Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Invisible and Deadly Preservative

In which our Lady goes Invisible. 

My husband brings home the weirdest stuff from the library.  This week it was a series of Invisible Man movies, the earliest a black and white from the 40’s. I actually sat down to watch this one with him.   I haven’t read the book yet, but Jon tells me that there are significant differences—which speak to me of the socio-cultural background in which it was filmed. 
Several of the characters in this film are scientists.  They work together, mixing chemicals into what they deem as an honest, straight-forward, and helpful product—namely, preservatives for food.  The thing that I find interesting is that it is from these same chemicals and the same professional experimentation that one of the scientists creates a formula for invisibility, which he inevitably tests on himself.  The problem is that the formula has additional unforeseen effects as well.  It makes its victims go mad.  And there is no antidote.  Thus begin a series of horrifying incidents that make up the bulk of the movie. 
Just before watching the film, I had been reading Nina Planck’s Real Food: What to Eat and Why.  Perhaps because of the juxtaposition of these two pieces of media, I began to see some interesting parallels.  For instance, there is the creation of preservatives—and their possible danger—as topic.  It is interesting that the ingredients and processes for food preservatives and for mad invisibility in the movie are the same.  To look at the invisibility problem symbolically, it would appear to deliver not only a very unhealthy insanity, but also a kind of inhumanity.  It seems that the chemical formula for invisibility can make a person less human.  I’m seeing an underlying fear present in the 40’s regarding the change from traditional ways to modern.  To be honest, this is nothing new.  Underlying anxiety about change is abundant in almost any form of media and art.  Still, to have chemical experimentation at the heart of it all intrigues me—especially because Planck (among others) insists that such chemicals, preservatives, and non-traditional eating habits are leading our Western society into an uneasy balance of quick eating and diseased bodies. 
To Nina Planck, it is a kind of madness to continue to gorge ourselves on a scientific experiment that is clearly not working.  The statistics are compelling.  The more of this processed and non-traditional food that our society eats, the more obese, cancerous, and diabetic we become.  There has been a marked increase in these kinds of health problems since just after WWII, about the time that processed foods became wide-spread.  Planck is also alarmed by the extinction of many species of plant and animal life (yeah, she’s definitely a hippie) because of homogenization of food products and the use of chemicals in our environment.  As an example, we have lost certain varieties of grains, etc… in favor of corn and soy products, which after being chemically changed into unrecognizable form, become the foundation of many types of processed food.  Planck states:
“We’ve gone too far.  Songbirds are missing, frogs are sterile, and our bodies may already bear the signs of misadventures with powerful poisons.  Farmers and their children have higher rates of cancer and birth defects.  All these chemicals were designed to kill, after all…” (pg. 150)
Well stated, Nina.  Let us just hope that the diseases are curable and reversible.  For my ailments, I’m going for as traditional an antidote as possible now that the surgical part is over. 
With that said, an honest and critical Postscript:
Dear Nina Planck,
Thank you for your book.  It is wonderfully informative and easy to read.  I appreciate how you have taken so much information and condensed it into a learnable and usable format.  From your coherent and compelling arguments, I can well believe that farmer’s children have higher rates of cancer and birth defects.  As I said earlier, this is nicely stated.  But Nina, Nina, where is your source backing up the link between cancer and farmers?  Where are the scientific facts that will stave off the myth-making that this book could easily become? From my standpoint, they are crucially important, and yet ephemerally invisible.
Briefly yours,

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