Years ago I read a book called “Sugar Blues” which laid out the evils of too much sugar. Last night, I watched a film called “Forks Over Knives” which investigates the roll of meat and dairy in our lives and what it does to our bodies. I am fascinated by such exposes for several reasons. The foremost is that our government subsidizes all three of these industries. The second reason is the total lack of awareness that the vast majority of our populace seems to have about the things they put in their mouths. Lastly, I am blown away by how clever the various industries are at inserting themselves so totally into American lives.
The 18th century does not recommend itself to me as being the ideal time to have lived. Yes, the decorative arts were at their apogee in a number of fields, but many of the processes used to make them were dangerous and many of the workers treated poorly. If you were an aristocrat, your concerns were less focused on the dangers of foods and more on plenitude. Being fat was a sign of success. And as for government subsidies, the food industry was not an industry in those days. And think of how nice it might be to have a total absence of advertising in your life. That might be among the most positive aspects of 18th century life.
The first great PR campaign in my opinion started in the 17th century. As unlikely as this may sound, I am referring to Louis XIV. Threatened by riots when he was very young, he had two precepts that must certainly have guided him in the majority of his decisions. The first was that he was God’s chosen representative to lead France and the second was that France be a nation, not a group of loosely confederated city states. Hence, he centralized power, built Versailles and engaged in wars that substantiated both his, and France’s omniscience. It was a coup that set the stage for decades of war to come in Europe. It is, perhaps, as dubious a legacy as pushing, sugar, meat and dairy.