La Mezcla Perfecta Pollo Bacon

This is the label on the chicken hamburger I bought at McDonalds yesterday, when I was doing my weekly shopping at the nearest large town of Cartago.

I shopped at a WalMart store (for its excellent selection of items from all over the world, including the US) picked up the things that had been flown in for me from Miami, and decided to splurge on two of these (and a chocolate cone with soft-frozen ice cream). I was struck by how efficient McDonalds was.

I had gotten used to the disorganization down here, where it takes forever to do the simplest things. McDonald’s was efficiency personified. It was vacuuming in the money – and keeping its customers satisfied at the same time (the clerk addressed me as Caballero (horseman). a polite term of respect down here).

America does understand marketing – in fact, it invented it.


The Human Experience

I read from Pinsky’s The Situation of Poetry first thing this morning. And it reminded me that Poetry is about the Human Experience. Which immediately reminded me that people are no longer interested in Poetry. Because they are no longer interested in the Human Experience – or for that matter – in being human!

This is where I loose my readers; they don’t want to know about people that are not people. It sounds like an impossibility, but I meet people like this all the time. And I am convinced that the arrival of these people was the most important event in human history.

“If this event was so important, how come it was never noticed?” You may ask. Good question, and I wish I could answer it easily.

Perhaps one way to answer it, is by noting that in human history, there are often several developments going on at the same time. And the people of the time were often unaware of many of them. The Romans did not understand the importance of Christianity, for example.

Any historian knows this, and one of his skills is showing what trends existed, how they interacted, and which ones became dominant.

The big event of the 19th Century was Industrialization. This was such a big event we have never understood it – but it changed its people completely. Its people being Protestants in Northern Europe, and North America – and on the other side of the world, Australia and New Zealand. Note the religious distinction – Protestants became rich and Catholics remained poor.

I am sitting here this morning, eating a chicken hamburger from McDonald’s (which is excellent). McDonald’s has been a huge success here in Costa Rica – a Catholic country. When I walked into the McDonalds store, I could smell money – Ticos were there, and eager to absorb American popular culture – its most successful export.

McDonald’s doesn’t just sell hamburgers, it sells the process of making them – which is highly automated. Ticos don’t know this – it is far too technical for them to understand – but they can feel it – it feels like success – something they want to associate with – even if they don’t understand it. They just think success will rub off on them somehow.

And, even more importantly, McDonald’s aims to please its customers. This is not the way Latin America has worked, It was based in Feudal estates – where the powerful ruled absolutely – and where the common people had to please them. Companies like Wal-Mart had to retrain their employees to make the customer important – a huge difference. They now wear shirts saying “We are here to serve you!” And their supervisors enforce this policy.

Americans know Marketing  – they invented the subject, and often think it will solve all their problems – win the Iraq War, for example. As you know, this didn’t work, but only made the situation worse.

They didn’t try to understand the Iraqi human experience.