Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Come Back Innocence!

There are times when I wish I were more uninformed and innocent about how things work.  It shows up in simple but impactful events in my life.

Last week, my Maytag dishwasher became very ill.  I thought about repairing it but it is over 10 years old and I figured with the abuse my family has given it, it was time for it to go to dishwasher heaven.  I have been happy with my Maytag appliances for the most part.  They do not last as long as I remember machines lasting in my childhood (I think my mother had the same washer and dryer for over 20 years) but as I said my family is high maintenance and our machines (other than the exercise machines) get a workout.

When I first started buying appliances, Maytag was the gold standard.  Their advertisements on TV featured the lonely Maytag repairman because the machines reportedly never needed maintenance.  I could not afford Maytag when I was younger but at some point I decided to invest in the brand and pay the extra money for quality.

Then I started reading about Maytag.  They were sold to Whirlpool.  They have declined in the past 10-15 years in quality.  They have outsourced their manufacturing to China and Mexico.  So this past weekend I should not have been surprised to discover that my now broken dishwasher was recalled for a fire hazard.  Luckily for me, I did not experience the electrical short that causes fire from the dishwasher.  But when I went back to look for the recall information, I was shocked to see how many recalls there have been in the past 15 years for Maytag dishwashers and Maytag appliances in general.

In my days of innocence, I would have purchased a Maytag without question because I trusted the brand.  Now, I had no idea what to buy and had to embark on hours of research to find a new dishwasher.  I could not tell enough about the dishwashers on the internet so I actually went to a big box store to look at various dishwashers (the Maytag store is now long gone).  After discussion with the salesman, who seemed smart and knowledgable, I bought  a Maytag model anyway,  which also had the best consumer ratings on various internet sites I checked.  I also bought insurance for the machine because I know there is a chance that the machine will be defective and Maytag does not give much in the way of warranties (certainly not in the labor area).

Similarly, I am experiencing a loss of innocence about the fish and poultry that I used to eat.  I finished "Eating Animals" by Jonathan Safran Foer and concluded that factory farming is even worse than I thought, having read other books such as those by Michael Pollan, that describe the horrors of the food industry in the US.   I resolved not to eat any animals anymore, mostly for environmental reasons, given the huge side effects that our form of factory farming of poultry and fish has on those animal populations as well as human populations (e.g. environmental effects of animal waste, decimation of the ocean ecosystem and abuses of factory farm workers).

I have lasted all of 10 days, during which I have had two days of utter fatigue which I am tentatively attributing to my change in diet (rather than the rapid return of my cancer).  Last night I broke down and bought curry chicken salad at Urth Cafe, all the while knowing that the restaurant necessarily must buy their chickens from factory farms.  Perhaps they do not get the chickens from the worst of the worst, but if Foer is correct, it is virtually impossible to get any non mutant chickens  (or turkeys) in this country, even if they are raised in something other than factory style henhouses.  No matter what the labels say-- organic, free range, vegetarian--the animals in this country are raised with an assembly line efficiency mentality and none of them are what they claim to be.  Foer claims that all the labels lie.  How depressing.  I was happier when I knew less about the method of production of our meat.  While I aspire to be a vegetarian, I find myself craving the animal flesh and justifying it by my body's apparent need for that flesh.  Now I have to struggle with my conscience with every bite I take of the delicious curry chicken salad or roast turkey.  Bah Humbug.

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