Ronald and me: growing up in the shadow of the ArchesI hate McDonald's. This won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me or has an inkling about my political outlook. I haven't been actively involved in campaigning against them for a while now, but i was once, and am trying to resurrect that involvement.
Here is an article i wrote in 1998 or 99, in the wake of a protest in Cambridge. At the time, the McLibel trial proper hadn't long finished and the subsequent legal actions were in the pipeline. (Details here) Locally, however, a lot of anti-McD's sentiment was stirred up by the company's attempts to build a drive-through in a neighbourhood where this was the last thing residents wanted or needed.
For someone who would never go in McDonald's and has only been in one once (my parents have better taste, plus my mother disapproves of advertising to children - remembering some of the crap i wanted as a child, i have to agree with her!) the company has played an inordinate role in my life. When i was very young, like most of my peer group in the eighties i knew who Ronald McDonald was - just not in the way the company wanted. The creature scared me shitless. (now, of course, i realise i was right to be scared - a belief supported by the original R McD) Nonetheless, part of me still held the idea that McD's was a good thing. It was advertised everywhere, and all my friends saw it as a big treat to be able to go there.
When the McLibel trial started, i was still young and innocent, but old enough to be a vegetarian and interested - in a naive and not very effectual way - in the issues contained in the leaflet. (which i was not to see up close for another couple of years) I was, i have to admit, confused. McDonalds are good, aren't they? But those things are wrong. Wait a minute... Not that it was that simple or anything. By the time the trial ended, i was going to demos and going vegan. Amazingly enough, those things weren't connected.
Skip forward a few years (maybe a couple months after the 'end' of the trial) and i'm working in a development education centre, into which i was lured partly by the anti-McD's posters on the stairs leading to the office from the Oxfam shop below. The 'offending' (but only if you're offensive to begin with) leaflet was available in the office, as was a lot of McLibel material (hmm, the good old days when almost everything happened by post! Yes, a blogger can still have luddite tendencies, especially when she's waited several days to post something because blogspot crashes her version of firefox...). The campaign became an interest of mine, and one of the driving forces in my life. I would take some leaflets and stand outside the local McD's giving them out whenever i had a couple of hours between lessons. My then-boyfriend would sulk about it if i did it when he was there - only one activist allowed in our relationship thanks, and only one of us allowed to talk to people, and that wasn't me. But sod that. People at college thought i was crazy - i had some interesting encounters with the McD's customers i knew. But mostly it was rewarding - i stand by what i said in that article, that leafletting is a good thing to do. If you change one mind in a session, that makes a lot of difference.
People ask, why McDonald's in particular? Why are they worse than any other corporation? To which i don't have the definitive answer, and these days i don't think 'the definitive answer' to the question exists or is needed. Why should we focus energy on them? That question probably does merit an answer. Thing is, as with any other campaign i've done, i am not trying to make people drop everything and make it their life. Last time i was asked that was in response to an email proposing one protest on a designated day of action. My answer at the time was something along the lines of: because McD's are more brazen. Because they get more openly flustered about opposition. There are other reasons - because they are so ingrained into the most obnoxious parts of our culture; because they are pitched at the younger generation and are agents in perpetuating said culture; because they encapsulate a wider variety of 'evils' than most corporations... you get the idea. Action against McDonalds opposes a cultural symbol as well as a corporation. To be against McDonalds is to be against a whole lot that our society (wrongly) loves.
So anyway, the point of this article is that we have a day of action coming up. October 16, or the day before if you'd prefer a Saturday - or any time. Rest assured that whatever superficial, hyped-up 'changes' they have made, McDonald's are still committing the offences detailed in the original factsheet they tried to suppress. The leaflets can be downloaded as a pdf from the McSpotlight website - get a few, spend an hour or so outside your local store, and see if you can change any minds. Call it the revolution of everyday life, if you like - didn't Vaneigm say something about corpses in mouths?*
*Yes, i know that wasn't what he meant - gratuitous pun on my part because i'm crap at concluding things. Live with it.