I couldn’t think of a religious reason to feel guilt over fried chicken. Nor was it something that violated the rights of others. So I naturally assumed it had to do with diet, and the impact of fried chicken on weight and other issues. So I responded:

“Nothing to feel guilty about. It’s your body, your business, so you may as well enjoy it.”

But then she started explaining why she felt guilty. She really, really likes fried chicken. But it isn’t “natural.” She talked about hormones and the unnatural way food is processed, etc. It was precisely the kind of lecture I’ve heard from many advocates of “green” living.

Everything she said contrasted things created by humans to the “natural” and assumed the natural was good while human creation was not. Perhaps it was sinful thus explaining the guilt.

I was wrong when I thought she was discussing diet. She didn’t mention calories or any of the items associated with diet. Instead she discussed the bad nature of anthropogenic food versus “natural” items. Chemistry was evil, ignoring the fact that the natural is full of chemicals. It was a faith statement not dissimilar to the belief that there was a perfect garden that humans lost because of their own sinful nature. And that fried chicken was a symbol of the evil side of humanity versus the good that comes from naturally raised chicken, even though it tastes so good. Perhaps, because it tastes so good, the sin is even greater—much the way Puritans implored us to feel guilty about the pleasures of the flesh.

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