Tuesday, September 4, 2007
the sweet taste of suffering
The tremendous vitality of Taiwan’s consumer culture – a verve that can be tasted right away in any downtown city street or small town night market – is based on the endless suffering of numberless small producers in competition with one another. When one bites into that luscious shewarma or scallion pancake, one might as well be tasting the grogginess in the heads of the lean people bent over the hot grill. One might as well be biting into their flesh, a bite they allow for a price.
The baked potatoes that appeared a couple of years back at the Jiangong Lu night market have disappeared, as have the “snow bubble” drinks S and I used to crave (especially black plum). Sushi has filtered down from high end restaurants to night market stands, and in the small town night market of Yuanli I saw an Indian man and his Taiwanese wife selling samosas. S and I speculate on producing Mexican tacos, highlighting the guacamole. There is a never ending struggle to introduce tiny new advantages into the game of minute accumulation. It is a ceaseless pecking at the dust for coins. The products are indeed delicious. But that fact does not make the system “good.” It is eating up the earth in cement and noxious gases, and it eats up the bodies of the wraiths frying turnip cake for scooter-commuters early every morning. Every bite offers a bit of escape. But every escape involves a nasty return: and repeat!