Thursday, 8 July 2010

The Bare Necessities

How would you define the bare necessities of life? Food, water and shelter are surely the most basic human requirements, but nowadays even these are scorned at. Needs met, it's never enough. We want bigger and better – a bigger house, a better car, all the food we can eat and a luxurious lifestyle. The Big Brother house is one such example. Even this has got more opulent over the years. Bringing together people from all walks of life, it's a social experiment that's captured my attention each season. A fan of the show is not how I would describe myself, but rather as a passive observer looking in. I don't care about the latest story in the tabloids or the fame aspirations of those inside, it's the experiment itself that intrigues me and the inmates responses to situations they cannot control. Like puppets on a string, they dance to the whims of Big Brother and are co-creators of the dynamics unfolding within the house. Unlike other years though, I am finding my passivity escaping me, none more so than in the basic ration debacle. Why this sudden reaction from one of neutral engagement to active annoyance? Is it because I fail to identify with the chosen few or am I in danger of empathising too much with those that are opposed?

Deemed a punishment, basic rations often prove to be the undoing of the house, provoking shared commiserations and outright war at Big Brother or amongst themselves. Naturally this makes great entertainment for those watching from the wings. Sadly it's here my fascination ends. Detest is a strong word, but I feel justified in using it here. I detest the housemates attitudes when so-called basic rations are imposed. The food provided (usually rice, lentils and chickpeas), does not deserve the expletives it's given. Spare a thought for those living in third world countries where this is their staple diet - you don't hear them demanding junk food or refusing to eat. Often their “bread and butter”, they're thankful for the bounty that mother nature provides. Are pizza, chips, fags and coffee now considered the staple Western equivalents? What a depressing thought. What's so wrong with good wholesome food? We wonder why the parameters of health are constantly being stretched when the answers are in fact staring us in the face and settling on our waistlines. For the house, rations are enforced for limited periods, but even the vegan balked at the challenge, preferring instead to eat crisps. I truly want to understand other people's mindsets when they seem so different to my own, but with this I have struggled. Is my judgment of this moment clouded by being on the outside? Would I exhibit this same behaviour if dealt the same hand? Such a response seems laughable, but if forced to live on a veg-and -bean-less diet I might very well revolt! My controversial nature ends here - rice, lentils and beans are sacrosanct and that's final.

The other Big Brother storyline that incensed me was the lack of dietary consideration shown towards vegan Sunshine. When rewarded with more food, the other housemates were positively bristling with hostility and kicking up a fuss. Defeated and forced to share her quota I desperately wanted to argue her corner. If that were me, I wouldn't have budged. Call me all the names under the sun, but as I cannot partake in your meaty feast you're not sharing mine. Is it really so difficult to understand that vegans have increased nutritional and energy needs? It makes perfect common sense to me, but perhaps this is asking too much of the BB contestants. Maybe survival becomes too great a force to resist, with those considered different being easy pickings. I, for one, am glad that Big Brother will close its doors for the last time this Summer. As an experiment, it has failed to represent broad society, instead unmasking others hidden contempt for the simple bare necessities of life.