Friday, December 19, 2008

Deep Culture: Ivo Furman: Marx on a Plane

So It has been almost three weeks since my last posting. I've been bogged down by a multitude of academic tasks including attending and chairing and academic conference and submitting my term projects. It has been a long and stressful three weeks but I have now returned back to my hometown of Istanbul for X-mass vacation.

When I was flying into Istanbul on a red-eye flight last Tuesday, I was thinking about the experience of the airplane. Flying could possibly be one of the most disciplinary and exhausting tasks an individual undertakes in daily life. We are systematically organized into performing amazingly mundane tasks such as lining up, taking off our shoes and endure sharing a tiny personal space with other individuals. I personally despise the experience despite the fact that I fly approximately 10 to 14 times a year. I will not divulge into a Foucauldian analysis of the airport institution as this is not the object of this blog. What I will do however is to examine the concept of airplane food.

Airplane food is a disgusting experience. Breakfasts are often the worst as catering companies go buck wild trying to recreate western breakfast staples such as scrambled eggs or muffins. Usually the results of such endeavours are disastrous. Flying with Turkish Airlines, the breakfast consisted of scrambled eggs and ham. The eggs were a wobbling mess of yellow that resembled something particularly unpleasant (vomit) while the ham could make vegetarians out of the most carnivorous of people. The best of all was that there was an offer of "baklava" with the meal. Who the hell would eat baklava on a plane flight? Eat two and you'll get enough of a sugar rush to perform summersaults on the aisle. My question is who really designs these meals? We already pay so much to fly and yet somehow, since I was a kid, I remember hating the food on offer.

Ryanair seems to have it the best, as it offers no food. To be frank with you, although I really hate all the silly jingles and announcements Ryanair does to promote their goods on the flight, I'd say that paying less and bringing your food is better than eating theirs. Will there be a solution to this problem in aviation anytime soon? Somehow the aviation authorities have complete rights over our bodies as soon as we enter the airport, we are how to behave, how to sit and how to wait. We complain about all this but somehow no one seems to bring up the issue that the authorities also dictate what we eat. Let's examine this problem a little further.

The quality of food that we eat is in essence defined by how much we want to spend on an airplane seat. Theoretically, the more you spend the better service you get. Money is fact a determinant of the level of service you get. Therefore there has to be visible indicators of quality difference. Asides from the size of the seats where else is a better place to show difference in quality than in offered food? So there it is, we are doomed to always have bad food in the economy class as long as business and elite class exists. If not, there would be too little of a difference for customers to make the choice of paying almost twice as much for a seat. We say Marxism is dead but here you go, when you take an airplane to be a self sufficient "society", a Marxian analysis reveals that that the structure of "airplane society" reinforces your miserable existence on economy. So next, the time you fly remember that you have nothing to lose except your chains...

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