An Open Letter . . .
To anyone with a Whole Foods “Free Range Against the Machine” bumper sticker affixed to your car:
Please remove this sticker. I beg you. The message makes no sense. In fact, it’s the epitome of irony (or is it paradox?), and further evidence of the “machine’s” insidious ability to play you faster than Earl Scruggs played the fiddle. (Or was that the mandolin?)
CLARIFICATION, 3:58 pm: Earl Scruggs played the banjo.
Anyway, the first point you might wish to consider is that “free-range” as a descriptive term is meaningless. Meaningless. Well, actually, it’s worse than meaningless. With Orwellian efficiency, the titans of industry (the machine) have twisted this term to convey a veneer of virtue while continuing with business as usual: packing thousands of uncaged birds into barns with theoretical access to the outdoors. Usually, a patch of cement.
In other words, free-range is industry’s idea of getting you to strike the pose of a chicken revolutionary while paying more for birds that are treated essentially the same as caged birds at Tysons. By legitimating this term with something as culturally normative as a bumper sticker (is there really any better example of an invasion into cultural consciousness?) you become a handmaiden of industry. You pose as a rebel against the machine while—ha!—doing the machine’s lexiconal dirty work for it. You’re actually worse than a hack; you’re a machinist! Machinations are your forte!
Michael Pollan was onto something when he performed (and, really, the man does perform, doesn’t he? Look for a post soon on my comparison of Pollan and Karl Marx—performers!) a literary critique of Whole Foods’ rhetoric in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. The company does have a way with words, sort of like my canine friend George used to have a way with my shoes. For the sake of the integrity of the English language please, again, keep your car bumper free of this sinister wordplay and replace it with a meaningful message. I’d recommend “Howl.” (Sorry, I’m fresh back from San Francisco).
Howling in the Wilderness (and never, ever performing),