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Fast Food: The Decline of American Culture
For many decades, fast food has evolved and grown to demolish many cultures especially the American culture. From Medieval times all the way up until the modern American culture, people have sought ways to save time by “having it their way,” just as the famous Burger King jingle stated in its ad in the 1970s (McCarthy 1). People want things quick and prepared just the way they expect it. Fast and efficient have become the drive for most Americans. This fast and efficient nature has created a fast-paced society for millions of employees and families daily. People believe that the quicker one can meet their needs the better. But, what has the fast food phenomenon done to American society? It has done many things from globalizing the world, effecting American’s diet, to even separating and affecting families. All of these things have contributed to a poorer quality of living and has inflicted negative health issues on our nation’s people. In this paper, one will find evidence of how the fast food industry has changed the way Americans live and survive. From reading the research, one will find through factual evidence that certain parts of our so called “Fast Food Nation” have become a key factor and source for the destruction of our American culture (Schlosser l). From proven facts and educated opinions, it is true that throughout history, and even into the future, fast food has always and will always destroy the American culture.
Fast food is defined as any form of food that is prepared and received in a fast manner to perpetuate daily life (Dugdale). In our modern culture, fast food has become easier to come by and made readily available. However, fast food is not necessarily unique to our own culture and time period. As a matter of fact, fast food has existed for thousands of years and all throughout history. Actually, fast food dates back thousands of years to many different time periods including ancient Rome, the Middle East, Eastern Asia, and the middle Ages. Although these time periods had their own particular style, trade and other types of national communication affected the types of fast food that was served in each particular area and time period. A good example of this is during the middle Ages in Europe. During this time period, vendors lined the streets with their carts of readily made food. This allowed travelers to quickly purchase a meal of bread and wine or even a bowl of stew. Included in their own style was also the influence of West Africa. West Africa encouraged the selling of charred meat sticks, known as shish kabobs (unknown author).” This quick form of nutrition is a primitive example of how our modern and more productive fast food restaurants came to exist in today’s culture.
By understanding this, we can see how the globalization of fast food restaurants works (Ritzer ?). Globalization is the spreading of ideas and beliefs to other nations, causing either negative or positive effects to our nation and other nations. The globalization of fast food is one of the most problem causing effects of our fast food lifestyle. The idea behind fast food globalization is that America has spread all of its negative fast food effects to other nations and cultures. Some of the things that have been spread are health problems, economic stress, social issues, and even mental problems. But, not only has our nation spread our problems to other nations, we have created enormous problems for ourselves. How are we doing this one might ask? By globalizing other nations, we have changed the industrialization of our own. As our nation became more and more industrialized, it turned from a very knowledgeable and insightful group of people, to a breed of people who seem to act and interact like robots. Fast food pushes people to return to an assembly line method of life as George Ritzer discussed in his book McDonaldization of Society ( page ?). In this way of life, people do not think and act for themselves, but go on with the daily grind of doing the same rigorous schedule over and over again (Ritzer ?).
Another way that we have affected ourselves and our culture from globalization is the need and drive to have everything in life very quickly. Unfortunately, this innate drive began with the invention of the automobile around the turn of the 20th century. When the automobile was manufactured and people began to purchase them, the need for a faster means to acquire food developed. Soon thereafter, drive-ins emerged and later fast food chains took their place in society. Hence, fast food began to teach and condition our culture to strive to get everything on the run and not wait around. When Americans try and do everything on the run, they can sometimes make choices that are very detrimental to their health. One such example of this is when people try to eat fast food and drive. There have been many cases in which a person has been too busy trying to unwrap his or her “Big Mac” instead of concentrating on their driving and sadly ended up getting into a tragic accident. These accidents may sometimes be deadly or even fatal for the one driving and others. Sadly, this is just one example of how the fast food industry has led to the dangerous decline of our nation.
Along with industrialization and the drive for quickness, fast food globalization also carries with it drastic effects to our economy. As history shows, fast food has brought about major changes in very specific parts of our economy. Home and private businesses, such as family owned restaurants, have been most directly impacted. This is caused by the monopolizing power of fast food chains such as McDonalds of whom have spent millions of dollars advertising and have appealed to people’s desires by making food very quick and cheap. By providing service in this manner, McDonalds has stolen away many customers who are usually too lazy and too cheap to support the so called “little man.”
Along with small businesses, supermarkets and grocery stores have also grossly affected our economy. With the ever growing fast food market, people now tend to eat out a lot more instead of staying at home and cooking a home cooked meal. Because meals are no longer prepared and eaten at home, grocery stores must make changes in order to stay in business and compete. A lot of times, grocery stores will first try to increase their prices on food to try and maintain their once stable income. If this does not work, the grocery store may downsize its staff to cut out paying employee wages and thus adding to our nation’s number of unemployed workers. Sadly, sometimes, this drastic and unfair change does not even work. With nowhere to turn and no way to compete, there are many times when grocery stores must close down and go out of business leaving employees and owners with no source of income and a difficult life ahead. Hence, one can see from the discussion thus far in this paper, how the effects of globalization of fast food from its beginning has directly impacted the way our nation’s culture has changed over time.
Consequently, the vast effects of fast food in American society has also led to major problems with the overall health of the nation’s population and the planet’s environment. Sadly, “today more than 60% of the population in the West is considered obese. This is because they are eating more processed and fast food than ever” (“Effects of Fast Food” Thinkquest). This fact alone explains why fast food can be deemed as the “world’s worst for nutrition” (Fast Food ?). From the research, there are many facts about fast food that help solidify why this chosen form of eating has slowly led to major health problems among children and adults. First, “in 2006, the global fast food market grew by 4.8% and reached a value of 102.4 billion and a volume of 80.3 billion transactions” (Random Fast Food Facts ?). America has become the largest industry in the world for fast food. From this, out of a study of about 6,212 children, 30.3% of these children had eaten fast food on that particular day. No wonder, it is a given fact that more children can readily identify the Ronald McDonald character better than the Santa Claus himself. Typically, the American Santa Claus is popular in America, but perhaps because McDonalds controls 83% of the fast food market in Russia, one may infer why globally, Ronald McDonald may be more easily recognized than Santa Claus based on the research. Additionally, because so much fast food is sold, “about 60 million American adults are classified as being obese with another 127 million being overweight” (Random Fast Food Facts ? ). These statistics are astounding and are understandable for why so many problems exist.
Because of the facts just mentioned, obesity has led to a tremendous increase in diabetes and heart disease. When adults and children have health problems, the cost of health care goes up. As our population ages, and health problems increase, our nation has begun to face the fact that problems have erupted in the current health care system. More and more private health insurance companies have sought more new and creative ways to raise our nation’s health care premiums of insured citizens. Also, they have found ways to cancel health care coverage for patients who may be experiencing catastrophic illnesses which cut into their company profits. For these reasons, our nation’s government has been forced to look at providing a more
socialistic health care system. This debate has been going on for many years, but it has yet to be resolved. Perhaps, a settlement on this issue will be discovered soon, and health care reform will
help to slow the effects of how fast food consumption has created a population of obese people with severe health issues. Who knows, the government may work to enforce the way fast food has been prepared in the past and support changes on how it will be prepared in the future to slow the decline of negative health problems in our society.
Secondly, fast food has created problems for our nation’s environment.
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