To maintain irony, the people selling Shredded Wheat cereal decided to mock progress. After all, some foods are eternal. What else can we do to shredded wheat, besides ruin it by adding marshmallows? This mockery of the modern notion of “progress” also mocks the idea of adding unnecessary complexity to products just to make them trendy and saleable.
Here’s another example: our gasoline-powered cars may be causing pollution, so we imagine a better car powered by both gasoline and a battery, storing energy each time it brakes so it’s less of a threat to the environment. Great, that sounds like a brand new easy solution, so the car is bought. No one in the process is wonder: what happens in seven years when this thing heads to the junk heap?
When enough time has passed for the purchase to be forgotten, the furry little human monkeys will send the car on for salvage. Never mind the questionable quality of construction, or that there’s not much one can do to recycle all those batteries, because back in 2009, the car sold and sold well. You may have saved some gasoline, but the whole process — from manufacturing to grave — may be less efficient and “green” than you think.
Anyone reading this knows I describe the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight. Interestingly, BMW and Mercedes (luxury car makers who’s buyers normally don’t care about hybrid or non-hybrid) are actually the most truly progressive among concept hydrogen-powered vehicles and production clean-diesel solutions, not to mention vehicle safety. But because these cars aren’t considered “vehicles of the people” in cute marketing gimmicks, we ignore reality and give lip service to progress where it suits our social needs.
How about not building our cities around the automobile, having only one per family, and designing systems of travel not reliant on dangerous and nonrenewable energy sources? Modern progress is dependent on the idea of individualistic rights: rights to open up plastic packages and throw them in the trash when buying something new; rights to drive anywhere
and everywhere (so of course we NEED a car that’s not dangerous to the environment, even though the act of making one is worse on the environment than driving one).
The video resonates on several levels: taken at face value, it’s pretty easy to see that they’re advocating their simpler food which also has the benefit of lots of fiber, something lacking in modern diets. Then again, if you look deeper: where is the paper being sourced from to wrap this up in a box? I’d be willing to bet there’s a plastic sack inside to protect the cereal. And what about the machines used to gather the wheat, cook it, process it, and shred it, and all the energy that requires, not to mention the gas and truck maintenance in
distributing the product?
Maybe if Shredded Wheat was truly about ending “progress” as it’s currently viewed, helping quell landfill and resource consumption concerns, it would distribute its surely wonderful product as follows:
- Stop wrapping the product in plastic bags
- Use as little energy as possible in processing the wheat, maybe even
shipping the product raw so one can cook it on its own (like dried
oatmeal, but instead, dried “wheatmeal”)
- Use only post-consumer recycled content on the box
- Use only hydrogen powered vehicles to distribute
- Since the cost of hydrogen powered BMW 7-series seems a bit much,
try initially using an army of foot soldiers to target heavily populated
areas to maximize profitability, selling the product on the street.
I have a modest proposal for the marketers and Board of Directors at Post: the solution to all this gimmicky “progress” would look something like a handful of seeds to plant wheat and a set of instructions printed on recycled paper on how to process it and make your own cereal. Now that’s progress.