Then came a flawless little orgasm of a headline, a pitch-perfect, viral-ready soundbite of awesomeness packed with all the keywords Americans love most -- Drugs! Cocaine! Oreo cookies! You! Rats! Addiction! Obamacare! Sex! -- all about this cute little study that reveals how it lab rats, not all that surprisingly, love those famous, chocolatey discs of sugar and lard just as much as they love cocaine, and btw just kidding about the Obamacare and the sex. Sort of.
"Hey, good time to be a lab rat over at Connecticut College!" you might snicker, reading about how researchers let the cute furballs party like a Kardashian with piles of cookies and blow to see which they preferred -- right up until you read about how, after what can only be considered the Most Shamelessly Gratuitous Experiment Ever, the rats had their little brains sliced up to see where all that cocaine went. Science!
OMG, Oreos! Right? Tasty and barely digestible wheels of refined sugar, lard, chemicals and $20 billion/100 years of slightly evil marketing? And cocaine! Popular and cheaper-than-ever whiffs of refined coca plant, $1 trillion in completely failed drug war and absolutely zero marketing required, ever? Perfect.
Of course they're sort of the same, brain-wise. Of course if you're half awake in this beautiful and doomed era, you already suspect that garbage food has been carefully engineered to titillate/maul the brain in much the same way as illegal drugs.
From Nabisco to Coca-Cola, Kraft to Frito-Lay, they all spend billions, work tirelessly, inject every possible chemical, corn syrup derivative, growth hormone, fake scent and imitation flavoring -- and even, until 1914, cocaine itself -- into their delicious hate-bombs to make sure you smile and moan softly in gastrointestinal sadness while the cancer and obesity quietly take hold.
What, too harsh? Not really. Addiction is, you might say, big business. Correction: addiction and victimization, working in nefarious tandem, working to make you believe you are at once hopelessly hooked on various products and services -- cigarettes, alcohol, sugar, fat, Doritos, hate, religion, TV, porn, God, fear -- while simultaneously absolutely convinced you are too weak, too puny, too stupid to control said product, much less enjoy it safely, much less realize that we're far more addicted to the drug of perceived powerlessness than any cookie or rail of cocaine in existence. God bless America.
Can you hear the refrain? The happy wail of the junk food blogs? "OMG you guys! I can't stop eating these Oreos! And no wonder! Cookies are officially as addictive as cocaine! It said so in that article! Now I am totally justified in eating three bags of Oreo Triple Stufs while watching a Real Housewives marathon and never having sex because hey, I'm only human, right? Damn cookies have me in their thrall! Now who wants to share this 20-pack of Locos Tacos and some Diet Pepsi?"
Ah, excuses. It's what's for dinner.
It all rings perilously familiar, no? I wrote a piece not all that long ago about how Big Tobacco and Big Pharma -- and, to a roundabout degree, Big Health -- absolutely adore it when you believe the giant lie of overpowering addiction, such as how impossibly hard it is to quit smoking (or quit anything else). Capitalism demands that each industry have a massively vested interest in keeping you hooked, and medicated, and re-hooked, and re-medicated and re-re-hooked forever and ever ad nauseam, until you die. Feeling healthy, aligned, informed and in total control, and hence care for none of their products? They sort of hate you.
Here is where I find the most bizarre logic, the most insidious irony. Because here you are, this infinitely complex, gloriously mysterious masterpiece of a biped, cosmically connected and in possession of the most advanced brain in the known universe, with 10 million years of evolution and astonishing insight, wisdom, divine awakening behind you (if you choose to use it). Over here, say, a tiny stick of pulverized tobacco leaves, chemicals and tissue paper, with a wad of styrofoam jammed on the tip.
And we're supposed to believe the dried leaves (or dried cookie, or can of beer, or the Internet porn) wins? Is more powerful than you? Because your brain kinda likes it? I see.
Wait. Let us clarify...
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Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate, and the creator of the new Mark Morford's Apothecary iOS app. He's also a well-known ERYT yoga instructor in San Francisco. Join him on Facebook, or email him. Not to mention...